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Episode 7: How to Improve Digital Strategies to Enhance a Sports Fan’s Experience with Kate Denton, the VP of Brand Marketing at Pacers

Episode details:

Sports marketing is different from any other type of marketing. And the most commonly used marketing strategies in the sports field have significantly changed due to the COVID outbreak, forcing marketers to find other ways to attract more audience to sports games and provide an optimal fan experience.

But creative marketers and brand managers have found ways to overcome pandemic-driven challenges. Most of them leverage technology, digitalization, and even the metaverse to enhance a fan’s experience by allowing them access to the game highlights at any time and letting them watch the game live regardless of their physical location.

In the new episode of The Vibe podcast, host Alex Campbell welcomes Kate Denton, the Vice President of Brand Marketing at Pacers Sports & Entertainment. They get into the impact of COVID on sports marketing, its potential benefits, and how sports marketers can leverage the metaverse and technology to invite larger audiences to support their favorite teams and players.


About the podcast:

The Vibe is a podcast for modern marketers looking to stay at the forefront of marketing and keep up with emerging technologies. In each episode host, Alex Campbell offers cutting-edge thought leadership on building omnichannel experiences consumers want and mobile-first brands that do it all. Through expert interviews, thought leadership discussions, and brand spotlights, listeners leave equipped with strategies, insights, and trending news to elevate their careers and navigate the changing marketing world.


Download & Listen to The Vibe Podcast here:


Episode Transcription:

[00:00:00] Alex Campbell: All right, well, let's kick things off. So my guest today is Kate Denton from the Indiana Pacers. Welcome to The Vibe, Kate.

[00:00:31] Kate Denton: Thank you, Alex. It's good to be here.

[00:00:33] Alex Campbell: Yes. So I guess one thing I would love to, why don't we just start with, can you give a little background on yourself, um, professionally and then kind of how you got to the, how you got to the Pacers?

[00:00:44] Kate Denton: Sure. So I currently am the Vice President of Marketing. So I have brand digital and social under my purview here at Pacers sports and entertainment, which includes the Indiana Pacers basketball team, our WNBA team called the Indiana Fever, our G League team called the Mad Ants, as well as Pacers Gaming, and a number of events that happen here at Cambridge Field House.

[00:01:06] Alex Campbell: Great. What with the Mad Ants?

[00:01:08] Kate Denton: Mad Ants out of Fort Wayne.

[00:01:10] Alex Campbell: That is fantastic. Such a great name.

[00:01:13] Kate Denton: It is, it is. And you should see their mascot. Very strong.

[00:01:16] Alex Campbell: Who is it? Is it very angry?

[00:01:18] Kate Denton: It's a very swole mad ant.

[00:01:21] Alex Campbell: That's awesome. So I guess, I guess starting off in your, in your background. So, you're the first in the sports world on this podcast. I guess I'm curious. Yeah. You spent some time in, in marketing, outside of sports. How does sports marketing compare to non sports marketing, brand marketing?

[00:01:40] How is it different?

[00:01:41] I would say I started my career at Kraft Foods and brand management, where I worked at a number of different brands, small brands, like Minute Rice and Stove Top two bigger brands, like, Cool Whip, Mac and Cheese, DiGiorno pizza. After that, I went to PepsiCo, where I worked on Gatorade and Tropicana orange juice.

[00:01:57] Kate Denton: Both incredible opportunities. One, working on a culture setting brand in the world of sports with Gatorade, and then working on a commodity business in the orange juice category. Fascinating to learn, from there,

[00:02:09] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:02:10] Kate Denton: I actually entered into the music industry where I was the Senior Vice President of Marketing of an internal agency that we created at Capitol Music Group, which is a conglomerate of record labels: Capitol, Motown, Blue Note, Harvest, Astralwerks, Quality Control. And there, I primary

[00:02:27] did the development of new revenue streams as the industry shifted from buying albums to streaming. So our group oversaw the brand partnerships, music licensing, media buying and insights for all the artists that are part of that Capitol Records group. That was a fantastic experience. I learned so much about culture marketing and I, what I would always say is, "In music your marketing at the speed of culture."

[00:02:48] Kate Denton: So you are honest, you're changing culture, creating culture and flexing with culture in a moment, based on the trends and who's popping from the music scene. After that, I went into the legal cannabis business in California. It's very similar to product marketing that I was doing at Kraft and PepsiCo,

[00:03:06] but obviously on a category that had, um, exist... Totally different. Existing demand, but the challenges were, you know, how do you convince people to try the product, if they were interested, you know, really identifying what the product benefits were, and then finding the right price point packaging and distribution plan for that.

[00:03:24] That was an incredible experience, a lot of fun working in startup and entrepreneurial environment. But what I really missed was sports. And sports had been a common thread throughout my career. I had done partnerships for DiGiorno pizza in the sports world. And then obviously working on Gatorade, we looked at how do we enhance athlete performance through the quality of our products,

[00:03:45] Kate Denton: how do we enhance the in-store experience to help parents make the right choices for their athletes, their youth athletes, while they were in the grocery store. And then when I was in music, the, all the artists want to be athletes and all the athletes want to be artists. So there was a good intersection between the two and obviously as a lifelong sports fan, the opportunity to work for a pro team was just absolutely incredible.

