The state’s economic development arm plans to host three national site selectors during NBA All-Star Weekend as part of a strategy focused on leveraging the event to elevate the state’s business profile.
The approach from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is similar to those taken for prior events such as the Indianapolis 500, the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game and the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.
In each instance, the group used the events and their related activities to woo business leaders in hopes of securing job and investment commitments across the state. For all of Indianapolis’ efforts to create unique activities for fans at all price points, All-Star Weekend involves a large amount of corporate events—particularly with the All-Star Game itself.
Erin Sweitzer, deputy chief of staff and vice president of external communications, said the IEDC plans to host “limited clients, prospects and partners on an event-by-event basis” throughout All-Star Weekend, Feb. 16-18, including for each of the major events at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium.
On Friday, IEDC officials will entertain guests at the Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Game at Lucas Oil and Gainbridge, respectively. Saturday, select decision makers and partners will be invited to attend the open practice, Media Day and HBCU Classic game at Gainbridge, as well as All-Star Saturday Night at Lucas Oil.
The IEDC also has tickets to the All-Star Game on Sunday, along with weekend-long access to The Key, an invitation-only hospitality space at Union Station.
The contingent of site selectors, which the IEDC plans to spend about $25,000 to lodge, entertain and transport during the weekend, will be in attendance for numerous All-Star events. They will also be able to meet with “ key Indiana utility and workforce executives,” and receive a site tour of the LEAP Innovation and Research District in Boone County (LEAP stands for Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace). For the Indianapolis 500, the IEDC gave aerial tours of the 8,000-acre tract.
The organization did not pay for its tickets to All-Star events, Sweitzer said. Rather, it is receiving them as a benefit of the organization’s past support of the Championship Fund that raised $25 million to support the All-Star effort, the college football championship and the 2021 Final Four.
About $12 million of the funds raised by the group are being put toward hosting NBA All-Star efforts, while the rest went toward the other two events. The IEDC contributed $1 million to the fund in 2020, according to public records.
Aside from its corporate hospitality strategy, the IEDC is also spending $150,000 to advertise its “Indiana for the Bold” initiative in yet-to-be-disclosed spots across Indianapolis.
“Like all major events that highlight Indiana’s attractive business environment, quality of place and workforce, we will be sharing the Indiana story with some paid advertisements,” said Sweitzer. “With that in mind, the IEDC is taking advantage of the opportunity to share Indiana’s story, spending $150,000 to purchase advertising in and around the city targeted at business decision makers.”
The IEDC isn’t alone in its efforts to make decision makers swoon over Indianapolis during the weekend. Visit Indy has budgeted about $100,000 for the weekend to fly in convention decision-makers.
Visit Indy will have 22 tickets for events throughout all-Star weekend, including seating for its own staff and meeting planners. The organization’s budget includes air travel, entertainment and lodging, dining, and the seats themselves.
While Visit Indy has declined to share the identities of the prospective clients, citing a need for confidentiality because no deals have been signed, tourism officials said three-quarters of those scheduled to attend the events have never been to Indianapolis.