Walk around a tailgate outside a Ravens game, and take note of the female fans. You'll see purple hair and purple wigs, purple boas and purple fringey tops, and of course purple mini-skirts stitched together from purple camouflage bandanas.
These most fanatical of female Ravens fans have been treated annually to special sessions for the ladies, known as Football 101, filled with locker room tours and X's and O'x talk. Two years ago, that program expanded into the Ravens Women Festival, with fans invited onto the field to try on uniforms and run through real plays. In time, the group got a name; first the Radiant Ravens, then the Ravens Women. The women loved it, but they wanted more.
"They are not shy to give feedback," explained Andi Goodwin, the Ravens' manager of advertising and research. "They loved the event, loved having a night just for them, but they wanted to make sure we know they're diehards, wanted to make sure we recognize they're avid fans."
And so, just this week, this amorphous group of Ravens fans became something greater and grander and more permanent, something that sounds like a perfume but smells like grass-stained Zubaz. "Purple: Just for Women," it's called.
"We were like, 'Let's find a balance between football and femininity," Goodwin said of the branding effort. "Like Secret: 'Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman'."
The "Purple" name was actually coined by Gabrielle Dow, the team's senior director of marketing, who was inspired by the names of Miami nightclubs. Purple members will receive special offers for women's apparel, and a monthly newsletter, and of course notification of annual events.
But wait! It gets better! Because there is also an exclusive, $250-a-year club for the 200 most diehard of female fans. "Purple" has the gentle soothing overtones of a feminine beauty product; the "Lavender Ladies" conjure up a roller derby squad. But it's strictly a class group, and so in addition to private autograph sessions and a special day at training camp, the Ladies will receive gifts like wine glasses and high-end handbags.
You might initially wonder why women need their own supporters groups, but consider the blaring football ads featuring prominently-chested women, the incessant cheerleader promotions, the implication that football fandom requires y chromosomes and beer bellies. Consider too that in this atomized post-Bowling Alone world, we're all just looking for a group of like-minded souls with whom to share a few common bonds. Which is why I can't wait for the Lilac Lefties (Ravens-loving southpaws), or the Violet Vegans (animal-friendly Ravens rooters), or the Middle-Aged Mauve Malaysian Machinists.
"The geriatric club is next year," Goodwin joked, but then she turned all serious. "This was a demographic, they are vocal, they do not fail to tell you what they think and they make sure that they're heard, which we love. We just wanted to make sure that we were addressing their wants. But I don't know if we're going to have a senior citizens club next year."