[00:04:04] So when the Indiana Pacers came calling, I definitely answered it and started to explore it. To be honest, it's really, really different than the traditional product marketing that I'm used to. Well, in a normal business, a normal product business, you would have your features and your benefits of your product, and you'd have a price point and that would help determine the value. In a live sports experience,

[00:04:25] I can't control the features, the benefits.

[00:04:27] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:04:28] Kate Denton: The good news is that consumers can pick their price point based on where they want to sit in the venue. So there are opportunities for people to come and enjoy that. But for instance, if you really wanted to see Domantas Sabonis who's behind me play, and you bought tickets three weeks ago, and now he's in COVID protocol,

[00:04:44] the features and benefits, and essentially your value equation might not hang together as much as it did in the past.

[00:04:49] Kate Denton: And that's like real.... 

[00:04:51] Alex Campbell: Do people really go up and go to see one person or one individual? Or is it more that's the expectation that then 

[00:04:58] gets, it's kind of ruined? 

[00:05:00] Kate Denton: You know, I think that the great thing about sports is that not only do you want to see your team perform, but you also want to see 

[00:05:06] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:05:06] Kate Denton: your competition. 

[00:05:07] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:05:08] Kate Denton: The league has so many all-stars, so many greats in the league today 

[00:05:12] Alex Campbell: Hm. 

[00:05:13] Kate Denton: that for a lot of the fans, they come to see both, the team they love in our instance, the Pacers, but plus the competition.

[00:05:18] So 

[00:05:18] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:05:18] Kate Denton: our hope is always that we provide the greatest products on court, which includes a competitive game, but also great performance by all the players on the court. Because that really drives the surprising and delighting the fan.

[00:05:30] Alex Campbell: And I guess as a marketing person involved in sports, how much of your time is for the team itself versus individual? You have a team, which is essentially the product, but the product is made up of individuals who also market themselves. Right? Are you involved in marketing the players or the team or a little bit of both?

[00:05:51] Do they, I mean, I assume they overlap.

[00:05:53] Kate Denton: So, we will work with the players as it relates to their performance within the Indiana Pacers. So they have certainly management teams and marketing teams around them that are looking at the individual athlete as a whole person and finding opportunities for them. So for instance, when we produce our game time ads or we like, which is our brochure that we would give you in game, we feature different players

[00:06:14] each game. We select different players for opportunities for jersey launches or uniform releases. But there's a lot of times where we feature all of our starters and we try to cycle through that and we try to make sure that each player is getting a good FaceTime and Airtime because it is important for them.

[00:06:32] Right? A lot of what we do, which is different than product marketing is, "I want to make sure that I'm not doing anything or we're not doing anything as a marketing department that disrupts the harmony in the locker room."

[00:06:41] Alex Campbell: Yeah,

[00:06:42] absolutely. Yeah. 

[00:06:42] Kate Denton: We're making sure that we're sharing the love and we're highlighting each of our players. It's not just important for the locker room, but a lot of these players are people too.

[00:06:50] So their parents and their 

[00:06:51] friends are coming 

[00:06:51] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:06:51] Kate Denton: to the game. So they want to see where their banner is, hanging outside of the venue. 

[00:06:55] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:06:55] Kate Denton: And they want to come and get their picture taken by it. 

[00:06:57] Alex Campbell: Yeah.We're lucky that we have really great young players who are excited to be there, who are incredibly helpful, 

[00:07:04] Kate Denton: and who are a lot of fun to work with. So, it's, it's been fun to highlight them, to showcase their personalities, and to help the fans fall in love with them as well.

[00:07:13] Alex Campbell: Yeah. No, that's really interesting. So, so you mentioned just to go back, you mentioned COVID, right? So obviously pandemic COVID, you know, I would imagine, I mean, I think of all industries that were impacted, yeah, sports and live sports, probably, I mean, had to be up there, number one, you know, and in terms of the product itself.

[00:07:31] So, I mean, take me through that. I mean, what was that like? And how, like, how does that change things?

[00:07:37] Kate Denton: Yeah. So I started with the team eight weeks before COVID hit. And at the time I was living in Chicago, commuting down to Indianapolis. So I really had had about 17 office days before COVID hit, just to realize what the normal sports sports environment was going to be like. COVID as you said, definitely hit all of us hard.

[00:07:54] I think from a business standpoint, it gave us a chance to relook at how we were going to market and rethink how we were going to develop the fan of the future based on the new world that we're living in. As we saw, and as we've seen throughout other industries, there were certain fans who are ready to come back right away. Same people, who are willing to go to the grocery store without a mask back in July,

[00:08:15] you know, of 2020. And some people, who are still afraid to come back to large venues with big crowds today. What was awesome about it is that it really helped and encouraged us to up our game on social, right? 'Cause we were, we're very much an inner live entertainment business.

