Big sales for Marlins with new home, logo

Despite a slow start that has the Miami Marlins in last place in the National League East, the team’s new ballpark and logo have fans in ticket- and merchandise-buying mode.

Through the first four home games, the Marlins rank ninth in baseball in attendance, filling Marlins Park (37,442 seats) to an average 88.6 percent capacity. That’s about the same as the New York Yankees saw in 2009 in their first year in the new Yankee Stadium. The Mets did a little better with 92.7 percent capacity in Citi Field, which opened the same year. And the Minnesota Twins saw more than 100 percent capacity in 2010, the team’s first season at Target Field.

Miami’s average last season, when it finished ranked 28th in baseball in capacity? 48.8 percent.

SunSentinel.com also reports that merchandise sales from the first three games and nationwide have surpassed last year’s sales totals for the entire season. From that story:

“The fans have fallen in love with the brand,” said Sean Flynn, senior vice president for marketing for the Marlins. “It’s impressive, to say the least.”

Nationwide, Sports Authority reported that Miami Marlins gear has outsold all other team merchandise this quarter, including that of teams from other sports, said Howard Smith, senior vice president of licensing for Major League Baseball.

“We’ve had upwards of 15 teams change their uniform or total [look] this year, but the Marlins are No. 1,” Smith said. “Nothing has matched the intensity of this.”

Historically, Marlins merchandise has fallen into the lower half of sales when ranked against that of other major-league teams, Smith said. Since December, Marlins merchandise sales have skyrocketed, and the team is now one of MLB’s top sellers, he said. MLB and the Marlins do not release sales figures.

At the Marlins’ home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, fans stood in lines that wrapped through the ballpark to buy hats, jerseys and other accessories.

“This is one of the hottest re-image projects I’ve ever worked on,” said Smith, who has worked with MLB for 14 years. “They really hit a home run.”

Fanatics, the largest online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, says the Marlins have seen larger growth than virtually any other team that has released a new logo in the past four years. The company studied merchandise growth for each team for the four months following the logo release. At a 280 percent year-over-year growth, the Marlins are second only to the Utah Jazz, which saw an explosive 327 percent growth. The average for all 10 professional teams that unveiled a new logo in the past four years was 156 percent.

Fast sales starts don’t ensure long-term success, however. In 1994, when the Houston Astros debuted a new logo, the team Marlins-like sales. But sales dropped dramatically the next year following the MLB strike.