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Thread: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

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    Our hero! GrangerRanger's Avatar
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    Default Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

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    The Indiana Pacers recently rolled out a marketing initiative that was in sharp contrast to last year’s campaign, which prominently featured players and proclaimed, “It’s up to us.”

    This year’s new television, radio and print advertisements appear with not a whisper from or mention of anyone actually wearing the blue and gold.

    The campaign marks a fundamental—some would say radical—marketing shift that underscores the challenges the NBA franchise faces in rebuilding fan support and improving its finances.

    New coach Jim O’Brien takes center stage in this year’s ad campaign telling fans how committed he is to hard-nosed defense and the will to win. He even extols the virtues of Conseco Fieldhouse.

    In one ad, O’Brien stands alongside the team’s chief of basketball operations, Hoosier hoops icon Larry Bird.

    The campaign is an important first step in the Pacers’ winning back fans who abandoned the team in recent years, said Larry DeGaris, director of academic sports marketing programs at the University of Indianapolis.

    “It’s a shift to things they can control, with a focus on the organization and less on the players,” DeGaris said. “That’s a very positive step in gaining the trust of the public.”

    What has brought the Pacers to this point?

    A string of highly public player indiscretions over the last year, decreasing attendance since the brawl in Detroit three seasons ago, and a financial loss that industry sources estimated at more than $10 million each of the last two years.

    Even as the curtain rose on this year’s campaign, the Pacers were enduring another off-court incident by a player. The Pacers last month suspended forward Shawne Williams for three games after police found marijuana in his car, which he was driving without a license.

    DeGaris said the Pacers learned an important lesson after last year’s player dust-ups.

    “The front office’s actions were immediate and decisive with Williams,” DeGaris said. “Last year, they let things drag out too long and the stories built momentum.”

    Last year, several players were implicated in two separate brawls at area nightclubs—one during training camp and the other later in the season.

    After last year’s troubled season, the Pacers brought in ad agency Publicis Indianapolis, and crafted a plan to increase season and single-game ticket sales.

    Pacers and Publicis officials declined to specify what will be spent on this year’s campaign. However, they said it will be similar in scope to years past, when Indianapolis-based Pearson Partners, formerly Pearson McMahon Fletcher England, headed Pacers marketing. The new campaign will likely have a high-six-figure or low-seven-figure price tag, industry experts said.

    Publicis Indianapolis is not known for sports marketing, but has been the longtime agency for Simon Property Group Inc. Simon Property co-chairmen Mel and Herb Simon own the Pacers.

    Central to the new plan, said Tom Hirschauer, president of Publicis’ local operation, is “a shift from sales marketing to brand marketing.”

    “We’re not simply selling tickets,” Hirschauer said.

    Instead, he said, his firm was hired to conduct far more in-depth research of current and potential season and single-game ticket buyers than had been done in the past. The research, he said, was used to align what Pacers’ fans wanted with what the team and management represented.

    O’Brien was chosen as the primary spokesman for the early part of the campaign, Hirschauer said, because research showed the older, corporate audience that buys season tickets finds him credible.

    Part of the shift, Hirschauer said, is because many Pacers fans in this “conservative market” don’t identify with the “hip-hop” culture some in the NBA have cultivated in recent years.

    Pacers fans are more interested in things like hustle, teamwork and fundamentally sound basketball than individual stars, he said.

    The early part of the campaign started with direct-mail before shifting to television, print and radio ads.

    The second phase will kick into overdrive after the Oct. 31 season opener. Even though Hirschauer said the focus will shift to action inside Conseco Fieldhouse, he still doesn’t anticipate players’ being a central part.

    “Our goal was to relate to customer experience rather than just the play on the court,” Hirschauer said. “The experience is more than watching Jermaine O’Neal as an individual player. Much more.”

    The second part of the campaign will focus on special promotions, including family night, guys’ night out, college night and other in-arena promotions.

    “The play of basketball and winning is central, but the experience is much broader than that,” Hirschauer said.

