Local businesses hoping All-Star Rewards program will boost their profiles

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Local business owners are hoping that a technology-powered program called All-Star Rewards will help them gain a piece of the action when the NBA’s All-Star Weekend tips off in Indianapolis next week..

The program, which runs through Feb. 18, allows consumers to visit participating businesses and other locations around the state, accumulating points that they can then redeem for NBA-related prizes.

More than 300 businesses have signed up for the program, said Danny Lopez, the vice president of external relations and corporate communications for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

The list of participants includes everything from bars, restaurants and retail shops to fitness studios and salons.

A good number of the destinations are in downtown Indianapolis, which will serve as the hub of All-Star Weekend activities. But there are participating businesses in other parts of the city, in surrounding suburbs and as far away as Gary and South Bend.

In addition to the businesses, another 100 or so basketball-related landmarks around the state are part of the program, including the John Wooden sculpture on Georgia Street downtown and a museum exhibit in French Lick, the hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird.

Lopez, who is also a member of the All-Star organizing committee, said organizers reached out statewide to invite businesses to participate. Those efforts began last summer, with a focus on small local businesses and those owned by minorities, women and veterans.

“We looked at [All-Star Rewards] as one way that people from around the state could engage with All-Star,” Lopez said. “It’s an easy way for businesses to be involved and to promote the game.”

As of this week, Lopez said, more than 15,000 individuals have signed up for All-Star Rewards, and he expects that number to “shoot up significantly” once visitors begin arriving next week for All-Star activities.

The technology that powers the program includes smartphones, QR codes, geofencing and augmented reality—and using it successfully takes a little advance preparation.

Individuals who have downloaded the NBA Events app and created an NBA ID account can use the app to identify participating All-Star Rewards locations. Once at a location, individuals can scan a special QR code posted on site—perhaps on the establishment’s front door, at the cash register or both. Users must also enable location tracking on their phones.

After scanning the QR code, individuals can use their phone to scan their surroundings in search of a virtual ticket that will appear on their phone’s screen. Collecting tickets earns the individual points they can save up for prizes. Some businesses are also offering special deals and discounts.

All-Star Rewards launched for consumers last fall, Lopez said, and 10 users have already accumulated 500 points, earning the top prize—tickets to the All-Star Game on Feb. 18. Another 10 people earned the second-tier prize of tickets to All-Star Saturday Night on Feb. 17, which features the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest and other skills challenges.

Those two events were no longer listed on the app as of this week, although tickets to several other All-Star Weekend events were still available, including the All-Star Celebrity Game and the NBA Crossover fan event at the Indiana Convention Center.

Kelsey Taylor, president of downtown fitness facility Taylor Made Wellness, said on Thursday that All-Star Rewards hadn’t yet brought in any customers, “but I do expect next week we’ll get a few people in.”

If participating in the program draws in even a couple of customers, Taylor said, she will consider it worthwhile.

“Even if it brings two people in the door and those people leave us a Google review, that’s going to get us even more traction,” Taylor said. “Google reviews are like gold.”

Likewise, downtown coffee shop Georgia Street Grind is looking at All-Star Rewards as a way to increase its visibility.

Andrew Winely, the coffee shop’s general manager, said he’s expecting a huge increase in foot traffic—maybe seven times normal—during All-Star Weekend. The small shop is located on Georgia Street midway between the Indiana Convention Center and Gainbridge Fieldhouse—two of the venues hosting All-Star events.

Winely said people have asked him a lot of questions about how All-Star Rewards works, but so far he hasn’t seen any increased business as a result of the program.

Regardless, Winely said, participating in the program is good visibility—it literally puts Georgia Street Grind on the map for anyone who is using the NBA Events app during All-Star Weekend.

How much additional business might that exposure generate? It’s too early to tell. But, Winely said, “it’s going to be a really fun test, that’s for sure.”

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