Miami Dolphins Find a Way to Torment Fans, Even in the Off-Season | A Marketing Disaster

One of the many great things about professional sports are the microcosms and lessons which apply to life. The same is true for business, and as a marketing company, it’s fascinating to watch the contrasting styles of different organizations. As our company is based in South Florida, the two franchises most visible are the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins Continue Abusing Customers

One of these franchises is perceived as first class – from the top down, beginning with the Arison family and Pat Riley. They demand excellence and value their fan-base. This #HeatNation Video encompasses their core values beautifully.

And then, there are the Miami Dolphins. Their fan-base bleeds Aqua and Orange, but the organization works on an annual basis to bleed both their hearts and wallets dry. The marketing disaster explained below from this week is just the latest example of how the Miami Dolphins take advantage of their customers and continue to ride a wave of brand loyalty since the 1972 perfect season (which was 6 years before I was born). As is true in both life and business, if you go to the well too many times it runs dry.  The wave of brand loyalty is very low on water these days.  Similarly, DolFans (as Dolphins Fans are called here in South Florida) are already extremely thirsty for success, with only 1 playoff appearance since 2001, which was the year Matt Cassel played the majority of the games for the injured Tom Brady.   Hopefully the Dolphins will take a concept from that division rival, Steal a message from Bill Gates’ Playbook and “Make Their Most Unhappy Customers Their Greatest Source of Learning“.

This week, like every other Miami Dolphins season ticket holder I received notice there would be only be 1 home preseason game. At first glance I thought, oh well! Besides, no one likes being forced to buy meaningless games anyways. The organization and league ran a story where “the NFL asked the team to move the game to help market the 2017 Pro Bowl”. Anyone who has driven down the turnpike this week can clearly see the stadium is nowhere near ready.  However, we can chalk that up to spin, no big deal. Not so easily dismiss-able is the team defrauding their most valuable customers. The team’s official email continued:

“As a result of this change and the reduction in the total number of 2016 home games, your account will be refunded accordingly. Similar to 2015 when we played the Jets in London, your discount will be based on the VARIABLE VALUE of the game. For the Jets game in 2015, the discount was 11.2% of your Membership price. The discount for the Atlanta preseason game is 4%.”

Huh? Variable Value of the Game? I had to read that a few times. If the organization was injected with truth serum then requested to re-write that paragraph plainly and transparently it might read something like this:

When you are required to buy both pre-season games in 2015, the cost per ticket on average after losing one of the best games of the year (Jets @ Home), is 97% of the average paid for the 9 home games. Conversely, when we have to credit a pre-season game in 2016, we will only be crediting your account for 40% of the average season ticket membership price.

The situation is compounded when you consider the Jets Home games for 2015 and 2016. When the game was playing in London last year the Dolphins had to credit this game, they valued it at 11.2% more than the average season ticket membership. This year when the customers are paying for this game it is valued at 13% more than the average, or an increased “Value” of 16% year over year. Wait,did the Jets bring Peyton Manning out of retirement? What could possibly make that game 16% more valuable in 2016 vs. 2015?  Oh right, of course – the customers are paying for it in 2016.

But for DolFans around the world, hopefully this uncovered atrocity speaks to the organization, and speaks loudly. Just how loud? With the same volume that #HeatNation brings, as they rise in unity during the playoffs.

Unfortunately for DolFans, playoff tickets are not something that Dolphins management has the opportunity to mark up.