by Kyle Stack / @NYsportswriter
If Dwyane Wade leaves Miami to sign with a different NBA club once he becomes a free agent July 1, it won’t be for a lack of effort from the Heat to convince him to re-sign with them.
On May 13, more than two weeks after the Heat were eliminated from the Playoffs by the Celtics, the Heat introduced the We Want Wade campaign. It’s an effort to rile up the Heat fan base which is promoted through a dedicated website, social media and with outdoor signage.
The website WeWantWade.com was created and through that Heat and Dwyane Wade fans can post messages and upload videos with the intention of stating why Wade should stay in South Florida.
“We knew that right after our season ended, whenever that would be, we would create this website and launch it,” said Michael McCullough, Chief Marketing Officer for the Miami Heat. “We wanted to give fans a chance to participate and show their love and appreciation for Dwyane.”
The site also offers a video gallery in which viewers can watch other fans’ videos, downloadable ‘We Want Wade’ desktop wallpapers, the ability to promote the campaign through Twitter, Facebook and Digg, a list of Do’s and Dont’s for how Heat and Wade fans should proceed with the during campaign and, finally, a free fan kit that includes oversized ‘We Want Wade’ placards, window clings, decals, stickers and rubber wristbands. Over 10,220 fan kits have been produced to be distributed among various South Florida counties.
The response from fans has been overwhelming — literally. WeWantWade.com’s servers that house the website shut down after the site received 200-300 hits per second (yes, per second) when it opened. As of the afternoon of May 21, there have been nearly 4,500 messages and nearly 20 videos posted to the website. The Heat’s Twitter account, which has over 18,100 followers, has heavily promoted the campaign.
McCullough explained that the Heat have experience with forming a marketing program through social media endeavors. A Twitter scavenger hunt was held at a Heat home game toward the beginning of the past regular season, and a Tweet-up was staged before a recent Playoff game against the Celtics.
Other websites and Facebook groups have formed with the intention of keeping Wade, which McCullough knew would be a factor when the Heat started seriously planning the website in February.
“When we went looking for domain names, there were already some names that were close to what we had suggested,” McCullough said. “Maybe people were squatting on names and never had an intention of using them. We think it’s great that everybody is jumping on the website bandwagon because it’s a cool medium and a good way for fans to interact.”
David Serle, 36, of Boca Raton, Fla. learned about the campaign from an e-mail sent to him from the team (he’s a former Heat season-ticket holder) and has gladly joined the ‘We Want Wade’ frenzy.
“There really hasn’t been a sports figure who I can root for that’s been considered a role model and who seems to be a good guy,” said Serle, who pointed out another Miami sports legend, Dan Marino, was “standoffish” in a past encounter. “Dwyane Wade seems like a guy you’d like to root for, whether you’re a Miami Heat fan or a fan of another NBA team.”
Wade has also been flattered by the outpouring of responses from fans, according to McCullough. “He has been pretty blown away,” McCullough said. “He created his own video talking about how it’s his website and that’s exactly how we wanted him to look at it. The website is his and these [fans] are his people. We were just being the conduit for him.”
More is planned for the We Want Wade campaign, which the Heat have worked on with corporate partners Perry Ellis, Miccosukee Resort and Gaming, Tires Plus and Papa John’s. McCullough noted that there are new billboards and digital downloads planned soon as well as future announcements on what will take place during WeWantWade Week, which will run during the first week of free agency in early July.
The Heat will attempt to incorporate various local municipalities and neighborhoods in order to get Wade to notice that South Florida communities are making efforts to convince him to stay. Special events and activities will be held during WeWantWade Week, and McCullough emphasized it’s all about creating a “fever pitch” leading up to that week starting July 1.
From the enthusiasm Heat and Wade fans have already shown in their efforts to keep Wade in sunny Miami, his free agent decision certainly won’t be an easy one.
Here’s a list of websites that have been created to lure upcoming NBA free agents to a specific team: