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Miami Dolphins' new voice: Jimmy Buffett and his beer

MIAMI _ It would be a fitting new chapter in Jimmy Buffett's evolution from beach-bum singer to retailing powerhouse: buying an NFL stadium for a song.

That's apparently what happened in the recent deal to name the home field of the Miami Dolphins after LandShark Lager, Buffett's beer. His central contribution: rewriting the lyrics of one of his most popular songs into a Dolphins jingle.

The novel arrangement marks the latest marketing feat for a singer who didn't have a No. 1 album until five years ago but has attached his Margaritaville brand to blenders, tequila, chain restaurants, frozen shrimp, flip-flops, lawn furniture and casinos.

It all amounts to the largest retail footprint in the music business this side of Elvis -- even as the 62-year-old singer crosses the age threshold for

Social Security benefits.

''Our fans are loyal -- they know what they get when they come see us,'' Buffett said earlier this month. He had just performed his new Dolphins song in the stadium's club level for the media and hundreds of costumed fans -- including one couple in full-length shark and parrot suits.

''We've been doing it for 40 years,'' Buffett added. ``So far it seems to be working.''

But the Dolphins deal could test the boundaries of Margaritaville's marketing reach like no other Buffett venture.

Faced with a 9 percent decline in attendance last year, team owner Stephen Ross signed Buffett to help brand Dolphins games as tropical entertainment.

''Jimmy really represents South Florida . . That Florida culture, lifestyle. Who better represents that?'' Ross asked. ``People want to have a good time when they come to these games. We want to take it to a new level.''

Sources told The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson that the Dolphins received no money in the LandShark naming deal -- an unheard of concession for a league where companies will pay $20 million a year to attach their brands to stadiums. Anheuser-Busch produces and sells LandShark under a marketing arrangement with Buffett.

With a steep cutback in marketing dollars across the economy, the Dolphins were unable to land a full sponsor for the 2009 season. The search continues: Ross, who took over the team in January, only signed LandShark through the playoffs.

Unless the deal gets extended, the LandShark name will come down before the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl are played in the stadium in 2010.

The team did receive what Buffett experts said was a first: the songwriter recasting a lyric for a promotional purpose.

''We drive down Interstate 95, and up on U.S. 1. It's game day in Miami town and the Dolphins are Number One,'' Buffett sang at the reception, his Coral Reefer band shouting ''Numero Uno'' on cue behind him.

During the song, written to the tune of Fins, fans were encouraged to form their hands into shark fins -- a ritual at nearly every Buffett performance. Team officials would not say whether Buffett agreed to perform during games under the deal, but they do plan a Margaritaville area somewhere in the stadium. And with Buffett fans known to bring tiki bars, wading pools and truckloads of sand to concert parking lots, Ross hopes the arrangement will boost tailgating at games.

Tom Pirko, a beverage industry consultant, said Buffett's have-another persona meshes well with the NFL's marketing strategy. He compared it to Hanks Williams Jr.'s role as the front man for Monday Night Football, singing a rowdy opening number before each broadcast.

Read the complete story at miamiherald.com

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