    Sports marketers are skeptical the campaign will have much impact unless the Pacers can field a winning team this season. That might be a long shot. Most prognosticators have them in the bottom half of the Eastern Division coming off a losing season with no key player acquisitions during the off-season.

    O’Brien, who replaced Rick Carlisle after last season, might be the team’s best hope for turning things around. But if he’s the franchise’s most marketable asset, local sports marketer David Morton thinks the Pacers are in trouble.

    “Fans don’t generally come to the arena to watch coaches coach,” said Morton, principal of Sunrise Sports Group, a locally based sports marketing consultancy. “They come to watch players play. There has to be a connection between the fans and players.”

    But Hirschauer said season-ticket sales already are up this year. He’s confident that if the Pacers are competitive, they’ll see a solid increase in attendance.

    Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh did not return calls seeking comment.

    Pacers spokesman Jeff McCoy said O’Brien was chosen to headline the campaign because “he fit the values of what we think Indiana basketball is all about: hard work, determination, the will to win, preparation and teamwork. What better person to put out front?”

    An attendance boost is badly needed. Last year, per-game attendance dropped to 15,359, down from 16,180 during the 2005-2006 season.

    Attendance has dropped five of the seven seasons since the 1999-2000 season, the team’s first in Conseco Fieldhouse. That year, the Pacers averaged a capacity 18,345 per game.

    Under optimal conditions, the Pacers aren’t exactly a cash cow in this small NBA market. But the team has proven it can muster an annual profit ranging from $1 million to $10 million, according to Forbes magazine figures.

    With the National Football League and NASCAR garnering the lion’s share of professional sports fans’ attention, and with the proliferation of other entertainment outlets, the NBA’s business model for NBA teams has changed greatly over the last decade, University of Indianapolis’ DeGaris said.

    “Sports is an unpredictable and perishable commodity, and the NBA has hit a valley,” DeGaris said. “Naming rights and premium seating aren’t bringing in the kind of dollars they used to, so it’s sending a lot of teams back to the drawing board. The key for the Pacers will be staying aggressive and being creative.”

    But those things will have to be done inside the confines of the team’s current lease deal at Conseco Fieldhouse. City officials, including Mayor Bart Peterson and Fred Glass, head of the Capital Improvement Board, which owns the Fieldhouse, said they aren’t likely to consider an overhaul of the Pacers’ 20-year lease.

    “[Pacers officials] have not suggested they need to renegotiate the lease, but they have said they are facing some challenges they weren’t five or six years ago,” Peterson said.

    Glass is confident the Pacers can be viable under the terms of the Fieldhouse lease.

    “This arena is a model, and we’ve crafted a deal where the Pacers can prosper,” Glass said. “I think they will be here for generations to come.” •
    I don't think these guys really have a good idea. I would much rather see Jermaine/Danny on the cover then O'Brien.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by GrangerRanger View Post
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    I don't think these guys really have a good idea. I would much rather see Jermaine/Danny on the cover then O'Brien.

    They shouldn't hide from what they are. Just put Jamal, Daniels, Williams, in a shadow of Artest and Jackson..........

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by GrangerRanger View Post
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    I don't think these guys really have a good idea. I would much rather see Jermaine/Danny on the cover then O'Brien.
    As the article states, you're not the target. Older, more conservative, corporate types are more likely to get season tickets. The bottom line is to sell tickets, that's why they talk about improving the "brand", not the "image". They want to make money.
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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by GrangerRanger View Post
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    I don't think these guys really have a good idea. I would much rather see Jermaine/Danny on the cover then O'Brien.

    The ad is clearly a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the players from a professional responsibility standpoint. They know they cannot sell a product that continues to blow up in their faces. It's the right business decision to keep the clowns behind the curtain.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Kegboy View Post
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    As the article states, you're not the target. Older, more conservative, corporate types are more likely to get season tickets. The bottom line is to sell tickets, that's why they talk about improving the "brand", not the "image". They want to make money.
    This could not be more true. They have given up on image and have moved to another form of marketing the team.

