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winning back fans

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Guest marlins02

it says the team will probably lose money hosting game 3 and 4 this weekend but other than that everything looks good. some changes in advertising next season (hopefully they wont copy Maroone)and game times on Sundays will probably occur.


Playoff-bound Marlins have won back South Florida's fans


By Sarah Talalay

Staff Writer

Posted September 29 2003


It began with free wieners on Opening Day and along the way, the Marlins ended up winners.


As the team on the field steadily collected wins (91-71) and now heads to the playoffs for the first time in six years, off the field it has picked up fans, television and radio ratings, and corporate sponsors.

By every measure, the Marlins are back. Since last season, attendance is up more than 60 percent; viewership on Fox Sports Net has risen more than 60 percent; merchandise sales have doubled; and the number of companies sponsoring the team has soared 300 percent. Garnering a spot in the post-season won't put the team in the black but it goes a long way to winning back fans.


While last year the team's new ownership was blamed for doing little advertising and marketing, this year it launched a $2.5 million strategically planned campaign designed to "reengage" weary fans.


"I think for two or three years, the Marlins didn't really speak to the fans," said Sean Flynn, vice president of marketing. "We grabbed their attention and still are."


The players did the rest.


Old jerseys in use


Fans have jumped on the bandwagon and pulled out their old Marlins jerseys, some with names of long gone 1997 World Series heroes such as Moises Alou, and T-shirts touting that championship season. They're jamming the off-ramps and Pro Player Stadium entrances and waiting in lines for hot dogs and beer.


"It's very strange because I had to park way out there," Pembroke Pines resident Eileen Busick, a veteran fan sporting a Marlins jersey and teal tattoos on her cheeks, said gesturing across the parking lot last week. "It's great. I hope [the fans]keep coming. I don't care why they're here, but they're here."


Last winter, Flynn said, a "contract with the fans" ad laid out the team's commitment to the community. On Opening Day, fans received a free hot dog as an apology for concession stands running out at the previous year's opener.


Since then, the team launched discounted ticket plans and attractive giveaways, including fan favorite floppy hats, and several bobblehead dolls. Fans bought 500 D-Train plans of five tickets each -- or 2,500 tickets -- that guaranteed seats when pitching phenom Dontrelle Willis started, and they redeemed 10,000 of 75,000 dimes that were painted teal and could be cashed in for free tickets. The team received 500 $50 deposits on 2004 season tickets from fans wanting to buy strips of tickets for all potential postseason games.


"People are waking up today and they all of a sudden say, `Gee it's been a year and a half, the team is popular, people are watching in record numbers on cable and over the air. People are listening in record numbers on the radio,'" Marlins President David Samson said. "I told everyone we had the blueprint in place. Things have fallen the right way and we've been able to take advantage of the on-field success by being organized off the field."


Attendance shoots up


The big crowds at last week's games boosted average attendance to 16,290 a game. A team that drew fewer than 1 million fans for the first time in its 10-year history last year drew more than 1.3 million this year.On WQAM (560-AM), ratings have almost doubled since the beginning of the season, said Ray Perry, the station's director of network operations.


"It's showing the interest in baseball really has come back," Perry said. "With that anticipation of the playoffs, it's not only fans, everyone is kind of getting on that bandwagon."


Wednesday's game on Fox Sports Net drew the most viewers of any regular-season game in Marlins history on the cable sports network with an 8.6 rating equivalent to about 133,300 households. The highest rated regular season game in the 1997 World Championship season drew an 8.1. Ratings on PAX are up almost 30 percent from last year.


"This ownership group went out and added, when everyone expected them to sell off. I don't think this market ever really expected that to happen," said Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager, Fox Sports Net Florida.


More than 100 companies -- including many such as Radisson Hotel Miami, The Keyes Co., and RailAmerica which have never had relationships with the team -- have forged partnerships from a game program ad to a giveaway to a discount ticket plan. That's up from 25 last year.


Boca Raton-based RailAmerica sponsored last Thursday's wooden train whistle giveaway to the first 10,000 fans, despite being a freight operator, not a consumer rail line. An employee's son urged the partnership since Willis' nickname is the D-Train.


"There was no drive for advertising," said Wayne August, RailAmerica vice president of investor relations. "It's just something we thought would be fun to do to support the local team."


Running in the red


Even so, the team will lose more than $20 million this year, Samson said, from adding players, including catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, reliever Ugueth Urbina and outfielder Jeff Conine, to its stadium lease from which the team derives little revenue. In fact, Samson says the team will likely lose money hosting Games 3 and 4 of the Division Series on Friday and Saturday, but could gain if the Marlins go deep into the playoffs.


With only 5,000 season tickets sold, the team has to work hard to sell individual game tickets and attract thousands of walk-up fans to build sizable crowds.


There will be changes next year, Samson predicts. Moving Saturday games up to 6:05 p.m. was successful; 1:35 p.m. Sunday games were not. Ads will focus more specifically on ticket sales.


Fans want others to join them.


"I'm enjoying it," said Keith Meyer, 15, of Sunrise, who was in a big crowd last week. "As long as after this year, they don't sell all their players away."


Sarah Talalay can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4173.? ?


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Copyright ? 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel



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