They haven’t done much of either lately. Miami’s last playoff victory came in 2000. The Dolphins have gone 39-59 since the start of the 2006 season. And their victory Sunday against Oakland was the Dolphins’ first win in a home opener since 2005.
They hung tough for longer than can be reasonably expected, but Dolphins fans have finally had enough. The announced attendance for Sunday’s game was just 54,245, the smallest crowd for a home opener in decades. The team needed a 24-hour extension to sell enough tickets to get this Sunday’s game against the rival New York Jets on television. And season-ticket sales are down some 30 percent from just six years ago, although Dee says he expects they will surpass last year’s rock-bottom figure of 42,584.
As for the Week 1 television ratings in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, they were far and away the lowest for any NFL home city in the league. Although the rating rebounded somewhat in Week 2, the local market still lagged far behind much of the nation.
“They’re just not part of the community,” said Bruce Turkel, a Miami-based brand manager who has designed print ads, television spots and websites for companies hoping to improve their image.
“You see Dwyane Wade and LeBron James everywhere, in advertisements, publications. But beyond the hard-core fan base, people are hard-pressed to name the [Dolphins] players.”
The organization has taken steps to change that perception. Every Tuesday, players fan out across the area for charitable appearances. Just this week, the club handed out a total of $20,000 in scholarships to four academically gifted high schoolers.
Plus, hope and momentum can spring up quickly, and with the Dolphins’ manhandling of the Raiders at home last week, some might give the team a second look. Fanatics.com, an online apparel distributor, said sales of Dolphins gear doubled after last Sunday’s win.
Still, their 10-year history of losing makes for a lasting headwind. A lousy economy and evolving marketing approach hasn’t helped matters either. Many Dolphins have an apparel deal with one of the major shoe companies, but don’t think they’re making LeBron-like money from Nike or Adidas.
Cameron Wake, the Dolphins’ best defensive player and an appealing candidate for endorsements, given his gregarious personality, keeps his compensation from Reebok in the bottom drawer of his locker: a jumbled collection of sneakers and cleats.
Companies, more and more, are paying their clients in trade, not in cash.
David Canter is a Broward-based sports agent who represents six current Dolphins. Marketing opportunities still exist even in this climate, Canter argues, but agents need to be more creative to get at them.
Sean Smith, a Dolphins cornerback represented by Canter, has a deal with Remix, the boutique watch line that’s unique because of its bold, customizable colors.
Most everyone’s on social media these days, but few have figured out how to monetize it. Canter’s clients all have accounts on the subscription-based VIPWink.me, through which fans can send stars prioritized Twitter messages.
Furthermore, several Dolphins players are members of FanShout.me, a service that allows the public to order custom video messages from celebrities and athletes — for a fee, of course.
“Put it out there: Cameron Wake is looking for endorsements,” Wake said. “I haven’t gotten any Dancing With The Stars invitations.”
Wake refers, of course, to Jason Taylor, the former Dolphin great who appeared on the popular show in 2008. Taylor was a marketer’s dream — athletically gifted, charismatic and handsome.
But he retired after last season, and no one has yet emerged to take his place, although Bush, the former Southern Cal star, is a prime candidate. Bush has the looks and the panache, and although it’s still early in the season, is playing like a superstar.
Still, there’s one variable that supersedes all others.
“It comes with winning, obviously,” Bush said. “That’s going to be on us.”