[00:08:30] And if you take out the live component, the question to us is how do we keep fans engaged by continuing to provide entertaining content to them, um, and engaging content that we could then maintain that brand stickiness and bring them back to our family when they were ready to come back to live events.

[00:08:46] Kate Denton: And so

[00:08:48] we've invested pretty heavily on more creatives within our organization, 

[00:08:52] Alex Campbell: Um. 

[00:08:52] Kate Denton: giving them more access to the court, access to the players so we can get that content that really is in line with where fans are going in the past. If I had to, when I was growing up, you were a fan of a team and you were a fan of a team for life.

[00:09:07] And for a lot of young people today, they're a fan of players. And so, and they'll follow the players regardless of where the player goes and say that they're, that's their favorite athlete. So for us really helping the players' personalities shine within our content, both on their performance, as well as their off-court sort of personas,

[00:09:26] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:09:26] Kate Denton: has been a fun opportunity for us.

[00:09:28] So when you said, I mean, so, so COVID, right? And so COVID hits, people are no longer coming, coming to the venue or, or they feel very differently about it. I mean, talk, talk to me about like the social strategy there. I mean, I imagine you had to engage now more deeply and more personally with fans over social.

[00:09:49] Alex Campbell: How did you do that?

[00:09:50] Kate Denton: Yeah. So first of all, there was a bare minimum to get people back into the game. And that to, to hit this bare minimum of like health and safety standards was a huge lift for any organization to do. Then we had, so once we knew that our house was in order, in terms of protocols around cleaning, masking, hand sanitizer, those things.

[00:10:10] The second piece was how do we make sure that the game experience is something that folks want to attend and be part of. And honestly, that was really hard for a lot of our, a lot of teams is, because folks want to come to the game, they want to eat, they want to have a beer

[00:10:22] Kate Denton: and we're trying to enforce mask mask wearing.

[00:10:25] And that's not what the fan was looking for. I mean, I think we're in a much different position today across all leads and all sports than we were a year and a half ago. 

[00:10:34] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:10:35] Kate Denton: With that, you know, you look at your social channels and you want your social channels to be an entertaining and engaging environment and your emails and any messaging that you're doing to your fans.

[00:10:45] All of a sudden, we had to start messaging about the health and safety protocols. We had to start telling people what to expect when they were going to come into the game. That was different in terms of the procedure, policies and procedures that they had experienced in the past. 

[00:10:57] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:10:57] Kate Denton: For fans who had been coming here for 30, 40 years, 

[00:11:00] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:11:00] Kate Denton: there's were pretty shocking changes.

[00:11:02] I think it was also a real question to the marketing team about what's the best tactic and medium for telling people about note, like what to expect when they come into the game. And in a, in a environment like ours, where we have a number of seats and ticket holders, we obviously don't want to be bombarding our season ticket holders with health and safety messaging every single day.

[00:11:21] But knowing that they may be transferring their tickets to a friend or to family or to colleagues, we had to keep sending that message. So we were constantly watching our engagement rates, our opening open rates on emails to ensure that we were delivering the right message at the right time to the fan. So that way the expectations were set from the get go of what to expect when you came in.

[00:11:42] And then we could really go over the top and make sure they had a great experience with the games, with service within the building.

[00:11:49] Alex Campbell: So did you email, I mean, it's interesting thinking about season ticket holders, right? I mean, they, they know what to expect 'cause they've done a bunch of times, but they may be giving away tickets. you email them game or did you just, or did it somehow link to the ticket?

[00:12:03] Kate Denton: Yeah. So, we do email. Throughout the COVID

[00:12:06] process, we did make sure that our people, our season ticket holders or ticket holders had information the day before the game, as well as the day of the game. We've continued to monitor open rates on those. And so we've started to back off on them. But now the question is how do we make sure that we're tracking where tickets are going and making sure that if I gave my tickets to you,

[00:12:26] and maybe we didn't even talk. Maybe I just sent you a text, "Hey Alex, would you like to come to the game tonight? I'm not going to use my tickets." And then you go and you find out you have to do a COVID test or you have to have physio courtside, and you have to either have a COVID test or have your vaccination card with you.

[00:12:40] And let's say you brought your son or daughter, and one of your tests is positive for COVID. So we are constantly adjusting and certainly trying to delight the fan. Now there are rules and regulations that we have to follow based on our county laws, as well as the league rules. So oftentimes if a fan came in and they ended up testing positive, we would have to look at bringing them back for another game,

[00:13:02] and trying to manage that experience for them.

[00:13:04] Alex Campbell: Yeah. And I guess it's a good segue into kind of ticketing, right? 'Cause you guys are doing all mobile ticketing? 

[00:13:10] Kate Denton: That's correct. 

[00:13:11] Alex Campbell: Everything is within the app, right? Or you can download it to the phones?

[00:13:15] Kate Denton: That's correct. That's correct. So if, to access your tickets for tonight's game, uh, you would either use the Pacers App or you could use your Ticketmaster App.

