There are a lot of questions when it comes to the coming Indiana Pacers’ season.
How will the new players mesh?
Is Paul George completely healed and how will he do at power forward?
How fast will the team play?
Will they play any defense?
And most importantly, will the team be any good?
But there’s one question Pacers sales boss Todd Taylor isn’t too worried about: Will fans show up?
Despite losing two key starters from last year’s team and scrapping last year’s play book, Taylor said: “Activity from our sales executives is as high as ever.”
Currently, the Pacers season ticket renewal rate is 92 percent and team officials expect renewals to hit 95 percent by the time the season tips off in October. Taylor is looking for an overall attendance increase of about 5 percent and possibly more depending on how quickly rookie Myles Turner and free agent acquisition Monta Ellis get up to speed with their new teammates.
Sponsorship sales are up about 20 percent over last season with recent deals signed with Red Bull, FanDuel, Gatorade, Papa John’s, Community Health Network, UPS, Steak n Shake, Finish Line and Stanley Tools.
And Taylor expects to announce a multi-year deal for a new naming rights partner for the team’s practice court at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse within the next week.
Because single-game ticket sales declined last year in the wake of the Paul George injury, overall per-game attendance dropped from 17,501 for the 2013-14 season to 16,864 last year.
Taylor is confident this year’s new-look team will drive attendance back to 17,500 or above. Eleven-game packages will begin selling when the schedule is announced next month, and Taylor expects the lower bowl to be nearly—or completely—sold out via season tickets and 11-game packages.
Larry Bird, who heads up Pacers basketball operations, has overhauled the lineup including drafting 19-year-old Myles Turner and acquiring high-profile free agent Monta Ellis.
Gone are starters David West, who signed a free agent deal with San Antonio, and Roy Hibbert, who was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bird and Coach Frank Vogel are promising the team will play an up-tempo game.
Unlike the two previous seasons when the team reached the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers just missed the playoffs last year as George missed all but a handful of games with a broken leg.
The playoffs are often seen as a key period for NBA teams to sell season packages for the following year. That means ticket sales activity has picked up late this year, Taylor explained. Sales, he said, got a big boost after Turner was selected No. 11 overall in June’s NBA draft and when the team acquired Ellis. It surged again after Turner and second round draft selection Joe Young had strong showings in the Orlando Summer League, which just wrapped up.
“Ellis coming has crystallized the vision of playing faster and scoring more that Larry has been talking about,” Taylor said. “And Myles Turner and Joe Young have showed they can play.”
While the Pacers marketing department will continue to emphasize the team in their ads, Taylor said Turner, Ellis and Young will be incorporated in the team’s marketing “right away.”
Already, Turner and Ellis are featured in online and social media marketing campaigns, and Taylor said fans should expect to see them in TV, print and billboard ads as the season approaches.
Pacers executives have a TV and billboard campaign set to begin in August to emphasize the team’s “smaller, faster play,” Taylor said.
New Pacers merchandise will be available soon featuring the new players, he added.
Team executives are still working to replace Area 55, a Roy Hibbert-themed cheer section in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Fans were chosen by Hibbert for the section after a publicized tryout to see how loud and dedicated they were. Pacers marketers are currently concepting new ideas to replace Area 55 and hope to have something in place by Oct. 1. The new section likely won’t involve stars Paul George and George Hill since they already are involved in the G2 fan section sponsored by Gatorade.
Turner, who will wear No. 33, is a likely candidate. Several fans have suggested Myle(s) Marker 33.
“We’re talking to players and putting that together,” Taylor said. “We want to keep a block like Area 55 that has a college atmosphere. We think that kind of energy is very contagious. New fans in the Fieldhouse really notice, so it’s a good selling tool as well.”