Pacers banking on tech foundation to wow fans for the 2021 All Star game and beyond

The future of customer engagement, according to the organisation's marketing boss, is 'mass customisation'.

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The Indiana Pacers are a professional basketball team with the NBA, based in Indianapolis. Under the Pacers Sports and Entertainment brand, the organisation consists of the Pacers; the Fever, a women's WNBA team; an NBA G League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants; an esports team, Pacers Gaming; as well as the Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena.

The Pacers will host the 2021 All Star Game in February 2021, and as chief sales and marketing office Todd Taylor explained, the organisation's goal ahead of the event was to be a digital leader in professional sports.

"Our goal [when] we actually started our journey with Salesforce was to be the digital leader in professional sports by the time the All Star Game rolled around, so we've really been working on that foundation," Taylor told Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco last month.

"Obviously with artificial intelligence and augmented reality there's a lot of things that we can deploy.

"Certainly for us to be able to host the All Star Game was pretty special, so we intended to try and wow and surprise people -- Indianapolis does big events, great Super Bowl, Final Four of the NCAA, so we're really convinced that we can create the best All Star experience for all of our fans but once they get to the building hopefully we'll be able to wow them in some other unique and exciting ways."

See also: 4 ways organizations can play ball with analytics (TechRepublic)

In undertaking a digital transformation, Taylor said the Pacers focused not just on the tech, but also the people and culture required to carry the organisation into the future.

He said the organisation went through a long vetting process to figure out what solution would be best, but once it made that decision, the story became about how the Pacers could use that tool.

"Really, that all became people. At the end of the day, you can have a lot of solutions, or using sort of a sports analogy, we have the fastest race car possible but if we don't have a driver that can drive it, we're not going to suddenly [have] lap records," he said.

"The biggest thing that we did right away was staff it appropriately with people that were experts in this field, obviously outside of sports is where we looked … we built out the team that was going to actually make us digital leaders in professional sports and that really helped with the integration across the organisation."

Taylor said there were "growing pains" within the organisation, but what brought everyone together was the idea of having one set of customer data.

"There's also legacy systems and there's process … if your salespeople are traditionally late adopters because they have systems that work for them, things they've been using for years, things that are very comfortable, so we made the decision and we were all behind it," he continued.

See also: Dreamforce 2019: How Salesforce is using AI to improve conversion rates and boost sales (TechRepublic)

According to Taylor, "customer centricity" is now at the centre of everything the organisation does, which he touted as a difficult proposition when it's impossible to guarantee a win. He said this is where "mass customisation" comes in.

"When you're in the live events business, we're not producing an item or a product, so we're not increasing our units or our efficiency, really it's all about the experience for the fans so in our business it's really critical that the fan is the centre of everything we do," he said.

"When they come to a game we can't guarantee a win or a loss for example, but we can certainly make sure their experience is perfect for that individual fan. We look at it very much like mass customisation -- you and I might come from completely different places … to have the exact same experience from a seating standpoint, but that night has to mean something completely different to us."

The future of customer engagement, according to Taylor, is "invited immersion", which he said comes after the organisation has earned the trust of its fans.

Once the fans have invited the organisation in, he said, that's when the Pacers can be immersed in every single aspect of their lives.

"With all the platforms that we can engage them -- everybody's a little bit different, but I think the more we know about our fans and the way that we can meet them where they are certainly gives us a great chance to be successful," he said.

He said this is particularly important, given how the way people consume sport has dramatically changed.

"Not only has the live experience changed, but certainly how we interact with our fans across the globe has changed, so that's why it's really critical that we have systems in place that we can make sure that we take the customer, meet them where they are, and then really take them on a journey," Taylor said.

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