5 Lessons From Pacers Media Day

Oct 26, 2017 Leigh Hamer

Create, Execute

How to Gather a Year’s Worth of Marketing Materials in One Day

The Pacers, one of the NBA’s most storied teams, underwent the most significant rebrands of its 50-year history. The organization introduced an updated logo, dropping “Pacers” from the iconic “P” mark. It’s a bold move for any brand to strip its name from the mark. To successfully rely solely on a graphic element demands a strong unaided brand awareness: think Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches or Coke’s silhouette bottle. The Pacers mark is now among that coveted class.

Pacers new logo

With the 2017 rebrand, the Pacers introduced three dramatically modernized Nike uniforms (rumor of other uniforms still to be confirmed); overhauled the brand guidelines; introduced a new multi-year brand platform titled “We Grow Basketball Here”; and rolled out a new court design. As the marketing team looked to the organization’s annual Media Day, they also had to consider how they would introduce the most visible part of the brand: The Players.
So, how did the Pacers successfully capture a year’s worth of marketing materials in three hours?
The Pacers have a rather young team, with some unknown names and fresh faces, even to loyal basketball fans. By collaborating with the players and the Pacers Player Development department, the Marketing team conveyed a vision that each player can represent their own brand line.
To achieve this vision, the Pacers set up various stations with specific intentions of what marketing collateral would be captured.
Six crisp white backdrops stood on the playing courts of the St. Vincent Center, the sparkling new training facility for the Pacers. A gaggle of notable sports reporters huddled in a corner, waiting. There was a buzz of energy with Pacers staff literally setting the stage for an intense and intentional three-hour Media Day.
The Lesson: Use what you have. Maximize your space by planning ahead to create the most usable space for your needs. The Pacers have a massive practice space with bright lighting.

Pacers players with the media

The Lesson: Make it easy on the media. Give them a space to set up and direct opportunities to interact with spokespeople.
Across Delaware Street, center court of Bankers Life Fieldhouse had been transformed into a dramatic video set, complete with fog machine and strobe lights. A video crew captured close-up shots of each player dribbling in a theatrical setting. Hype music blared throughout the empty 18,000-seat arena. The players performed. Staring down the lens they looked pretty bad a**. The result on game night is over 1,000 square feet of Myles Turner on the video board making eye contact with each fan. Did we mention, this was just one of over 20 stations spread throughout the organization’s hallways, small rooms, conference rooms, and four basketball courts.

Pacers dramatic court shot

The Lesson: Allow for some drama. Give your customers something to gawk over. Feed into their imaginations about your product. With the Pacers, we want to see our favorite athlete intensely focused before taking the court against a rival team.
Throughout the Fieldhouse teams were set up to capture video, photos, and quotes of the 2017-2018 Pacers team.
Each station carefully crafted for a specific purpose. Each with a player-tailored shot list to ensure not a moment is wasted. Achieving this level of efficiency requires weeks of planning and creative sessions. Stakeholders from every area of the organization contributed to the planning process.
The results: Photos of Myles Turner modeling new gear for the Pacers Team Store. Video of Thad Young reading children’s books. And over 100 GIFs. Yes, GIFs. The social media team set up a GIF station. They brainstormed numerous GIFs that they could use throughout the season, for the wins, losses and holidays. It resulted in some gems, including T.J. Leaf throwing handfuls of leaves in the air.
Pacers photo shoot results
The Lesson: Think ahead and get input from all areas of the business. Create a run of show, documenting what is expected from each team member and at each station.
The Pacers marketing team is acutely aware that fans need to connect with the players on a personal level. Pacers fans in Indiana, across the country, and around the globe have a strong sense of ownership over this team and expect to feel a personal connection to the individual players and coaches.
The choreographed scenes of Media Day varied as did the tone of each station. Some struck a serious note, with strong and dramatic poses from the players. Others were downright silly and showcased each player’s personality. But together each supported the overall theme: Introduce.
Pacers digital ad
The Lesson: Align your team around a central theme. What are you really trying to accomplish with your overall marketing in the coming year? Make your efforts count by getting materials that will help you achieve your real marketing goals.
Media Day is not the end-all-be-all to any brand’s marketing efforts. The Pacers have a new season, a new look, and several new players on the roster. Their marketing team continues to tell stories that introduce the players to their fans (see @Pacers and @Pacers) and they continue to drive ticket sales. The Media Day library just gives them a leg-up on ready-to-use branded materials.

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