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A fishy venture

by Maria Sanders, editor

For baseball fans, especially those in Florida, 11/11/11 wasn’t just a crazy day where all the digits in the date were the same. It was the day the Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins.

Since the team’s beginnings in 1993, the Marlins have never become a National League powerhouse. And despite winning two World Series titles, the Marlins have never gained strong attendance numbers either. The organization had the third lowest attendance numbers in the MLB for the 2011 season, with an average of 19,000 fans per game, according to an espn.com article.

Rumors existed for some time concerning relocating the team. On that magic day in November, those rumors proved to be true, well at least a little bit.

The Marlins, while remaining in Miami, are relocating to a new stadium in the Little Havana neighborhood, with a new name and image.

“Mr. Jeffrey Loria, Owner of the Miami Marlins, along with Marlin players, invited dignitaries, and international Latin Hip Hop star Pitbull, addressed the crowd from a 1,600 square foot stage engineered and built out over the third base dugout and extended over the newly installed infield box seats,” according to a Media Stage news release published on prnewswire.com.

The rebrand announcement signals a new era of Marlins baseball.

Getting the look
Gray and teal have been the signature Marlins’ colors from the beginning. But with the rebrand, the team’s new logo showcases a slew of Miami-esque colors.

“We are the red-orange of the breathtaking Miami sunsets and the citrus industry; the blue of the sky and the sea; and the yellow of the beautiful Miami sunshine,” Jeff Loria, Marlins owner said.

The bright colors of the new logo represent the audience the team is trying to attract.

A research poll by the Sun Sentinel, a South Florida newspaper, found 59 percent of respondents disliked the new uniform. But feedback overall has been positive.

“The logo is really intense. The colors are pretty cool,” said David Arteaga, of Miami. “It’s South Beach colors. It does actually represent us pretty well.”

To view the old and new logo click here.

A true investment
A team known for being cheap is showing they are moving toward being anything but.

Websites like Bleacher Report, Yahoo Sports and MLB Trade Rumors have reported the Marlins are offering the 31-year-old Albert Pujols somewhere in the ballpark of $225 million for nine years of play.

Pujols is one of the hottest free agents this offseason. He was the first baseman for 2011 World Series champs, the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s also the new Mr. October after becoming the only player in MLB history to hit three home runs in one World Series game.

In the same game he also went 5-5 with six RBIs and 14 bases. But who’s counting, right?

Pujols won’t be a cheap commodity, and the Marlins are a front-runner in the quest to sign him.

According to James Bondman’s Bleacher Report article, if Pujols accepts the offer, it will make him the highest-paid Marlins player. Pujols’ deal will exceed Marlins’ current highest-paid player, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, by $155 million. It will also make him the highest-paid player in all of major league baseball, taking the title away from Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez.
They’ve given up promising prospects to pay millions to one of the most colorful managers in the league — Ozzie Guillen.

But why would they trade a handful of talented guys for just one manager? Dan Le Batard gave his two cents in his article, “Miami Marlins’ expensive experiment: Will MLB work here?”

“Because it gives them a famous Latin face . . .,” Batard said. “And it gives them the kind of buzz and momentum and credibility they are looking to build, piece by piece.”

There’s a line in the movie “Moneyball” that seems to fit this scenario well.

In the movie, the character Billy Bean, played by Brad Pitt, said, “If we try to play like the Yankees in here, we will lose to the Yankees out there.”

Pitt’s character was referring to the Oakland A’s attempt to spend as much on players as the Yankees so famously do.

The Marlins are taking a huge gamble here, especially financially, and only time will tell if a team really can try to spend like the Yankees and win.

Effects
Some may think, as it is often touted in these types of scenarios, that a brand new stadium with a reinvented Marlins team would enrich the Miami economy.

However, according to Tom Griffin’s article “Only a Game: Economic Impact of Pro Sports,” professional sports only make up one-tenth of a percent of the city’s economy for which they are located.

One-tenth of a percent is so marginal, it’s hard to imagine Marlins owners and executives would be using an economic angle to sell the new and improved Marlins organization.

The effect may be greater on the intangibles of the community. And it appears this is the effect the Marlins are in fact looking for.

A new direction
Lou Gehrig once said, “There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.”

For 18 years, the Marlins have been located in Miami, a city with a significant Hispanic population. And for those 18 years, the Marlins have failed to engage that Hispanic audience directly.

This rebrand represents not only a new logo or new stadium, but also a redirection of communication on the Marlins’ part.

Instead of trying to be Florida’s team, the Marlins want to be Miami’s team.

