Faced with the lowest attendance figures for any Major League Baseball team in over a decade, the Marlins are ramping up their marketing efforts on what club officials view as fertile ground for crowd growth.
Their own backyard.
The Marlins this week launched an extensive marketing initiative that is aimed specifically at Miami-Dade County and its communities as they search for ways to fill empty seats.
“We are Miami, we are the home team, and we want everyone to rally around us the way we’re rallying around the [local] neighborhoods,” said Elisa Padilla, the Marlins’ senior vice president of marketing and community relations.
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The Marlins this season rank last in home attendance with an average of 9,762 per game. The last team to finish below 10,000 in home attendance was the 2004 Expos in what was their final season in Montreal.
Building a winning franchise on the field is one of the priorities for Derek Jeter’s new ownership group. The Marlins (44-59) are headed for a ninth straight losing season, the longest drought in the majors.
But building a fan base that was never strong to begin with and has slowly eroded over time is also at the top of the to-do list as Jeter sets about developing a “sustainable” franchise that boasts two World Series titles but little else in the way of success.
Taking hard aim on Miami-Dade is one of the first steps. Padilla said the Marlins feel it’s an “untapped” market, one that has seen both the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers pull up stakes and move northward.
The Marlins are the one pro team that has gone the other direction by moving into their new Little Havana ballpark in 2012 while changing their name from “Florida” to “Miami.”
“We’re committed to the community [written] across the chests that the players wear on the field,” Padilla said. “And one of the ways that we’re looking to do that is to really connect with the communities here in Miami. While we are not forgetting our loyal fan base up north, we really want to look to grow the fan base, and one approach is to have that one-to-one interaction in the [local] communities.”
The Marlins have scheduled a series of “Neighborhood Nights” involving 10 Miami communities through the end of the season in September. The first of those will be held Saturday when Doral residents can receive ticket discounts, with some seats going for as low as $15.
The Marlins will conduct promotional events in each of the 10 communities, as well.
“We don’t want to just go into communities and say, ‘OK, Doral, purchase season tickets’ and then just walk out,” Padilla said. “We want to start bringing the brand of the Marlins into the communities, and the only way we’re going to be able to do that is to be where our potential fans live, work and play.”
Other featured communities include Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Kendall, Wynwood and Hialeah.
The Marlins have designated Sunday as “305 Day,” which includes a Pitbull (“Mr. 305”) Bobblehead giveaway. Cuban-American rapper DJ Laz will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I’ve spoken to so many people who have never even been to Marlins Park,” Padilla said. “We want to build the fan base with the people who are in our neighborhoods, with the people that are here with us.”
Upcoming “Neighborhood Nights” at Marlins Park:
Doral: Saturday, July 28
Coral Gables: Sunday, July 29
Kendall: Saturday, Aug. 11
Wynwood/Midtown: Sunday, Aug. 12
Downtown Miami: Saturday, Aug. 25
Miami Beach: Sunday, Aug. 26
Hialeah: Saturday, Sept. 1
Coconut Grove: Sunday, Sept. 2
Pinecrest: Saturday, Sept. 22
South Miami/Westchester: Sunday, Sept. 23