By staff writer

March 2019

Credit: AECOM Hunt

With baseball’s opening day just behind us, Miami sports fans are gearing up for what’s sure to be an exciting year of professional sports. And local teams are pulling all the stops to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy the games.

Two of Miami’s teams, the Marlins and the Heat, are leading the pack in terms of fan engagement and accessibility. They’re doing so through strategic initiatives that range from technological innovations to improving ticket affordability.

The Miami Marlins have been proactive in enhancing and revamping their image, but improving the fan experience is of equal priority to the organization, team executives say. Marlins Park now features local food vendors and more communal spaces geared at giving the park a Miami “vibe.”

One of the most noteworthy efforts made by the organization is offering more affordable ticketing options. “We’ve created new opportunities for our millennial audience, including our new standing-room-only section in right field,” said Marlins’ President of Business Operations Chip Bowers in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “Now they can come for about $12 a ticket and have access to other parts of the ballpark.”

With society at large relying more and more on technology, it should come as no surprise that major sports teams are also looking at digital measures to facilitate fan accessibility to games, as well as create a more intimate relationship between the organization and its fans.

Matthew Jafarian, the Miami Heat’s vice president of digital strategy and innovation, outlined the importance of understanding fans’ needs in the digital age, and how technology can be leveraged to strengthen the relationships sports teams have with their fans.

One of the fundamental problems in sports is not knowing who the fan is,” said Jafarian. Paper tickets are largely anonymous and don’t tell the team who its customers are — “a challenge for any organization” that the organization has countered by upgrading to digital ticketing last season. “Now, 85 percent of our fans enter Heat games with mobile tickets.”

In addition to mobile tickets, the Heat mobile app allows fans to access tickets directly, as well as to navigate parking at the arena. “One in every three Heat fans use our app when visiting the arena, which allows the organization to develop a really close relationship with them,” Jafarian said.

And, “now that we have this great platform, we’re exploring ways to make the fan experience even better, potentially by upgrading our mobile payments feature to a full loyalty program in the near future.”

But these are just a few ways in which sports organizations are widening accessibility, creating more engaged fans and improving the overall fan experience. And Miami’s sports fans can look forward to taking advantage of a growing number of these immersive, often high-tech perks in coming years.

To learn more about our interviewees and efforts being made by their respective organizations to promote fan accessibility, please visit the following:

https://www.mlb.com/marlins

https://www.nba.com/heat/