[00:13:23] Alex Campbell: Okay. Okay. And that looks like what, you come in, you show, are you only doing tickets, like I can't have paper anymore?

[00:13:30] Kate Denton: We do not have any paper tickets. 

[00:13:31] Alex Campbell: Okay. How has that gone?

[00:13:33] Kate Denton: Well, we moved to mobile 2 years ago, but during that time we, the first year we had it, which was the year that COVID broke out, we still had paper tickets for some of the season ticket holders. So with a year away in the bubble, it was almost like we were starting again retraining people on how to use mobile tickets, as well as introducing them to a much broader fan base,

[00:13:51] and had been using them before.

[00:13:53] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:13:54] Kate Denton: I think the great news is that we have a good partner in Ticketmaster and ensuring that we have a seamless process, our mobile vendor and our app developer are fantastic. And then we've had to invest a lot of money and time into helping people understand how to access their tickets, uh, how to access the other elements at mobile app.

[00:14:13] And now we're really in a phase of how do we continue to delight fans and, and keep them within the app for the information that they're looking for, whether it be where to get a sandwich during the game, or when I was home with COVID last week, how do I check the game scores really quickly without 

[00:14:28] Alex Campbell: Yep. 

[00:14:28] Kate Denton: having to go to multiple sources?

[00:14:30] Alex Campbell: Okay, so, so talk about the app. So, your app, obviously has changed over the past, over the past year since you've been there. You know, talk a little bit about the use cases, could be me at home trying to find the score, me trying to find the standings, all the way to, "I'm actually need to get into the venue, get to my seat and then maybe order food or, you know, having an experience there."

[00:14:53] That's a lot. I mean, that's a broad experience.

[00:14:57] Kate Denton: It is, it really is. We put so much on the app. 

[00:15:00] The corporate team, as well as the fans want to be able to have all the information available at their fingertips in the most seamless way. And that's what we really tried to, regardless of what your use case is, we try to provide that for the fan.

[00:15:12] So, we do a lot of training materials and videos, as well as one-on-one training with season ticket holders and fans to help them walk through the experience for the initial time, initial use. And beyond that, we look a lot at the user experience for, "How do I make sure that I have what you need?"

[00:15:28] So for an example that I had a couple of weeks ago, as a young woman came up to me and her daughter was, she was having some sensory issues based on all the lights and the sound and everything that was happening and needed a safe space to go and calm down and regulate the nervous system. And I was able to quickly find that information on the app.

[00:15:44] And then two minutes later, someone was like, "Where could I get a chicken sandwich?" And I could quickly find that in the app as well and show them how to find it for future use. It's exciting, we just added some stuff back into the app this year. Uh, sorry, not back into the app, but we have the ability to stream, the radio broadcast.

[00:16:01] We have all of our highlights loaded in there, and we use it as a place to give consumers the most up-to-date information. But oftentimes when you're coming into an experience, you don't want to have to look, right? So how do we make it as intuitive as possible and meet the consumer where they are?

[00:16:15] Kate Denton: The reality is that, I think pre COVID, it was already happening and in a post COVID 

[00:16:19] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:16:19] Kate Denton: world, we are addicted to our mobile devices. Yeah. Do you think that COVID really sped that up?

[00:16:26] Personally, I see it.

[00:16:27] Alex Campbell: Where is it going? Right? I mean, when you think of the app, like, is this now peak app or is this a kind of a sign of things to come of how people will interact with you, right, in the team?

[00:16:40] Kate Denton: When I look at what's happening in the metaverse, and I look at where all where, what technology can do for us, I mean, I think this is just the beginning on what apps can, can do for us and how they can be a true destination. You know, I think about it as like, if you have, what are your core apps on your phone?

[00:16:56] I want Pacers app to be part want you to be so gold blooded that you can't wait to find out what's happening with the Pacers, and it becomes a place where you go to interact with other fans, where you go to interact with players. So I can see a world where, where we are today, which has come a long ways with mobile ticketing, mobile wallet, all the mapping and elements you need for the end game can also be a place for you to transition to an alternate world, right?

[00:17:20] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:17:22] Kate Denton: You can have different types of experiences. So my perspective is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the 

[00:17:28] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:17:28] Kate Denton: question that we, we need to answer as our, our organization, and I think collectively is how are we going to manage the frequency of messaging, 

[00:17:37] Alex Campbell: Yup. 

[00:17:38] Yup. 

[00:17:38] Kate Denton: that comes up on that.

[00:17:39] So for instance, I signed up to receive a 10% discount for a bathing suit last year and yet, 

[00:17:44] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:17:45] Kate Denton: never ordered anything. And that company SMSes me once a day.

[00:17:48] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:17:49] Kate Denton: It has gotten to the point where it's too much, it's way too much. It's not what I'm looking

[00:17:54] for. 

[00:17:54] Alex Campbell: That is not legal, what they're doing there. So, you know, there's some bad actors out there.

