The next day, we did not have to leave until 2pm, so I decided to go on a running tour of Indianapolis. Literally everything I wanted to see was in a circle surrounding our hotel (not to mention that our hotel was also connected to a mall by a sky walk- seriously so convenient).
After my run, my roomie and I crossed the sky walk for some Chick-fil-a for lunch and then our group set out for the Pacers!
Day 2: The Pacers
It was the perfect day to visit the Pacers. The Pacers had the best record in the NBA, leading the Central division, and Andrew Bynum was playing his first game as a Pacer after being traded from my home town Philadelphia. Plus the men’s Big 10 tourney was also scheduled to be there the following week, so the stadium was decorated with Big 10 schools. Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indianapolis Pacers, is modeled after the small-town high school basketball gyms for which Indiana is known. The Fieldhouse opens into a huge atrium, which is the only entrance to the court.
On the schedule for today, was a tour of the ticket office and sales process and then shadowing game-day operations. As I currently am an intern for Notre Dame’s Sports Marketing Department in which I assist in game-day ops for our teams, I was especially interested in seeing this aspect of the sports industry. First up was the ticket sales department. Our host and Director of Consumer Sales for the Pacers, Charlie Slonaker, was absolutely awesome! He gave us a tour of the office and told us all about the 2-on-2 office soccer tournaments they play as wells as showing us the ticket sales leaderboard to encourage competition and reward success among colleagues. And lining the top of office walls like a border was an endless line of framed ties. The ticket office has a tradition when a person achieves his first ten thousand dollar sale, his tie is immediately cutoff, signed, framed, and placed of the Tie Wall of Fame. It is little things like this that make a job in the sports world so appealing: to work with others who share a love of sports and competition and value hard work and dedication. But Mr. Slonaker also noted that while many people thinking ticket sales is the entrance to working your way up in the sports industry, he advised only to enter ticket sales if you want make your career ticket sales.
I enjoy ingenious ideas, and Mr. Slonaker shared two very clever ones with us. First, Mr. Slonaker walked us down to the arena where people were placing yellow papers on what seemed like random seats A major problem with selling professional sports tickets is the secondary market sellers (for example StubHub or Ticketmaster or other people who buy and resell large quantities of tickets). See when you buy a ticket directly from the Pacers, the Pacers now have your phone number and email address thus allowing them to send you information about season tickets and other promotions to try to get you to attend more games. But when someone buys a ticket from say StubHub, the Pacers do not get the contact info for the people actually using the tickets. Thus they limit the number of sales to the secondary market (thanks to caller ID), then mark which seats are sold to the secondary market and place season ticket info packets on those seats on game day. I thought it was a brilliant idea; however, there has to be an easier method because there were a lot of yellow packets spread out all over place. It must take forever!
Second, and probably my favorite thing I learned from the entire trip, was about the DiSC personality method. Mr. Slonaker jokingly said that everyone who tells you to be yourself is wrong, because you really should be matching the personality of the other person. It is our human nature to tend to like people who are most like us. The DiSC method takes this idea and separates people based on 1) introvert or extrovert and 2) people-oriented or detailed- oriented.
Mr. Slonaker noted that to succeed in ticket sales, one does not have to be a people-oriented extrovert. In fact it doesn’t matter what quadrant you fall into as long as you can match the other person’s personality for the phone conversation. But what I wanted to know is how can you identify which quadrant a random stranger falls into within the first few seconds of a phone call? The key, Mr. Slonaker said, is the “pregnant pause.” So he would begin, “Hi, I am calling from the Indiana Pacers and my name is Charlie!, PAUSE…” The order of the words are quite important. Indiana Pacers must come first to establish the caller’s authority, but the name comes second so that the human relationship is left in the potential buyer’s mind. The third aspect is the pause, which is how you classify the buyer into one of the four categories. The pause forces the buyer to respond. For example when someone calls me on the phone and says “Hi, I am calling from the Indiana Pacers and my name is Charlie!, PAUSE…” I reply tersely, “Yes?” (aka “What do you want from me?”). From my response (or lack of hahaha), Mr. Slonaker identifies me as a detail-oriented introvert, and knows to get directly to the point that he is selling Pacers tickets. However, sometimes when he says, “Hi, I am calling from the Indiana Pacers and my name is Charlie!, PAUSE…”, people respond with “Oh I love the Pacers! I was watching the game last night! What an awesome win!” From this, Mr. Slonaker knows to make small talk first and establish that personal relationship before moving on to the point of the call. I absolutely loved this idea, because it is so applicable to life, especially interviews!
As game time approached we got a tour of the game day operations side of the business. I was interested to see that the Pacers game day ops were very similar to what I do with the Notre Dame event sports marketing team. First, we sat in on a team meeting prepping everyone for the special events of the night. We saw the script, which is an extremely detailed minute-by-minute list of what the announcer is saying, what is currently on the video board, and what special act (like cheerleader stunts, or halftime performance, or tshirt giveaway) is occurring. After a packed pregame schedule, we got to sit down and watch the Pacers beat the Celtics, and then ended the night with a picture on the court.