Not too long ago, Floyd Raglin would go weeks without reaching for his wallet at lunch.
Businesses would line up to woo Raglin, a local sports-marketing wheeler-dealer, with hopes that the Dolphins’ magic might rub off on their products. Brand developers eagerly paid Raglin’s clients — including Dolphins players of that time — thousands of dollars for public appearances that lasted an hour or two.
The Dolphins were just that hot.
“It was a no-brainer back in the day,” said Raglin, a onetime Dolphin receiver and now CEO of Miami Beach-based Floyd Sports Marketing.
“But you can’t give those guys away right now. There’s just no value for the companies.”
A decade of futility and — even worse — irrelevance is hitting Dolphins players where it hurts the most.
These days, Raglin says, current Dolphins are willing to show up at car dealerships or supermarkets for as little as $500 — and still can’t get promotional work.
“It’s hard to sell something when you don’t even know what to sell,” Raglin said.
By most every recordable metric — including historically low attendance and television ratings — the Dolphins are in the midst of an unprecedented slump. For the first time ever, the Dolphins are not the 500-pound gorilla on the South Florida sports landscape.
Just three months after hundreds of thousands of adoring fans lined Biscayne Boulevard for the Miami Heat’s victory lap through town, tens of thousands of empty seats dotted Sun Life Stadium for the Dolphins’ season opener.
That crash in interest, for sure, has affected the organization the most. But the players’ supplemental income, earned from appearances and advertisements, has seen collateral damage.
In an era when LeBron James hauls in $40 million annually in endorsements, Reggie Bush — the star of a largely anonymous team — shills for skin-care products and gym memberships.
“I would say it’s probably tapered off a little bit; that’s obviously a given,” said Bush, who at one time earned $1 million annually from Adidas and appeared in national spots on behalf of Pizza Hut and Subway.
“We have to take advantage of the passion of football here,” Bush added. “We’ve got to help fire that up, keep that going because that’s going to help us down the road.”
Dan Marino, for one, is living proof. Retired for 13 years now, the Hall of Fame quarterback is still cashing in on his remarkable career.
On every other commercial break, there’s Marino pitching the Maroone car dealership empire, with which he has a longtime partnership. He has also cut ads for Papa Johns and Nutrisystem since leaving the game, and this spring, Marino, 51, became a spokesman for AARP.
During his playing career, Marino’s connection with Isotoner gloves was so strong that Jim Carrey spoofed the ad campaign in his cult hit, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly two decades since “Laces out, Dan,” became a national catchphrase. The years since have not been kind to the Dolphins’ brand, CEO Mike Dee concedes.
“At the end of the day, you are what your record says you are,” Dee said.
“It’s been a rough decade. Winning and having a team that people are excited about is at the center of everything you do.”