Bill Keenist embarks upon his 26th year within the Lions’ organization. In 2001, he was promoted to the post of senior vice president of communications and marketing. He works closely with the club’s following departments: communications, marketing, sales, tickets, broadcasting, new media and community affairs. Keenist also serves as the team’s chief spokesman on organizational matters.
For seven years prior, Keenist served as a team vice-president supervising the areas of communications, broadcasting and marketing. Since 1994, the team has launched its own television show, radio show, a state-wide preseason TV and highlight show network, team newspaper, magazine and Internet site. In June 2002, a study by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal rated 121 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL team Internet sites, and Detroitlions.com was selected No. 2 overall.
Keenist assisted in the negotiations of broadcast contracts for local radio and TV. This past year, the Lions renewed their relationship with Infinity Broadcasting to new five-year deal that includes greater presence on the team’s flagship station, WKRK 97.1 FM, and other auxiliary programming. In 2004, the Lions entered into a new relationship with CBS-affiliate WWJ-TV Ch. 62 to broadcast the Lions preseason games and the team’s weekly television show.
In 1997, Keenist directed a restructuring of the Lions’ ticket office, which included the establishment of both a telemarketing and group sales departments. In the season prior to these changes, the season ticket base had fallen to near 30,000. In 2002, the first year at Ford Field, the Lions sold out their regular season ticket packages and, for the first time, have a waiting list for prospective season ticket buyers.
Keenist has been with the Lions since 1985 when he was hired as assistant public relations director. In 1987 he was named director of public relations, a position he held until his appointment as director of marketing, broadcasting and communications in 1991. He held that position until 1994 when he was promoted to vice president for administration and communications.
In 1981, Keenist’s NFL career began when he worked for the Washington Redskins as a public relations assistant. He was a member of the Redskins staff when the team won Super Bowl XVII in 1983 over Miami. He also served as the Redskins’ director of promotions in 1983.
After leaving the Redskins, Keenist returned home to the Pittsburgh area where he was the public relations director for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League in 1984. After the Maulers’ one season in the USFL, Keenist served as the sports public relations director for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, where he worked primarily with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Keenist’s talents have been recognized around the NFL. For Super Bowls XXIV through XXVIII and XXXIX, he had the honor of being selected a public relations co-captain, which involves the coordination of all media-related activities at the Super Bowl. In all, he has worked a total of 14 Super Bowls for the NFL. In the past, he has served on the following NFL PR/Marketing Committees: Broadcasting; Governmental Affairs and Insider Magazine. Keenist has been the P.R. Chairman of the NFC Central division and Chairman of the Public Relations Special Projects Committee.
In 2001, Keenist was honored by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association with the “Best of the Best” award, which annually honors the top sports public relations person in the Detroit media market. In 2003, the Lions’ 2002 club seat ticket commercial, produced by Keenist and Director of Broadcasting Bryan Bender, was nominated for an EMMY, a first for any Lions’ production.
Also among Keenist’s responsibilities, he serves as a member of Detroit’s Super Bowl XL Communications Task Force Committee.
Keenist holds a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio University. He also received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio and was a recipient of a Sports Administration Scholarship from the NFL in 1981. As sports editor of The Ohio University Post in 1980, his sports section was named the Best College Sports Section in America by a national panel of sportswriters and columnists, an honor for which he received a post-graduate scholarship.
He then served a graduate internship at Duke University where he worked in the athletic department. In 2004, Keenist was inducted into the Elizabeth Forward High School Hall of Fame in his hometown of Elizabeth, Pa., and was a member of the school’s Class of 1976. Keenist lives in Metro Detroit.