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How the Indiana Pacers Scored With Real-Time Marketing and Customer Engagement

A basketball swooshing through a net
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Pacers Sports & Entertainment transformed its digital marketing to get more personal with basketball fans using real-time, cross-channel messaging.

Pacers Sports and Entertainment is a Salesforce customer.

In the summer of 2020, sports fans celebrated the post-pandemic return of live basketball after nearly five months off. And in December, we started a brand new NBA season. It began without fans in arenas and gradually opened up so that people could watch in person. The circumstances were unusual, but our mission at Pacers Sports and Entertainment stayed the same: Create the ultimate fan experience for everyone who loves our team. We used real-time marketing tools to learn how to better engage with fans, personalize and detail our messaging, and improve cross-team collaboration over the past few months – with amazing results. I hope what we know can help your business, too.

1. Keeping a pulse on our fan base

Hearing from fans has always been important to us. When we host live events, we survey ticket holders after every game about their likes and dislikes.

The pandemic led us to approach fan feedback differently. We now send out a survey right after the game as people are leaving the arena (and probably checking their phones). This survey is an interactive email form so that fans don’t have to click to an external site to complete it. They can fill out the form right in the body of the email. It’s very convenient for them, and it allows us to have seamless data flow as well.

These communications have helped us build stronger relationships with our fans. Our response rates are 19% higher, and we’ve even received thank-you notes from people who appreciate that we’re seeking their opinions.

Kyle Teague describes Pacers Sports Entertainment’s personalization efforts in our latest Marketing in Motion video episode.

2. Use personalization to create real-time marketing moments

One-of-a-kind experiences are another key to great fan engagement. We use Marketing Cloud to send personalized push notifications and emails to ticket holders that help them locate their seat or the nearest concession stand. We also use Service Cloud to solve problems fast. For example, if a fan tweeted that their seat was broken, our digital team flags it for the guest services team to resolve in real time.

Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder helps us build relationships in-between games. We can start with email and build out their experience to include relevant ads on fans’ favorite social media platforms. And when it’s close to game time, we can send a mobile push notification — all in one journey.

We also serve messages on fans’ preferred channels. For example, if I know one group in our fanbase is more likely to engage over email, while another is more responsive to social ads, I can use a “decision split” to deliver the right content to each group on the platform they prefer.

Artificial intelligence also supports our personalization efforts. Marketers always want to know when’s the best time to send an email. Well, there isn’t really a best time for you, the person sending the email. It should be based on the best time for the person receiving the email. Salesforce products like Einstein Engagement Scoring and Send Time Optimization help us deliver tailored content at the right time to fans who are interacting with us.

Marketing Cloud Personalization allows us to create personalized homepage banners that remind fans if they’ve left an item in their cart. We integrated with Ticketmaster on this “abandoned cart” campaign, and the results have been eye-popping. The ticket-purchasing section of our site has had a 147% increase in clicks since we started using Marketing Cloud Personalization in January.

Numbers on our apps, websites, streaming platforms, and social media pages are up, too.

3. Empower internal teams to collaborate better

The pandemic pushed our marketing, sales, sponsorship, and digital teams to bridge process gaps, increase efficiency, and collaborate more. Recent wins include:

  • Connecting Sales, Service, and Marketing Clouds for a more cohesive fan experience.
  • Retraining sales staff on Sales Cloud and Service Cloud to get the most out of these tools.
  • Improving the lead generation process for a 360-degree view of data and a better understanding of how to convert leads in real time.
  • Logging suite rentals into our CRM to help us track lifetime value.
  • Managing community relations contacts, donations, and capturing employee service hours in our CRM by our public relations team.

Act now to succeed later

When we build surveys, we’re driven to understand what our fans need from us so we can create experiences that surpass their expectations. When we understand our audience, we can build strategies to keep them engaged, and invest in the digital tools we need to optimize the customer experience for any environment. That’s a slam dunk for success today and in the future.

Get personal with your content

Create powerful marketing moments of your own. Our customer journey resource map will help you grow, onboard, engage, and retain customers.

Marketing Cloud offers solutions for digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, customer journey mapping, marketing analytics, marketing automation, and B2B marketing to help you personalize customer communications across every digital touchpoint — from anywhere.

This post is part of our Moment Makers series, which takes a deep dive into how marketers use technology to build data-driven customer experiences that feel natural, relevant, and right on time.

Kyle Teague Manager/Marketing Cloud at Pacers Sports & Entertainment

Kyle Teague is Marketing Cloud Manager, Pacers Sports and Entertainment where he manages the entire Marketing Cloud system for all PS&E brands including Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Pacers Gaming.

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