In an effort to boost attendance at their already poorly attended games, the Florida Marlins reached out to their soccer crazed community of Miami and gave away vuvuzelas to the first 15,000 fans at last Saturday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Vuvuzelas are plastic horns that have been extremely popular at this year’s World Cup matches in South Africa.
The Marlins recognized that their community of Miami has large populations of immigrants from countries like Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico that are considerably more passionate about soccer and the World Cup than other ethnic or cultural groups. Their rationale was “if we offer to give them something that is very popular in another sport that they love, maybe they’ll come to our game.”
Their logic was sound and their attendance for Saturday reached 23,242, a jump of about 6,000 fans from the night before. It wasn’t because the Marlins are good either. They’re actually one of the worst teams in the league right now, and the Rays are one of the best. The baseball franchise capitalized on something that was popular and targeted the people who would be most receptive to it. Although vuvuzelas are just a fad, giving them out happens to be an ingenious marketing gimmick that the Marlins front office was able to recognize. Or was it?
The problem with this style of promotion I like to call hype marketing is that it usually annoying to someone. Although the fans loved it, the Marlins and Rays players alike hated the noise generated vuvuzelas. Furthermore elderly people (and there are a lot in Florida) at the game complained about the noise generated by the promo items. Finally, one could even argue that Marlins now former manager Fredi Gonzales’s nerves were so tested by the noise that he lost his temper and was ejected from the game. (The Marlins fired him three days later).
If you look to capitalize on fads, you had better act fast and target the people who are the most responsive. The dividends are short-lived, but tremendous. There are sometimes disastrous consequences, so do hype marketing carefully. You never know who you might upset in the process.