[00:17:59] Kate Denton: Right. But you think about it when you have to fill out the paperwork to go to the carriers, to figure out how many times you are going to message and apply for that. And you think, well, 12 messages a month, let's say. And then you have an organization like ours, where we have a combination of a selling opportunity, a brand opportunity, a fan engagement opportunity around highlights of the game.

[00:18:19] We may want you to have an opportunity to look, you know, cross sell you on the fever, or we have obligations to corporate partnerships. How do we balance that?

[00:18:28] Kate Denton: Um, and we don't have this answer today, right? Well, that's why we're looking to smart people like you to help us answer this. 

[00:18:33] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:18:33] Kate Denton: What is the right cadence of messaging and the right types of offers? 

[00:18:37] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:18:37] Kate Denton: And, you know, it's in the world of where the one-on-one communication with the fan is even more important than it's ever been,

[00:18:44] I think the risk is that you unsubscribed from all.

[00:18:47] Alex Campbell: Yeah. I guess I would say for you, I mean, don't you think it also depends on personalization, right? 

[00:18:53] Kate Denton: Yes. 

[00:18:53] Alex Campbell: You mentioned that, know, I want, a year ago I looked at the bathing suit and now I'm getting messages on bathing, like that's not personalized. Right? But if they were very relevant to me and I got them in a timely manner and I appreciated getting it, I mean, that's, that's the threshold we always think through is when you get a text message from a brand, you should look at that and say, "Ooh, I like this." Right?

[00:19:14] And the minute you don't, like we gotta work on content. So, so that's the personalization standpoint and the personalized aspect of it. And I guess I'm curious for you, 'cause we, we have a wide range of fans. I mean, think of the word fan, like I could either be a season ticket holder or I could just, I can go to one game every other year, but I'm still a fan.

[00:19:34] How do you see that personalization factoring into the marketing and how do you personalize that for such a wide base?

[00:19:41] Kate Denton: Yeah, that's a great question. And add on to that, that the league requirement, the league mandate is, or the league, the restriction is that you can only market 150 miles outside of your territory. So that

[00:19:52] way the teams aren't stepping on each other. So you are up in Chicago, I'm down here in Indianapolis.

[00:19:56] When we get up to Northwest Indiana, our, our markets start to overlap. And so, or I look at our, let's say our Instagram following and while there are many followers who don't live in the United States or who are more than a four-hour plane ride from Indianapolis, the likelihood that there'll be attending any specific game, which is really the manifestation of our brand promise is low.

[00:20:19] But I want to keep them engaged and keep them excited about the team as well as opportunities and, and hopefully create demand for them to come to a game in the future.

[00:20:29] Alex Campbell: Is that the ultimate goal? Is, is that the goal to get someone to come to the game or is it kind of bigger? 

[00:20:35] Kate Denton: I'd say that's a 'yes and' answer. So, obviously the end game experience allows us the most control to provide a full 360 experience to the fan, right? Create that stickiness. And if you think about how fans are developed, and this is research that's been done across leagues, why you become a fan of any specific team is because your parents or grandparents were fans, were fans of them and you watch it at home.

[00:20:57] Your parents or grandparents were fans of that team and they brought you to... You like them. Someone brought you a piece of merchandise with that team name on it, and you just decided that that was going to be your team or you fell in love with the mascot. 

[00:21:10] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:21:11] Kate Denton: There's, so that's why I said it's like the 'yes

[00:21:13] and' because 

[00:21:14] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:21:14] Kate Denton: thre's huge amount of stickiness and fan development for the longterm that comes from the attending of a game. 

[00:21:21] Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:21:21] Kate Denton: There's also to be said for broadcast and watching the game at home.

[00:21:25] And so that's where I would say it's both. 

[00:21:29] Alex Campbell: So right there. Right? So, so just on a broadcast, it's different now. 'Cause I can technically watch a team from, I think it was 400 miles. You say like, like much further away and I can stay engaged with my team, even though I'm not there. Right? I mean, is that, uh, that seems like a big deal?

[00:21:45] Kate Denton: Yeah, it's a very big deal. I mean, I look at how my son who's six is consuming basketball content. And when I was growing up, you would've had to watch a whole game to see the best parts of the game. Now he can spend 20 minutes before bed. He can follow the NBA on Instagram and he can see the best highlights from every single game that happened at night in a 20 minute period.

[00:22:08] And then he can go and try to recreate it on NBA2K and do his favorite match-ups. So that's also like a huge brand experience. Right? And then you also have access to league pass. So 

[00:22:18] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:22:19] Kate Denton: at our house, we watch League Pass every single night. 

[00:22:21] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:22:21] Kate Denton: We toggle between the four or five games. 

[00:22:24] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:22:24] Kate Denton: We see what's going on with each of them.

[00:22:26] And so we get a snippet of each game, but then we will watch the highlights online and on the each team socials. 

[00:22:32] Alex Campbell: And if you think about that, that's so different than how, like, when I grew up, it was like you gotta sit down, scheduled out, watch the game. If you miss the game, you miss it. It's gone. Right? So 

[00:22:43] different. Yeah.

