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Colts face decisions on ticket prices, marketing plan

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Even though the Indianapolis Colts weren't victorious in Sunday's Super Bowl, sports marketing experts expect Colts officials to be just as aggressive in promoting the organization this off-season as they were in 2007—the year the team beat the Chicago Bears to win the NFL championship.

“Certainly, the storyline and the marketing approach change slightly since they didn’t win the Super Bowl, but I think their marketing plan is largely the same without the Lombardi Trophy, ” said Larry DeGaris, director of academic sports marketing programs at the University of Indianapolis.

The Colts took a statewide tour after the 2007 Super Bowl, visiting more than 50 cities and towns across the state, giving fans a chance to meet players, coaches and cheerleaders. Fans had their photos taken with the fabled Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl champion.

This year's follow-up events are undetermined.

Lacey Everett, spokeswoman in Mayor Greg Ballard’s office, said there’s no city celebration planned for the Colts, which lost Sunday’s big game, 31-17, to the New Orleans Saints in Miami.

“We’ll let the Colts take the lead on that, and help them in any way we can,” Everett said. “We don’t have anything planned, but we’re still waiting to hear from the Colts. We’ll reach out to them later today.”

The Mayor and his contingency of more than three dozen city officials are en route back from Miami today, as are the Colts.

Super Bowl title or not, the Colts annually conduct a number of off-season outreach programs, including football camps and meet-and-greets.

DeGaris thinks the Colts will start ramping up off-season marketing shortly after the team returns.

“In some ways, this loss creates a lot of drama, and I expect the Colts to play off that to increase fan avidity,” DeGaris said. “Peyton Manning and the rest of the team came up short this year, but they want to get that win back.”

DeGaris doesn’t think the Super Bowl loss will diminish Manning’s marketing power in Indiana.

“People in this town love Peyton Manning, and now they’ll root for him even harder,” DeGaris said. “There’s always crisis before triumph.”

One of the team's most immediate concerns is ticket pricing for next year. The team typically announces ticket prices in February. Last year, the team raised some ticket prices by as much as 42 percent. It’s unlikely the Colts will take that approach again.

“Ticket prices is something the team will have to handle very, very carefully,” DeGaris said. “If they increase costs, they’ll have to be clear why those cost hikes are necessary. There’s still a lot of people hurting due to this economy.”

MainGate Inc. President Dave Moroknek, whose company handles merchandise sales for the Colts, didn’t see any fans jumping off the team’s bandwagon in Miami.

“I heard several people saying this morning, 'I’m not taking off my Colts jersey no matter what,'” Moroknek said via phone as he boarded a plane back to Indianapolis. “There’s a lot of resolve among the Colts fans here.”

While the Super Bowl loss means it’s unlikely the team will attract the revenue it generated from merchandise sales in 2007, Moroknek said sales during the two weeks prior to this year’s game were more than 10 percent higher for the Colts than three years ago.

Short sleeve and long sleeve T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and a football commemorating the AFC championship were the hottest-selling items. Because of the loss, however, there will be no new products coming out this week.

“Sales of all items, both AFC championship and regular items, were really, really strong for the last two weeks,” Moroknek said. “We’re extremely pleased. But it’s tough to match the sales increases you’d see after a Super Bowl victory. Those are huge.”
 

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