Whether the Indiana Pacers' on-court performance this season is deemed a success is very much up for debate. There’s a feeling within the team and among fans that anything short of a trip to the NBA Finals would be a failure.
Excuse the sales and marketing team, though, if they pop the cork on the champagne.
Not that sales boss Todd Taylor and his staff don’t care how the Pacers fare in the playoffs. A deep playoff run certainly makes their jobs easier heading into next season. And the extra revenue from playoff tickets, concessions and other ancillary sales is certainly welcome.
But for the sales team, it’s already mission accomplished. Taylor and his staff should take a moment to smell the roses.
Consider how far this franchise has come. Yes, the team and its performance on the court have an awful lot to do with that, but don’t sell short the sales job.
The Pacers will have sold out 28 games as of their last regular-season game April 13. That’s the most since the 41 of the 1999-2000 season, when the Pacers moved into Bankers Life Fieldhouse (then Conseco Fieldhouse) and went to the NBA finals. That's 18 more sellouts than last season and more than the last three seasons combined.
Average attendance is third-highest since the Pacers made their home at the fieldhouse—717,542 fans through the gates this season for an average of 17,501 for the 41 home games. Sunday's home finale against Oklahoma City will be a sellout. This year's home attendance is a 15 percent increase over last season's per-game average of 15,270.
The sales staff will never match the fieldhouse attendance record because, a few years back, the team expanded an entertainment area and reduced capacity from 18,345 to 18,165.
That said, the Pacers are filling the fieldhouse to an average of 96.3 percent of capacity this season. The Pacers are set to finish 15th of 30 NBA teams in attendance and 12th in percentage of seats sold at its home venue. That’s a major jump from just three years ago.
To fully appreciate the road the Pacers’ sales staff has traveled, look back just a few short years. During the 2011-12 season, the year Taylor left the Texas Rangers for the Pacers, home attendance averaged 14,169 and only six games sold out. During the 2007-08 season, the Pacers had just one sellout and average home attendance was an NBA-worst 12,222.
The sales staff during the last two years unleashed myriad promotions and discounts. One was variable ticket pricing, meaning prices in certain areas fluctuate based on overall ticket demand, popularity of the opponent, and night of the week a game was played.
The personal contact between Pacers sales staffers and season and group ticket buyers is also way up, said Taylor, who often compares the relationship between a team and its ticket buyers to a “courtship leading up to a happy, long-term marriage.”
All this success has team owner Herb Simon wondering if the Pacers can sell out all their home games next season. That’s a tall order, admitted Taylor, “But that’s the goal.”
As for the playoffs, Taylor predicted sellouts of the home games.
If all goes well, that could be as many as 14 to 16 more home games. Of course, if the Pacers sweep some playoff opponents, it could be fewer than that.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, especially with the team struggling to find itself on the court of late.