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SBJ/September 27 - October 3, 2004/Finance
Dolphins’ sales jumping despite turmoil
Published September 27, 2004
No Ricky Williams, no Dan Marino, no problem — at least not commercially for the Miami Dolphins.
Despite some of the worst offseason woes to befall an NFL franchise, the Dolphins commercially are humming along. While a lousy 2004 onfield campaign could begin to hurt ticket, premium-seating and sponsorship sales next year, the Dolphins have not missed a beat so far in those areas this year despite the distractions.
“We didn’t run from it,” said Jim Frevola, the club’s senior director, marketing partnerships. Sponsors “didn’t run from it. … From their standpoint it was a business decision on how to reach avid sports fans in this market.
“Win or lose, people want to be a part of the tradition of this team.”
Sponsorships sales were up 20 percent during the offseason, with the addition of fast-food and tire companies for the first time (Checker’s and Tire Kingdom).
The team sold out its 10,400 club seats for the first time and has the fifth-best season-ticket base in the club’s 39-year history with 58,544. Pro Player Stadium seats just shy of 75,000.
“We have had a very good and productive year across all areas,” said Jim Ross, the Dolphins’ marketing chief. Of the 160 suites, 134 were sold for the season, and the remainder are sold out on a game-by-game basis. Suites range from $60,000 to $200,000 annually.
The trouble started for the team when Marino, after being hired as senior vice president of football operations, backed out after only three weeks.
The Dolphins then struggled to fill their offensive coordinator position, followed by one of the team’s defensive ends becoming a holdout before being traded.
The coup de grace was star running back Williams retiring just days before training camp opened, after reportedly failing several NFL drug tests.
Ross said the team had to rejigger some advertising that included Williams. He also conceded that most of the selling occurred before the Williams revelation, but after the Marino news.
“We are very happy about club-seat sales, and it shows still how strong the demand for the NFL and the Dolphins is,” he said.