[00:22:44] Kate Denton: And I mean, there's also, I think interesting technologies coming out. There's a company called Buzzer, who's recently launched and they allow for fractional viewership of a game. So for instance, so let's say you love the Pacers, you've set an alert that says, "I want to watch the Pacers when it's the last two minutes of game,

[00:23:02] and its three point gap. And so they can sent, Buzzer will send you an alert that says, "Pacers-Bulls, close game. Three minutes to go. Buy League Pass for $2."

[00:23:12] Just to see their last two minutes of this game.

[00:23:15] Alex Campbell: Awesome.

[00:23:16] Kate Denton: So I think that's going to be really interesting on how that changes the viewing experience.

[00:23:21] Alex Campbell: I guess. Yeah. What, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, is that something that is, am I just getting the best of the little slice and does that make me not as engaged or does it make me more engaged? Because I think I could argue both sides, right?

[00:23:33] Kate Denton: I could definitely argue both sides, but then when you add in sports betting and what the impact that sports betting is having, I 

[00:23:38] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:23:39] Kate Denton: think that's another wildcard that affects that. So in the sports betting world, I mean, I have friends, I obviously don't and can't bet on sports. 

[00:23:46] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:23:47] Kate Denton: You know, I've talked to friends and they'll say, "Well, this is my plan for Sunday,"

[00:23:50] as they're watching football and 15 minutes of 

[00:23:53] Alex Campbell: Yeah, 

[00:23:53] Kate Denton: the game, they're like, "We're done." I'm in the money, so I, I I'm available to do something else now. So fans who 

[00:24:01] Alex Campbell: That's crazy. 

[00:24:02] Kate Denton: to spend Sunday three hours on a Sunday watching any given game can, if they're betting, they might stay for the whole game and stay engaged for the whole game.

[00:24:11] Or they might say, "I'm in the money and I'm out." So I think that's 

[00:24:13] Alex Campbell: Wow. That is. 

[00:24:16] Kate Denton: how that paired with the other things, right? Changing... 

[00:24:20] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:24:20] Kate Denton: How fan is changing, how people are consuming content. You add that incentive and it's either an incentive to stay with the game or an incentive to just

[00:24:27] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:24:28] Kate Denton: bet on a game and then be gone, if you're in the money or you're out of the money.

[00:24:31] I think that's going to really, really change things over the next couple years.

[00:24:36] Alex Campbell: Is that a new type of fan, almost? I mean, they're probably already fans, but I could see someone who, mean, going back to an athlete, right, may not know much about the Pacers, but might want to, because they're playing someone bet on the game, right? And then either you can look at that as a chance to actually interact with someone who wasn't a Pacers fan.

[00:24:56] Like, it's bringing people into consume the content in ways that never been around before.

[00:25:02] Kate Denton: Yeah. When I think about the fan, is where this part seems really interesting to me. So you look at what would call digital hoopsters or gambling fanatics. We're trying to look at them and say, "What are their needs today? Where do we think their needs will evolve to? And how do we modify the elements of our marketing as well as the end game experience to adjust for how their, their viewing experience."

[00:25:24] So if you've been to a game recently, or you watch games on TV, sometimes fans are really engaged in the game. 

[00:25:31] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:25:31] Kate Denton: Sometimes they're on their phones the whole time. So how do I balance and how do I adjust for the viewing experience, knowing that you might be on two screens or three screens? If you're there with a friend, you may both be watching, watching the game live, but also have two other games on your phones, especially when we're in season, where when the season starts to overlap.

[00:25:48] Right? So people will say like, "I can't believe this playoff game is scheduled over our best. This football playoff game is over top of our basketball game, or the world series is happening when we have number one game of the, of the season in our local market," but it's also the world series team. Our local team is in the world series and they're playing.

[00:26:06] And how do we balance that? 

[00:26:07] Alex Campbell: How much do you want the fan, I mean, this is like a tension, right? Is you could be physically at a Pacers game watching something else. Like that's insane. And so I guess, what's your thought on that? Is that, I mean, is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it, uh, is a great that they're there to experience?

[00:26:25] Yeah, because I also remember, you know, in games, you know, 20 years ago, every second was taken care of, right? When you're in the venue, there's something going on and it, and it's, it's, it's similar to that today. I think, you know, when we used to do text messaging, right, we could send a message up to the jumbo tron, purely to keep people entertained in their seats.

[00:26:45] Do you care about that as much now? Like, do you want them at the game and if they're watching something, maybe a snippet from somewhere else, is that okay? Or would you rather have them involved?

[00:26:54] Kate Denton: Well, this is, I think, where it goes back to like the traditional brand marketing, 

[00:26:58] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:26:59] Kate Denton: Like the source of volume. Right? And, 

[00:27:01] Alex Campbell: Yep. 

[00:27:01] Kate Denton: if from a source of volume perspective, if my frame of reference was only the number of professional sports games that you would attend a year, for many people it's going to be one to five, right?

