The battle between small and big market franchises has peppered the landscape of professional leagues since the early days of the 1950s, when National League Baseball first made its exodus to the west, and even more recently during the NBA Lockout this past fall.
Heightened mostly around the nearest CBA debate waiting to surface, the issue will always take a backseat to daily headlines. However, as sports marketing professionals, we are able to see the opportunity that lies within smart business decisions as the issue unfolds in real time. In a quest for parity amongst teams with greater skill, the onus is on the front office to leverage other opportunities — like marketing efforts — to excite the fan base, and right now south Florida is grabbing those reigns with white-knuckled fervor.
South Florida: The New Sports Marketing Haven
The Miami Heat (NBA) and the Miami Dolphins (NFL) have long dominated the sports landscape in the South Florida area. Between these teams and the vibrant culture and nightlife of Miami, it’s difficult to capture the fans attention. The Florida Panthers (NHL) and Miami Marlins (MLB) are two prime examples of struggling to compete. Over the span of the past decade (with few outliers, of course), the abysmal attendance in the seats had mirrored the underwhelming products on display. But now, for the first time in almost 15 years, the Florida Panthers are relevant again; and the Miami Marlins — more known for gaudy outfield monuments and an oft-outspoken manager — are gaining nationwide exposure through key demographic targeting and brilliant social integration.
Florida Panthers: Embracing Different
Florida Panthers CEO Michael Yormark has found the perfect time to establish his team in the region. After an off-season roster overhaul, the Panthers (although fell to the New Jersey Devils in 7 games during the NHL Eastern Quarterfinals), have brought their winning-touch down to a tropical hockey market and have successfully excited locals in Sunrise for playoff hockey.
So what does Yormark want to do to ensure that this isn’t just a flame-out (besides keep winning, of course)? Well, with 90 acres of undeveloped county land to work with, how about opening a hotel and casino as part of a complex to make the market more appealing?
“No question, a Panthers game is a family experience, but we also have adults coming to shows here. And I’ve always said that we’re an entertainment company, not a hockey company. They all complement each other,” Yormark said. “You have to always look at new opportunities.” (Head over to this article here from New Jersey’s The Record for the entire story. Thanks to Dave D’Alessandro for the quotes.)
Miami Marlins: A New Team in Town
Yormark isn’t the only one looking to parlay his brand. Thirty-three miles south, downtown Miami is making marketing stride by feverishly utilizing social media platforms to reach a strong Latin demographic rich within the community. Aside from run-of-the-mill Facebook and Twitter accounts, the team’s online presence includes a Marlins “Beyond the Ballpark” tumblr spotlighting community relations efforts, and even a Pinterest account to cater to a surprisingly large online female audience.
What’s more, each channel offers a spanish language option to quell language barriers. The list goes on, and complement’s new social initiatives throughout the new ballpark, including free Wi-Fi and even phone-ordered concession stands with advanced pick-up.
Are you familiar with Tumblr and Pinterest? If you aren’t you sure should be. Both tumblr and Pinterest have been spreading like wildfire, and brands are now overhauling social media departments to be sure that they are not only well-versed in these non-traditional forms of social community, but are able to optimize these platforms in ways that will be beneficial to their brand.
Where as Facebook and Twitter have grown into mainstream social giants with a diverse following utilizing the channel, the former have been lurking a bit off the radar, and have been largely influential among younger audiences. Tumblr has been a long-time favorite for the college and high school crowd, where as Pinterest has been heavy in female involvement.
The challenge lies in how a sports club can leverage them to their advantage, since sports is not shared as often in these communities. Right now, Miami is currently experimenting with Marlins.Tumblr.com, where key messaging revolves around the display of Latin influence in Miami baseball. For example, a recent photo posted shows a chef chopping fresh mangos at a smoothie stand. On their Pinterest page, photos of female-targeted Miami Marlins gear is shared and “pinned” to the walls of female fans.
South Florida Sports in the Future
Actively reaching out and provoking fan interaction in such a targeted demographic with new media is a smart and savvy move from Marlins management, especially when the ROI has the potential to reap high rewards. And with strategic new ideas to drive masses to a Florida Panthers hotel and casino complex, can the gap between Sunrise and Miami actually be considered a “big market” within the near future? No longer is Miami just the home of the Heat and the Dolphins. With the Marlins and Panthers now relevant, the opportunity to make Miami a “4-sport town” is more present than ever.
Either way, it’s fun to watch these moves pan out, and maybe someday athletes will be clamoring to take their talents to Sunrise if somehow it all aligns — or if at the very least they just keep winning.