Tampa Bay Lightning offer a Blueprint for Sucess in Tampa Bay

By on October 23, 2011

Rocket Sports & Entertainment Network file photo by Nick Bonariggo

Tampa.Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning is offering a blueprint for the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as to how to build a fan base in Tampa Bay.  If you have read the national newspapers you would get the impression that the Bay Area is not capable of supporting ANY sports franchises. 

The Rays are embroiled in a dangerous game of chicken with the business leaders in the area and the Bucs owners feel it more important to put their focus on Manchester United of the English Premier, which was recently recognized as the most profitable sports brand in the world, rather than on the their NFL franchise.  Both the Rays and the Bucs are having a hard time getting support from the community in attendance, money from local business for sponsorships and/or season tickets.  This has generated a lack of respect by the national media.

The Bucs have had all but just a handful of home games blacked out on local television in the last two years and if you listen to the statements coming from the Rays organization you would think that their building was empty with no one showing up for any of their games.  Well it’s time for the Rays and Bucs to stand up and take responsibility for the way they are running their teams.  The excuses you hear from those teams the Bolts are proving all of those excuses as non-sense if you do things the right way.

For the Rays they claim no corporate support, well are they working hard enough to garner support?  The Lightning certainly are doing so,  just in the last month  they have announced deals with corporate partners such as Coors Light, PNC Bank, Little Caesars Pizza and BCBS of Florida.  Those are not exactly “Mom and Pop” organizations so is the marketing department of the Rays working hard or smart enough?  It appears the Bolts are pushing all the right buttons at the right time.

Both the Rays and Bucs talk of a lack of support from the community yet you do not hear that from the Lightning, instead they continue to involve the community with the marketing campaigns.  Last year they had the “All In” campaign and this year it’s “Be the Thunder” both of which are catchy campaigns that people will remember.  There have also been claims of attendance figures out of the NFL and MLB in the market place, well what do the Bolts do, take out about 1,000 seats to put in a massive pipe organ to improve the “Fan Experience.”  If you were in the building last year you witnessed a growing attendance in the St. Pete Times Forum and this year the Lightning announced they doubled their season ticket base from last year. 

Let’s look at the ownership of each franchise, Bucs ownership is divided across the pond with Manchester United so you cannot tell me that the Bucs are not second class when you compare the two franchises, frankly you can understand it as well.  However, to be fair to the Tampa Bay community maybe it’s time for the Glazers to sell the franchise so it’s given the top billing that it deserves. 

The Rays off the field appear to be  an utter disaster with what seems to be PR nightmare after PR nightmare as they criticize everyone in this community from the fans to the public leaders to the business community.  I say this gives an appearance that Stuart Sternberg is playing a very calculated game and he is trying to force his way out of this area whether it be to move the team to say, Orlando or whether it be the same deal John Henry got from MLB when he sold the Marlins and bought the Red Sox which turned out to be a good deal.

What has the Lightning done?  Well Jeff Vinik has come in from the start and voiced  his support for the community and the area as a whole.  He has consistently demonstrated that with actions.  Whether it be the hiring of a hockey icon like Steve Yzerman to run the team, committing 10 million dollars in charitable donations to the area or investing 40 million of his own money to renovate the St. Pete Times Forum.  Vinik and the rest of the Lightning franchise just get it and the other professional sports franchises in this market could take some lessons.

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