[00:27:11] That you, you may go to, here in Indianapolis, you may go to two Pacers games, a Colts game, and Indianapolis Indians, which is our like baseball team here in town. But if I brought in the frame, I would also say, "Alex, you and your buddies go out and you meet for beers twice a month at the local bar and use ended up spending 25 bucks, two beers and, you know, whatever, some French fries." I'd rather source from those other occasions, but to do so if I know that I would rather have you, instead of go to a bar to watch the game, I'd rather have you come to the game and get a beer at the game, which means that I need to rethink both how I message messaging to you and what is the experience that we're providing in venue.

[00:27:53] So as we go into our phase three the Gainbridge Fieldhouse remodel,

[00:27:58] we're looking at our balcony area and creating a ton of standing room only. So that is what we're finding is that more and more people are looking at these sports venues as a place to a social place together. And in some markets, it's very much a place to be seen, right?

[00:28:12] They're dressed to the nines and they care more about being seen by other fans than they actually do about the sports, the sports. Well, I believe, and we firmly believe here that the sports can still be front and center, but we can optimize our offering that you can have that experience of being seen or being social without having to go onto the concourse and not have a view into the Fieldhouse or onto the court.

[00:28:34] So as part of our remodel, we opened up a ton of space on the main concourse, so you can look in and see the court from a phenomenal position, from multiple angles in the building. And then when we have the standing room only, that will allow us to have a, I think what I'd call more affordable prices point.

[00:28:50] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:28:51] Kate Denton: so that way I can source from you and your buddies, having a beer at a bar, 

[00:28:55] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:28:56] Kate Denton: and said, "Come to the Pacers game and have your beers here, 

[00:28:59] Alex Campbell: yeah, 

[00:28:59] Kate Denton: and to not have to break the bank." 

[00:29:00] Alex Campbell: Yeah, no, that's brilliant. 

[00:29:01] Kate Denton: You can do both, but we have to really consider 

[00:29:04] Alex Campbell: Um, 

[00:29:04] Kate Denton: all the elements and all the touch points that we have with the fan to ensure that they're laddering up to the entertainment. That's the high, like the highest order of what we're trying to do is escapism, right? Like what we do is we play basketball. What we provide you is entertainment so that you can escape from your normal day. And if we think about it in that context, if I only worry about what's your basketball experience, we will fall short and then we will lose you as a fan of the future.

[00:29:31] Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah, no, that's really interesting. And I think it also reminds me, you mentioned metaverse right? And so I got an Oculus a couple months ago and it, I don't know if you've seen it. It's insane. It's totally insane. Right? Will definitely change things. I have a friend who went to a Lakers game in Oculus, and and sat courtside.

[00:29:50] As if you were there, like, 

[00:29:51] Kate Denton: Yup. 

[00:29:52] Alex Campbell: that's obviously going to happen, right? That's obviously, you know, where we're going. I think it, but like, how do you think of that from a marketing perspective or as a marketer of like, that is now the team experience? If I can just put on a pair of goggles and I know it's not easy and it's not exactly the same thing, but eventually it's going to be close.

[00:30:10] Like, how do you think about that?

[00:30:12] Kate Denton: I think the metaverse is an incredible opportunity to democratize the experience.

[00:30:18] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:30:19] Kate Denton: So you asked earlier, like you've got your local fans and is the priority to get them into the game? Absolutely. I would love to have them in the game. I love that, want them to also love the brand. We have a rookie player, Chris Duarte, who's from the Dominican Republic and he's the first Dominican first-person in the NBA from the Dominican Republic.

[00:30:37] I was looking at our following of people from the Dominican Republic the other day about and backed it up against, um, the population of the Dominican Republic. And I think we've got 1% of the Dominican Republic following Indiana Pacers now on Instagram. Now, what an incredible opportunity that is.

[00:30:53] Most people might not ever be able to come to a game just based on the distance. How could I leverage something like the metaverse to provide them up close and personal experiences with Chris Duarte? How can I provide some of the benefits that they would never get have

[00:31:07] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:31:07] Kate Denton: leveraging this technology, which creates better stickiness with the player and better stickiness with our brand?

[00:31:13] And I think that's, that's really going to be fascinating. 

[00:31:16] Well, while the in-game experience I would say is first and foremost, the place where we could deliver the full suit of experience, 

[00:31:23] Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:31:24] Kate Denton: the metaverse as it continues to evolve and get less clunky 

[00:31:28] and more democratized,

[00:31:30] it's going to be a fantastic opportunity to bring. 

[00:31:32] Alex Campbell: Are you worried of, of, of like cannibalization? I mean, if I can sit in my living room with, with goggles on and like, I totally agree with you. It's a little clunky right out. So it's not the same thing, but you know, it's going to be, right? I mean, Apple Two-EE's were only around like 30 years ago, now look at it.

[00:31:49] So when it becomes to the point where it's easier, it's cheaper, right, to, to do that? Like, are you worried about that or is that, do you embrace that?

[00:31:59] I think that the technology is going to have to improve a before we step into a full virtual world. I did a VR experience the other day with my son at a children's museum that was about dinosaurs, and I could only take about 45 seconds to five minutes of it before I started to feel sick.

