Knowing it was going to be a challenging year on the business side, the Miami Heat has made upgrades at AmericanAirlines Arena to increase sponsor and advertising opportunities. The team’s new MediaMesh – the giant LED marquee on the front of the arena – was unveiled in May. New high definition television screens and menu boards have been installed for this season.
In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Heat owner Micky Arison said the innovations appear to have made a difference, although he can’t say for sure what’s helped drive sponsorship sales during the recession.
“On the cruise side, one of our brands recently did a consumer survey, trying to find out if people will buy vacations this year. The questions dealt with what will consumers cut back on next year, and sports was number one in the answer of cutting back. This is a national issue, probably a global issue,” said Arison, who is also chairman of Carnival Corp.
In the NBA, Arison said, “The league is dealing with significantly less ticket sales, but … sponsorship has held up better than I would have expected. We’re in a very tough market, because it’s very real estate and banking oriented. We’ve also had some sponsors like Stanford Financial, and others that have failed on us, so there’s no question this is going to be a tough year and a tough period, financially for the franchise. But I don’t think that’s unique to us. It’s a national and global problem.”
Stanford Financial had signage across the Heat’s VIP lobby entrance until earlier this year when R. Allen Stanford was charged with fraud. The signs were pulled from the lobby after the company missed a payment. Meanwhile, with law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler now in turmoil since Scott Rothstein’s alleged involvement in what federal authorities are calling a massive fraud scheme, RRA advertisements are no longer appearing in the Heat’s game program.
But the team’s sponsors sales, including signing Assist-Card to the team’s first-ever presenting sponsorship this season, have been healthier than he anticipated.
“We’re in good shape with sponsorships, surprisingly good shape, but really struggling with ticket sales,” Arison said.
As for why sponsor sales have increased, Arison pointed to the new inventory such as the MediaMesh and speculated that some companies may be excited about the Heat’s young team.
“Because it’s such a banking, real estate oriented community, I thought it would be really murder. And last spring it looked that way,” Arison said. “As the summer progressed, it came around. Where we’re struggling is premium seating and ticket sales, which is really hard right now. People can watch it at home and consumers are very, very price conscious. It’s a unique product, you can sit at home and get it for free. You can’t do that with a cruise.”