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    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    I think it makes perfect sense to use O'Brien in the marketing campaign. he and the coaching staff is the primary reason why I'm excited about watching the team play this season.

    The yahoo in the article who was quoted as saying that "Fans don’t generally come to the arena to watch coaches coach" Well of course fans don't come to games and look at the coach the whole time (only an idiot would do that) - but the coach has a huge impact on the way the team plays, so yes fans do come to a game to see how a team plays.
    Last edited by Unclebuck; 10-06-2007 at 05:01 PM.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    I can't turn on NBA TV without seeing Obie in one Pacer ticket ad or another.

    Not that I disagree with their decision, but their approach could use some work. Those ads were a tad boring.

    It wasn't about being the team everyone loved, it was about beating the teams everyone else loved.

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    Our hero! GrangerRanger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Kegboy View Post
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    As the article states, you're not the target. Older, more conservative, corporate types are more likely to get season tickets. The bottom line is to sell tickets, that's why they talk about improving the "brand", not the "image". They want to make money.
    I'm a season ticket holder. If they at least made one ad showing Jermaine slamming it down on a replica Shaq and big worlds in the background proclaiming Eastern Conference Champions, I think you could sell a few tickets not from the non older, more conservative, corporate types. Like common people like me.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueNGold View Post
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    The ad is clearly a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the players from a professional responsibility standpoint. They know they cannot sell a product that continues to blow up in their faces. It's the right business decision to keep the clowns behind the curtain.
    It also makes no business sense to brand your team around players that won't be here in March. I doubt there's one player on the entire roster (aside from maybe Danny, but you can't build your brand around him yet) that they know for sure they won't move.

    Sure that's true for a few other teams in one way or another, but when you're trying to win back fans like TPTB are, it makes no sense to make anyone the "face" of the team. So, the only logical move -- especially when there's no one you can trust to stay out of the police blotter -- is to brand the Indiana Pacers as "pure basketball," "Conseco fieldhouse," "tough-nosed Hoosiers" and "Indiana."

    There's really no other choice from a marketing/branding perspective.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by GrangerRanger View Post
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    I'm a season ticket holder. If they at least made one ad showing Jermaine slamming it down on a replica Shaq and big worlds in the background proclaiming Eastern Conference Champions, I think you could sell a few tickets not from the non older, more conservative, corporate types. Like common people like me.
    Sure, some people in your age group do indeed have season tickets, but that demographic doesn't have the buying power to make much of a difference. And it's the luxury boxes that really matter, not 1 seat out of 20,000.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Unclebuck View Post
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    Well of course fans don't come to games and look at the coach the whole time (only an idiot would do that) - but the coach has a huge impact on the way the team lays, so yes fans do come to a game to see how a team plays.
    Weren't you the one who at one game counted to see how many times Rick looked at his card?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JayRedd View Post
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    Sure, some people in your age group do indeed have season tickets, but that demographic doesn't have the buying power to make much of a difference. And it's the luxury boxes that really matter, not 1 seat out of 20,000.
    Along with the luxury boxes is a related issue. Many people buying tickets do this for business/networking purposes. Some are easily turned off by off court incidents particularly since it would be embarrassing for them to give Pacer tickets to their clients.

    Now, winning does solve a lot of problems there, but a decent team, which is all the Pacers will be for now, requires a clean off court reputation to pull in the business/networking type of revenue. There is still a lot to lose here for an average to slightly above average NBA club.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Unclebuck View Post
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    Well of course fans don't come to games and look at the coach the whole time (only an idiot would do that)
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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by intridcold View Post
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    Weren't you the one who at one game counted to see how many times Rick looked at his card?
    No, I counted how often Rick called the offensive play.

    I was making a joke in my prior post

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kegboy View Post
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    I was making a joke. Just a little self-deprecating humor

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    sorry I was too

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    I don't believe for one minute they've lost $10 million each of the past 3 seasons. That's too much for even the Simons to absorb.
    The best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone else up.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    So, who will get in trouble with the law first: JOB or LB?

    C'mon, you just know something's gonna happen...

