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How South Florida Teams Deal With An Extraordinarily Fickle South Florida Fan Base: Part I – Florida Marlins

March 9, 2011

I live in South Florida and I am a huge sports fan.  Both living in South Florida and being a sports fan are not uncommon.  However, living in South Florida and being a fan of the teams in South Florida is a different story altogether for a number of reasons.  First, three of the four teams that play in South Florida did not even exist before 1988 (the exception being the Dolphins whom I will not mention in this article).  Therefore, many people in there 20’s were already fans of different teams before these teams were even established.  Second, many of the people who live in South Florida are “snow-birds” and only come to South Florida a few months a year to escape the cold and enjoy the sun, not to watch sporting events.  That being said, the challenge for the teams in this fickle market is to generate interest for a product when people are already passionate about a competitor, or are uninterested in the industry altogether.  This is a tough challenge, but the Marlins, Heat, and Panthers have done a great job managing their teams under these tough consumer conditions. My three part series will discuss each team’s strategy to attract fans, and I begin with the Marlins.

The Marlins arrived in South Florida in 1993 and have won two championships in their many years.  Incredibly, they have never won their division, and have only reached the playoffs twice, the two seasons they won the championship, as the NL Wild Card.  Both championship seasons were followed by an exodus of players that the team could no longer afford creating an influx of young prospects and draft picks.  This ultimately creates years of mediocrity until their hopeful return to a playoff run a few years down the road.  This is a viscous cycle created by the lack of a loyal fan base due to an inconsistent team, and an inconsistent team due to the lack of a loyal fan base.  Additionally, a hot and rainy, outdoor stadium in the South Florida summer, has magnified the problem, making it unattractive for fans to attend the games.

The Marlins are combating both of these issues by building a new, state of the art, indoor facility that will be opening in 2012.  This stadium is intended to attract more potential fans and also bring these news fans closer to the game.  More fans will fill the seats of an air-conditioned stadium where the forecast is always 72 degrees and clear skies.  Additionally, David Samson, the President of the Marlins, mentioned at a Business Law Society meeting a few months ago, that the stadium will be equipped with seat-side touch pads where fans can order food and beverages directly from their seats.  In the past, baseball teams would send employees around with certain foods or beverages shouting to create a sale, and hoping fans would be interested in that exact product at that exact moment.  While this is traditionally part of the game, and part of the overall ballpark experience, this is a very inefficient and ineffective way to produce a sale.

This new, innovative technology will put the fans in control.  They can communicate to the Marlins when they want something, rather than the Marlins trying to force the something onto the fan.  This takes a “marketing”, rather than a “selling” approach.  This should allow fans to order food without missing any live action, simultaneously decreasing the wait in concession stand lines and increasing both fan enjoyment and Marlins profits.  Additionally, the Marlins will be able to track what fans in certain seats have been ordering and offer them special, in-game promotions via text message in order to further increase sales and revenue.  The more information the Marlins can get about fan tendencies and behaviors, the better the Marlins will get at meeting their fans wants and needs.  This type of fan interaction will be great for the Marlins and could revolutionize the game experience.

– Michael Rubenstein

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