[00:32:16] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:32:17] Kate Denton: If we as marketers focus on the bare basics, which is, let's say a commercial is 25 seconds of game highlights with a five-second call to action and with an end card to buy ticket,

[00:32:27] it's not going to work for anyone. That we as marketers have to continue to evolve, to give the fan what they're looking for when they're looking for it. And I think that the, to go back to an earlier question, the higher level of personalization, higher level of access, something that feels 

[00:32:41] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:32:41] Kate Denton: and something that feels special is going to be... That is the future.

[00:32:45] Alex Campbell: Do you think that has to be in person or mean, do you think that's to be physically in person or could you provide something like that? Yeah.

[00:32:51] Kate Denton: I don't think it needs to be physically in person. I think there's a lot of benefit to an in person and in person experience. But you think aboutCOVID doctor's appointments, right, now that are virtual. And the past, I would have said, "No way. Like I have to see..." Now

[00:33:05] I'm like, "I don't need to see my doctor. Nope. I'm fine, to just give you a call. We can talk through my symptoms." 

[00:33:10] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:33:10] Kate Denton: There's going to be even more things like that. Now there are 

[00:33:13] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:33:13] Kate Denton: things that are will continue to be high touch. And I think that what COVID doesn't change is our desire to be part of a community, a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Our need for contact with other humans.

[00:33:25] And we are, we will still continue to provide that day in and day out.


[00:33:29] Kate Denton: And, 

[00:33:30] Alex Campbell: Really. 

[00:33:30] Kate Denton: but where it's beneficial is that I've got, we have fans, like I said, Dominican Republic or Taiwan, how can I help them continue to love our brand through something like the metaverse, something that's more interesting than just a Zoom call,

[00:33:45] or a Team's call, right, that gives them access to something they'd never have before? And that's, that's, I think the real on lock. And it may feel silly for those of us who are on Zoom calls all day long, 'cause I think we've got a healthy amount of burnout, but if you told me we were going to have a Zoom call and my favorite player was joining,

[00:34:04] Alex Campbell: Yeah.

[00:34:05] Kate Denton: it completely reframes the experience in my enthusiasm for attending.

[00:34:09] Alex Campbell: Yeah, no, absolutely. You think about the virtual world, I mean, going back to a localized audience, like no, you now, you now can provide an experience, you know, everywhere. It's a very unique experience too.

[00:34:22] Kate Denton: Totally. I think about like some of the stuff that Nike buying space in the metaverse, right? And setting up their virtual shops and being able to look at the shoes and buy an NFT, but also have it paired with a piece of physical, a physical piece. I think that stuff's pretty cool.

[00:34:39] Alex Campbell: Yeah. Yeah. You can definitely, I would say like, yes, right now it's not perfect, but it's gonna be soon, 

[00:34:47] right? 

[00:34:48] Kate Denton: It is. Absolutely. I mean, the Dodgers did an event last, I think it must've been in the middle of COVID, but they had number of different celebrities on that were fans of the team. And then they had their VIP client.

[00:34:59] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:35:00] Kate Denton: That may not have been physically possible or fiscally possible in the past where you had to like ask people to fly out or pay for them to fly out and spend an hour with you.

[00:35:10] And it was hotels, and lodging, and food, and drivers and all those things that they could provide an experience, not only provides, it halos really well onto the Dodgers, obviously in that example. But all of the celebrities that attended had a chance to create more fans in the other 

[00:35:26] folks that were there. And I think stuff like that is going to be amazing, 'cause when I look at the access, if you're on Instagram, it feels like you have access to a lot of people's lives, 

[00:35:38] in a very intimate way.

[00:35:39] So I think the question is like, what's the next level of intimacy that's going to truly drive your brand?

[00:35:46] Alex Campbell: Yeah. No, that's really interesting. And especially for a brand like the Pacers, it's all about the experience and the intimacy. Yeah. Great. All right. Well, we're out of time, but this is fantastic. We could talk about this forever. But hey, I just wanted to say thank you so much for this.

[00:36:00] This was really enlightening. It's... 

[00:36:02] Kate Denton: No problem. 

[00:36:03] Alex Campbell: Yeah. 

[00:36:04] Kate Denton: Yeah.

[00:36:04] Alex Campbell: Best of luck.

[00:36:06] Kate Denton: Thank you. Thank you. We'll hope to get you down here for a game here 

[00:36:09] soon. We do play your Chicago Bulls tonight, hoping for a big win. 

[00:36:13] Alex Campbell: Yeah? 

[00:36:14] Kate Denton: Yep. 

[00:36:15] Alex Campbell: I don't know if I could be on board with that. Yeah.

[00:36:18] Kate Denton: Well, DeMar DeRozan broke our that buzzer-beater three at the end of the new year's Eve game. So we're hoping that that doesn't happen again tonight.

[00:36:26] Alex Campbell: Yeah. All right. Well, great. Well, thank you so much for being with us.