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How South Florida Teams Deal With An Extraordinarily Fickle South Florida Fan Base: Part II – Miami Heat

March 17, 2011

Part I of my three part series focused on how the Florida Marlins deal with the extraordinarily fickle South Florida fan base. The new look Miami Heat is the subject of Part II.

The Heat arrived in Miami through the 1988 NBA expansion draft.  They have reached the playoffs 13 times in 21 seasons, which is an impressive feat for any team.  They are one of only eight teams to win an NBA Championship in the past 30 years (Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Sixers, Rockets, Spurs, and Pistons being the others).  They have created excitement for their team through acquiring popular players either through the draft, such as Dwayne Wade, or through free agency, most notably Shaq in 2004, and LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010.  That being said, as a season ticket holder who has been to a number of games, I still don’t feel that many fans are loyal to the Heat, starting with yours truly, a Philly Sixers faithful.  However, I have been enamored by the Heat this season and refer to them as “us” or “we” due to the season tickets and locational connection with the team.

The most telling feature about the Heat comes from two types of people. First, me; the Sixers fan, but more importantly the sports/basketball fan, with Heat season tickets, who bought the tickets in order to see great basketball and a superior product.  Secondly, the people sitting next to me; Knicks fans, who go to the games for the sole purpose of seeing the Heat, and more specifically LeBron James, fail miserably.  The main connection between me and my fellow season ticket holding counterparts is that we are both basketball fans first, and are only attracted to the Heat through the love of the game, not the actual product on the court in front of us.  It is not uncommon to go the American Airlines Arena (AAA) and hear more boos for the home team than cheers.  The AAA reached an all-time low just a few days ago when the crowd was chanting MVP during a free throw taken by Derrick Rose.

That being said, the Heat offer some amazing perks to season ticket holders that should attract many and retain even more existing fans.  Such perks include events with players at various locations around the Miami area, and allowing fans to stand courtside at pre-game shoot-arounds before selected home games.  This season I have played Shoot-Em Basketball with Mike Miller at Game Works, taken a picture with LeBron and Dwayne, talked to Tim Hardaway, taken a post-game picture with Haslem, hung out at different locations with many Heat players, and stood courtside to watch the Heat warm-up prior to a number of games.  Now, as next years season is somewhat in doubt due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s expected expiration this summer, the Heat have offered great packages for next year. These packages are designed to give potential customers an additional financial incentive to sign up for season tickets in spite of the looming lockout threat.

Not to seem like a sucker for a good deal, but I indeed fell for their trap, renewed my seasons tickets under the “loyalty” program at only $10 more per game for next season, and agreed to buy playoff tickets for this year at a discounted price.  If next season is indeed cancelled, then I will automatically have (or from the other perspective be forced into having) tickets for the next season that basketball is played, rather than getting my money back.  This is due to my selecting the “loyalty” program.  Aside from the “loyalty” program, there are many other offers of this nature that will allow fans to customize their season ticket renewing experience.

For me, automatically getting tickets for the next season basketball is played is a great thing.  For another fan, it is terrible because they may be moving next year or have other commitments of this nature, and tickets beyond this next season are useless.  I would prefer future tickets, while the other fan would prefer receiving their money back.  This type of personal customization allows fans to decide at an individual level what is best for them, rather than offering only one standard way to renew, which would group fans all into one category.  This is advantageous for both the team and the fans because different fans have different want and needs, and this type of customized, individual focus allows for those needs.  More personal customization will increase the number of people who will ultimately renew their tickets, thus helping both the fans and the team.

– Michael Rubenstein

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