SBJ/July 16-22, 2012/Facilities

Sun Life Stadium making its mark as hot spot for soccer matches

The Miami Dolphins are off to a strong start marketing their NFL stadium as an international soccer facility.
For the 12-month period ending in August, Sun Life Stadium will have played host to six soccer matches, including the coming World Football Challenge game between AC Milan and Chelsea FC.

As of last week, ticket sales were approaching 50,000 for the July 28 event, said team spokesman Jason Jenkins. Paid attendance could exceed the announced crowd of 48,327 at last month’s rainy World Soccer Masters exhibition showcasing 30 of the sport’s best players.

The World Soccer Masters exhibition drew nearly 50,000 last month.
Photo by: SEBASTIAN ARISTIZABAL
The Dolphins, in conjunction with their two sister companies, RSE Ventures and Insignia, a sports marketing firm, work to book soccer at the 75,540-seat stadium. The facility was left with 81 more open dates after the MLB Marlins left for a new ballpark in Miami this season.

Together, they take the financial risk to promote events on their own and they sign traditional rent deals with other promoters, said Todd Boyan, Sun Life Stadium’s senior vice president of operations. The Dolphins generate revenue from concessions and parking.

“You have to feel your way through it to see how many groups are truly capable of putting it on themselves and how many have rights to teams,” Boyan said. “Our vision long term is not just putting on any and every match but to make sure they are quality matches.”

The challenges for booking international friendlies extend to uncertainty over team rosters. The availability of stars may not be known until a few weeks before the event, said Dario Brignole, president of Shine Entertainment and the promoter for the World Soccer Masters game.

“You may secure Real Madrid, for example, but with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, the name is more powerful than the team brand,” Brignole said. “The stadium group has to be flexible and smart and move fast with heavy investment in management and communications.”

Shine Entertainment rented Sun Life Stadium the first time it had booked an event at the building. Brignole shared a percentage of ticket sales with the Dolphins, and the promoter generated additional revenue through sponsorships and international television rights.

Both parties are talking about scheduling more soccer matches for next summer.

“I was impressed with the organization and how effective they were,” Brignole said. “The event came together late and it was a multimillion-dollar operation with the fees we paid for players.”

Brignole did not provide specifics, but said, “It was a big risk, but we did very well.”

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