NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Shuffle the letters around in the word "heat" and eventually you'll end up with the word "hate." And there's no better way to measure just how successful or hot a sports team is than by gauging the amount of hatred sports fans around the world have for it.
This past summer the NBA's Miami Heat were suddenly not only the league's hottest property, but the target of the type of venom reserved only for the likes of the New York Yankees and Duke men's basketball team -- thanks to 16 words: "This fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat." With Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh already on board, LeBron James announced, during his infamous "Decision 2010" ESPN broadcast, that he and his talents would be suiting up for the Heat, too.
But haters and the resulting media blowback weren't the only things the franchise had to deal with after signing three of the league's top players. There were also plenty of new fans from every corner of the world inquiring about tickets and lining up to drop cash for jerseys that hadn't even been produced yet.
Michael McCullough, exec VP-chief marketing officer of the Heat, said the team doesn't divulge ticket or merchandise sales figures but said in the 30 days following "The Decision" it sold more merchandise than it did in the 30 days following the Heat's 2006 championship win. "The mind-boggling thing about that is that we didn't have any merchandise for the new players yet," Mr. McCullough said. "We had to scramble. Luckily we had a lot of blank jerseys we were able to convert to Bosh and James jerseys." Mr. James and Mr. Wade currently have two of the top-five-selling jerseys in the league.
On opening night, Mr. McCullough said the team made more on retail sales in the arena than it did during its most successful night during the NBA Finals in 2006. Unfortunately for Mr. McCullough, the new stars didn't mean an increase in his marketing budget, which was actually cut.
Luckily the Heat have become a big enough PR machine that the amount of news coverage and earned media has more than made up for the drop in marketing dollars.