The Miami Marlins, less than a year removed from opening a new stadium to much fanfare, are once again the least adored sports franchise in South Florida. After a debacle of a 2012 season followed by a fire sale of its best players, the Marlins need all the help they can get if they ever want to win back the team's fan base.
Local public relations firm The Jeffrey Group will get the chance to help. The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that the team has hired the firm, replacing RBB. RBB's founding partner Bruce Rubin is a longtime friend of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, according to the Herald.
"I never discuss why a client engagement ends," Rubin said when the Herald asked about the Marlins account. It would be hard to blame a PR firm for the team's bad reputation as of late. The team's $634 million stadium was financed in large part by public money (Loria put up $125.2 million towards construction), and the Marlins are not expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2013 thanks to a November trade that reduced payroll by $154 million through 2018.
Jeffrey Group president Mike Valdes-Fauli acknowledged his firm faces a tough task. "Definitely the Marlins are cognizant of how important it is moving forward that they communicate better with fans and stakeholders across the community," he told the Herald.
"I think it will be important for the Miami Marlins to communicate their point of view on a whole host of issues, including on the upcoming season, some of the challenges they've faced in the past, and even the current comparisons with the Miami Dolphins."
The Dolphins, who are lobbying the state and local governments for support for a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, have gone to great pains to contrast the Sun Life plan from the building of Marlins Park. "Marlins Stadium does not generate the ability to attract world-class sports events," the team said in a statement, reinforcing Loria's swindler image.
Even if the Marlins become competitive once again in a few years, fans' enmity for Loria may never subside. The best PR firm in the world would have a difficult time making South Florida love Loria again.