It’s not exactly a secret that South Florida sports fans are a little lax about arriving for the start of games.
Late-arriving crowds are the norm at Miami Heat games and the team has tried for years to coax fans into their seats in time for tipoff with little success. But the team’s blockbuster free agency spoils this summer has given it new impetus to try again.
The team launches “Fan Up, Miami!” at tonight’s exhibition game against the Charlotte Bobcats at AmericanAirlines Arena. The idea is to remind fans the new-look Heat is the kind of team most cities – despite their griping – would be thrilled to have. Rather than letting television viewers see empty seats, the Heat want fans occupying those chairs.
“We want to understand, especially now, why any fan would want to miss even a second of action that could take place with this team in place,” said Michael McCullough, Heat executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
Just like the players are using the target on their backs as motivation, so, too, should fans, McCullough says.
"There are a bunch of media and commentators and fans around the country making comments about Miami not deserving this windfall of players, that if this would have happened in Chicago or New York, that would have been more fitting,” McCullough said. “We took offense at that. We want our fans to take offense as well.”
Tickets to see the Heat play other NBA teams around the country are among the highest priced on the secondary market, so the Heat want its fans to show they are deserving of this team.
“We want our fans to wear this as a badge,” McCullough said. “The organization stepped up and put a team together that every other team wants. Let’s show we’re worthy.”
The team is using that criticism to encourage fans to arrive early – you can watch the teams warm up courtside before the game, even if you’re sitting upstairs -- and exit the bars and balconies (they’ll help by putting drinks and snacks in to-go cups and containers) early enough to get to their seats on time.
Among the tenets of Fan Up, Miami: “Fan Up… means being in your seat for tipoff … and staying there until the final buzzer.”
Other admonishments? “Fan Up … means there is nothing fashionable about showing up fashionably late… it’s just late.”
Fans arriving early will be rewarded with discount cards (like the one above) good for merchandise and concessions. Fans in the arena concourses and clubs will notice the sound getting louder as game time approaches.
“We want to get the message across, it’s time for game time,” McCullough said. “Right when that ball goes up, something’s going to happen right away. That’s really the message.”