Pacers use AI to better know fans, sell tickets

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IBJ used Adobe Firefly to generate art from the prompt “a professional basketball game in a fieldhouse full of fans” using art and pencil drawing tags.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment wants to know your favorite player. It wants to know whether you’re going to the game with your kids or your significant other or friends—and what you’re doing before and after. It wants to know, well, just about everything about your game-day experience.

The owner of the Pacers and Fever basketball franchises can then use that information—with the help of artificial intelligence—to generate personalized marketing materials that go beyond the typical form letters and first-name-here emails that fill the inboxes of would-be ticket buyers today.

Starting this year, the Pacers want to use artificial intelligence to provide news about a fan’s favorite player, suggest the best routes to the fieldhouse and available parking spaces, make recommendations about places to eat based on customer preferences and party size, and more.

The goal? Retain existing customers and deepen their connection with the franchise, said PSE President Todd Taylor.

Pacers Sports has partnered with San Francisco-based Salesforce to develop technology that uses standard demographic data as well as information fans voluntarily provide through surveys and ticket-buying activity. It also uses historical data to determine when someone is most likely to check their email, so a Pacers message can be at the top of their inbox when they look.

“Back when I started in this business … all this information was sort of hoarded,” Taylor said. It was acquired, stored and went largely unused. “And what we’ve really learned is, we’re going to have to rely on some of this AI and this technology to not only help us understand this data, but more importantly how we can use it.”

The data, he said, is protected by multiple layers of security and will not be sold to outside parties. And the AI tool doesn’t rely on device tools like a microphone or other applications to gather data.

PSE is also using AI to improve wireless connectivity systems at the fieldhouse and engage with fans through the Pacers phone app, with a Salesforce AI-powered chatbot and separately with a ChatGPT-powered live closed-captioning service for the venue’s public address system.

“If it’s going to be something more personal, we’re going to try and deliver that message at the right time, in the right way, that is most interesting to each person,” Taylor said.•

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