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Unclebuck View Post
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    - but the coach has a huge impact on the way the team lays,
    I don't think the coach will impact the players' sex lives too much unless it's just because practice wears them out too much for sex.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Shade View Post
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    So, who will get in trouble with the law first: JOB or LB?
    Earlier this off season I sent Mal an article about a Larry Bird bust in Brown County but he thought with the way things were going this summer it would be too much for Pacer fans.... or something.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by ABADays View Post
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    I don't believe for one minute they've lost $10 million each of the past 3 seasons. That's too much for even the Simons to absorb.
    Only 10M/yr? Considering Simon Properties net income is well over 400M/yr, they should be OK to ride out a few bumps. They are probably pretty motivated about now to bring the franchise back....so I doubt this is a problem as long as they enjoy doing it. That's all that really matters here.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    Quote Originally Posted by Bball View Post
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    Earlier this off season I sent Mal an article about a Larry Bird bust in Brown County but he thought with the way things were going this summer it would be too much for Pacer fans.... or something.

    -Bball
    OMG, that would've been fantastic.

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    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

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    I don't think these guys really have a good idea. I would much rather see Jermaine/Danny on the cover then O'Brien.
    I don't think TPTB brass want to let ANYONE at all ruin their PR campaign this year. The last 2 years have been ruined fairly quickly into the season. Thats why they show Reggie's jersey and Jalen's and Rik's in the TV commercial campain. Those guys are no longer playing so anything bad that comes from them would not put a negative spin on the season and our current players. As for Obie, I think the can can hang their PR campaign hat on him with relative certainty that it will not blow up in their face. Plus, i dont think they are all that sure that JO or even Danny will be on the team come the trade deadline, depending on how the season goes. I think its pretty certain that JO will be gone near the trade deadline if we struggle the first 1/3 of the season.

    As others mention, the IMAGE of our coach is better than any of our players now.

    Still however, GO PACERS!
    Last edited by BoomBaby33; 10-06-2007 at 03:12 PM.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    I like the direction the ad campaign is taking. The first phase hits to the heart of what most fans want - good, wholesome, fundamental basketball. How does JOB fit into that ideal? By regaining the confidence of the public that the team he puts on the floor will consist of players of good character who will play hard and be good ambassadors of the game.

    Now, granted, this first phase is directed moreso at those individuals with deep pockets rather than the average Joe like most of us, but the fact that the entire ad campaign will focus more on the "team/organization" and not the "individual" player will force the fans to pay a little less attention to the "one" and start really looking at the "whole" of the product which is and has always been the "team".

    Think about this: Ever since the Brawl, what have we really taken stock of? Answer: That one or two individuals who either committed the offense or that person in management who could have acted sooner or perhaps more aggressively to right the wrong. Either way you slice it, we looked at this guy or that guy and said, "Bad boy!," or "You mis-managed that situation badly!" Well, this two-pronged ad campaign will try to re-direct our attention in the right direction: focusing on the team as a whole who under new leadership has committed the "team" towards playing the game "the right way."

    We've heard it said for a while now that winning curse alot of things. Well, if JOB's team can start the season off on a good, solid winning note and play the game we all would like to see them play - with heart and a re-newed commitment toward playing hard for 48 minutes - the average Joe will start spending his dollars on the product - the "team" - again.

    So, when you really sit down and think about it, it's a great move by the marketing agency. Eventually, I think we will see more of the current player's faces in commercials and soforth, but for now JOB is the face of the franchise because he will be the biggest difference maker, the one catalysist that will demand better from the players and will not accept anything less than their very best.
    Last edited by NuffSaid; 10-06-2007 at 05:06 PM.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Players Benched for Pacer's Ads

    They should start an ad campaign with just one of the the team players. If he isn't arrested in say thirty days then add one more to the ad. They really need to go slow with this. I would start with Granger first. He would provide the greatest opportunity for a successful rebuilding of player reputations in Indiana now.

    I wouldn't use Tinsley in any ad all year. Even if he is an All Star this year. He simply is not photogenic.

    PS: I'm am only half kidding about all this.

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