How the Miami Dolphins put the county on the sporting map
Don Shula Former Head Coach – Miami Dolphins
What are the main accomplishments in your career that you are most proud of? What do you want to be your legacy for the Miami Dolphins?
I’m proud of my two Super Bowl championships, including the 1972 “Perfect Season” Dolphins team, especially since no other team has gone undefeated in the history of the NFL. I’m also proud of winning more games than any coach in the league, because that’s a reflection of the quality of the players and coaches I worked with. The result of that success has made the Dolphins one of the flagship teams in the league, and I’m especially proud that goal was achieved by doing things the right way with hard work, professionalism, and integrity.
What role do professional sports play in helping Miami develop into a sophisticated global city?
We were the first professional team in South Florida, and I’d like to believe that our success helped bring all the different elements of the region together. For the many people here who rooted for us, regardless of their gender, age, income or any other difference, they all had one thing in common – they were all Dolphins fans. I think that common bond helped the city grow and become major league in so many ways.
What are your views on Coach Adam Gase and the current direction of the team?
Coach Gase is an outstanding coach and a great person, and it’s no surprise to me that his team did so well in 2016/2017. Coach Gase, his coaches and players were able to build a winning culture that will be a key to their future success. But that turnaround is also as a result of the leadership of the franchise, headed by Steve Ross, Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier, Coach Gase and Tom Garfinkel. They are totally unified in their goal of building a long-term winning team in Miami, and I think you saw the initial result of that philosophy this past season. They’ve been very welcoming every time I’ve been around them, and they’ve made everyone associated with the Dolphins feel like they are all part of the same family. That’s certainly a great foundation to build a successful team.
What impact has the current Miami Dolphins team had on Miami’s overall reputation?
I think the fact that our initial success came at the same time as the rejuvenation of Miami goes hand-in-hand. We helped shine a spotlight on the region, and that exposure helped show many of the great qualities of the city that makes it such an attractive place to work and live. With the Dolphins playing well again and bringing a sense of excitement throughout South Florida, it will add yet another positive characteristic to such a vibrant region.
How a long-standing legacy of victory becomes an asset for growth in a new era
Tom Garfinkel President & CEO – Miami Dolphins
What are the key components of the Miami Dolphins’ growth strategy for the medium term?
Our goal is to honor the proud winning tradition of the Dolphins and bring the team to a place where it is competing for championships every year. We celebrated our 50th season in 2015. For a part of that time, we were the only professional sports franchise in Florida and we had a lot of success. Because of that history, the team has a deeply emotional and meaningful connection with its fans, who are passionate and loyal. From a business strategy standpoint, we want to respect the passion of those supporters and find new ways to en- gage with them and enhance their experiences with the Dolphins. We are looking at the end-to-end experience, from concessions, security protocols, even bath- room conditions, and are measuring everything to try to set benchmarks and bring about improvements. Additionally, we are looking at new ways to open the dialogue with fans and make their voices more meaningful. We could presume to know what they want, but I find it’s a lot easier and more effective to simply ask them.
The Sun Life Stadium is a landmark infrastructure in the city. What is the strategic vision to grow its impact?
While the stadium is part of the Dolphins brand, our vi- sion is for the stadium to become a global entertainment destination that will host the biggest events in the world, including football. To reach this goal, we’ve invested more than $450 million in renovations, which included moving seats closer to the field and building new seating products and exclusive clubs that create a unique luxury experience. Over half of the tickets sold for the Jay Z and Beyoncé concert in 2014 were bought with credit cards from outside South Florida, indicating that people were coming from out of the area, so we know we can be a destination for big events that reach far beyond our region. We have plans to host more international soccer games and festivals and become a competitive venue to host football championships and hopefully even the World Cup. Finally, we are taking advantage of the fact that Miami is a global curator for culture by improving food offerings and curating artists from around the world to display their work at the stadium.
What are some of the challenges of operating a major league sports team in this market?
Miami offers many opportunities for leisure, whether it’s the beach, art events, music or other sports. Because of this, we have a lot of competition relative to other markets where entertainment options are more limited. However, this also means that we have a tremendous opportunity to engage consumers by creating a variety of experiences using the stadium.
How the internationalization of basketball and Miami mutually reinforce each other
Chris Bosh Player – The HEAT Group
Basketball has become an increasingly international sport. How have you experienced this as a player?
The evolution of technology has made the world smaller. The ability for the NBA to promote and broadcast games all around the world has definitely made a difference in making the sport more popular. I have been to Italy, Germany and many different parts of Europe, and nearly everywhere I go I get recognized. Not only that, but I hear people telling me, “Go HEAT!” They also tell me that they love Miami, or that they have always wanted to come here.
Why do you think that people around the world have this reaction to Miami?
Miami has its own unique flavor. When I think of Miami, I think glamour. I think electricity—the neon signs every- where, the electric pink and blue of the skies and also the energy of the place. There is the touristy side to Miami, but people are not just relaxing here all the time. They come here to play but also to work hard. There is that East Coast drive here. It’s not just a beach town. It’s a town full of ambitious people. It’s the best of both worlds.
How has living in Miami shaped you professionally, particularly in your development as an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned the most from meeting so many different types of people. Every businessperson, it seems, has been to Miami. Miami is also the Gateway to South America, and anyone who wants to do business there, or who is from there and wants to do business in the U.S., comes to Miami. One factor that is important to succeed in this area is being able to speak Spanish, which I have started to learn. This has helped me to connect with our Spanish-speaking fans, which are a very important group. The fact that so many international businesspeople working in different industries—whether it’s real estate or technology—pass through here provides a really amazing opportunity. Just that factor alone allows you to really build relationships and talk to people from all around the world you wouldn’t normally be able to talk to.
What role do you think that sports, and in particular the Miami HEAT, play in promoting economic growth and business development in this market?
Miami is becoming a true global city. It has always been known as this, but I think the infrastructure now is catching on. More opportunities are opening up and people from all over the world are hearing about them and starting to come. Having arts, culture and a world-class team like the HEAT based here attracts more of those people. They can take their employees or clients to a HEAT game, enjoy some entertainment, have a good time—but also do business.