“It is not a coincidence that, in introducing their new uniforms, their new look, the new Miami Marlins did so with Emilio Estefan and Pitbull, old Miami and new Miami merging to be very, very Miami,” Batard said.

Everything about this new Marlins team is aimed at gaining the support of the Hispanic market in Miami — the manager, Ozzie Guillen; the free agents being pursued, Pujols and Jose Reyes; the city-specific team name. It all screams, “We want you, Miami!”

Taking the risk
The game of baseball is full of risks.

Attempting the hit and run, having your fielder play in or trying to stretch a double into a triple all have their own potential dangers.

However, if it works — if both players get on base, the bunt is fielded or the extra base is reached — the juice was worth the squeeze.

The Marlins are taking such a gamble. But just like in the game, a risk can be worth it in the end.

Will the fishy venture work out?

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To beard or not to beard?

by Maria Sanders

“Fear the Beard” has become a battle cry for fans of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. The phrase was coined when Giants closer Brian Wilson began growing a beard during the team’s 2010 play-off run. He promised not to shave it until the Giants lost.

The beard became a good luck charm and symbol of the ultimate end to the Giants season — a World Series championship, the club’s first since 1954.

Wilson returned from the off-season with the furry, black monstrosity still attached to his face. The beard, noticeably longer and darker, which he claims isn’t dyed but just “really tan,” remained throughout the 2011 season.

When it was clear the Giants were too many games behind to get a play-off shot this year, one question began circulating the Internet: “Will Brian Wilson finally shave his beard?”

We’re two weeks into the off-season and Wilson has yet to part with the facial hair that gained him such widespread notoriety in the sports world. With a great deal of his image tied to the beard, I can’t help but wonder what Kathy Jacobson, Wilson’s PR consultant, might say to him about shaving. I also can’t help but wonder, if I were in Jacobson’s place, what advice I would give to Mr. Wilson.

Wilson, B-Weez or B-Dubz, all appropriate ways to address Wilson, has used the beard as a branding tool. His website, brianwilson38.com, features a large black logo of his signature beard and Mohawk. On Twitter, his avatar is the same logo, not to mention the multitude of merchandise available featuring the signature scruff.

The beard has become a way for fans to connect with the All-Star as well.

On his website, fans can post pictures of their own beards for Wilson to see. You can even take a tour through his beard on MLB’s website.

In March 2011, Wilson held his first-ever “Weez’s Beard Madness.”  The madness consisted of fellow beard lovers competing to be crowned the National BW38 Beard Champion.

His beard has opened the door for all sorts of opportunities outside of baseball as well. B-Dubz has his own SportsCenter commercial, and he’s a spokesperson for the video games NBA 2K12  and MLB 2K11.

“From a marketing perspective, I would say his beard not only doubled the opportunities he was presented, but also doubled the cost compared to a typical athlete in his position,” said Brandan Orsatti of Cohn Wolfe, a global communications and PR agency.

In his article, “How Much Is Brian Wilson’s Beard Worth?”  Will Brinson compared the potential of Wilson’s beard to boost him further into the spotlight with the success athletes such as Steelers’ Troy Polamalu and Packers’ Clay Matthews have had because of their hair.

The attention both Polamalu and Matthews have gained has made them household names, and the same is possible for Wilson.

His newest business venture is as a spokeperson for the Vue 2011, a virtual event sponsored by ON24.  The event’s tagline is: “Fear the beard, not the technology.” With everything so closely tied to the famous beard, what does he stand to lose if he shaved the thing?

A rebranding of his image would have to take place. His website would have to be completely redone to reflect the change in his appearance. It wouldn’t make much sense to fear the beard, if there is no beard left to fear, right?

What happens to the connection with fans that grew to love B-Weez, and as a result, grew their own beards?

“I thought it was cool, a neat thing to do to show my support,” Cody Wilkins of San Francisco said. “I have been a longtime Giants fan, and Wilson, with his antics, is such a lovable guy.”

What would need to take place to keep those fan relationships strong once the common ground was broken?

The consensus seems to be, let the beard stay. It’s what has gotten Wilson to where he is today. Well, that and his 95 mph cut fastball.

“. . . [H]e should grow it longer if he wants, as long as he’s throwing strikes and saving games,” Geoff James said in a post on Giants Talk.

And he is. Some writers like Grant Cohn say the beard has become a distraction for Wilson. But would a distraction keep him from being one of the best closers in the game? Statistics show he still is. Wilson played in the 2011 All-Star Game this July, and recorded the save for the National League. The Giants’ woes this season can’t be blamed on a beard any more than poor run support.

It’s safe to say if B-Weez does shave the beard, his team of publicists and managers will have the time of their life working to rebrand the closer’s image.

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