New Orleans Pelicans Respond to Frustrated Fans, Present Detailed Marketing Plan

The New Orleans Pelicans are weathering several storms brewing around the Smoothie King Center, and not all of them revolve around Zion Williamson. Ben Hales (Senior Vice President, COO for New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans) and Jen Martindale (Vice President, Brand Strategy at New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans) took an hour with me to address the concerns of the fan team and outline their marketing strategy as pandemic protocols are less restrictive.

To start the conversation, I said: the NBA markets The Game. NBA teams are focused on marketing their playing experience. Hales agreed, “To some extent, yes. The game and the way the NBA works, the way it’s so focused on individual players as it is on teams, it’s conducted a little differently. “

Professional sport is a results-oriented activity on and off the pitch. Metrics for measuring executives are more complex than records of gains and losses, but there are overlapping correlations. As to how New Orleans started the 2021-22 NBA season, Hales said, “Certainly the season hasn’t started the way we would have liked. I think there are reasons for that, but it’s going to improve a lot on the pitch from the players and overall experience. We have a young and talented squad that is going to get better and probably most important to us on the fan experience side for the first time in two years, the restrictions that have been put in place by the NBA, the State. and the city is starting to move away. We are going to be able to start playing again with our full toolbox, it will be really liberating for us because we had to work a little with both hands tied behind our backs.

Martindale added, “I think our team are fantastic at keeping their heads down and doing their jobs. We obviously have to be amazing to our fans. We have lots of ideas and are ready to go and run as COVID protocols continue to loosen. “

Game day and fan experiences

The Pelicans sent a contingent to the Disney Institute for a workshop to better understand how to take a new approach to their gaming experiences. The music from the Smoothie King Center has been remixed in recent years, but even the Pelicans want to push the boundaries. Hales told me, “The NBA actually has rules about what music you can play (in certain situations). We led the fight. We got them moving around a bit, always trying to incorporate things that aren’t the usual things you would hear or see. It’s still meeting some resistance, but you know, if we had carte blanche to play what we want when we want it would be a very different experience, so I’m glad we made progress.

Nonetheless, Hales said of the entertainment geared towards non-Pelican players: “It’s not quite where we want it to be, but on the gaming experience side. It’s an area. where there are two things. One is that we have had some important projects that were kind of suspended to some extent by the restrictions that we had from the NBA, the state, the city, on what we could do on the field and in the arena. As recently as last week, the NBA was changing guidelines on what we can do on the court. We had a year and a half where there was nothing we could do while the players were on the pitch so that we could now bring back some of these things. It’s with restrictions, but it kind of allows us to go back and do some of the things we wanted to do. “

He doesn’t expect the team to ever lean on a Mardi Gras schtick.

Fans say, “Don’t sell us Bourbon Street.” The team is asked, “Please include all aspects of the city. Le Marigny, that sort of thing. This is one of the reasons why we started to try to integrate high school groups which are an integral part of the culture. To have those at the matches, to have our drumline that we will have back on the field. We made them walk around the stadium, we tried to mix things up that stay true to the culture. “

Hales continued, “We’re finally going to be able to start implementing some of these things that will make our experience really unique in the NBA, unique in the sport, and really authentically connected with our fan base who recognizes these little things like the music. We don’t try to make it touristy with Mardi Gras and marching bands every night because our fans have told us they don’t care. What interests them are things that are really different in our culture, really different in the way we approach things. Ultimately, what you’re hoping for is that not only does the gaming experience reflect that culture, but the character of the team reflects that same kind of chip on the shoulder, us against the kind of attitude of the world. that we can all be proud of and connect with.

Martindale echoed, “Not that our fans don’t like and appreciate New Orleans brass band music, there’s definitely a role there for that. I think what the fans are saying is “Please don’t give us Mardi Gras every night” because New Orleans is so much more than that. (Fans) ask us to represent the whole dimension of being a New Orleansian instead of focusing on the one thing the world knows the city for.

Television revenues, subscription value and broadcast access

Tickets as cheap as a dollar make it easier to watch a game in New Orleans, but the Pelicans and their broadcast partners are having technical difficulties.

“Regarding the season pass holder, Hales said,“ There are a lot of things that go into a benefit package. Whether it’s food and drink credits or other events and access and all the other things we’re going to be able to offer our season ticket holders, I think they’re going to find out as the season progresses. that there is a lot of value in being a subscription holder and being able to participate that way. Some of the things that they get that someone just can’t find in the aftermarket.

Hales explained of the broadcast issues, “No one is more frustrated than us. We’re in constant communication with Ballys about what’s going on and the expectations … they’re frustrated. This is not what they want either. We haven’t had a history where this was a problem. For some reason this year it’s a problem. And it must be better.

It also doesn’t help “that all of our (road) games (this week) are on the West Coast from nine or ten o’clock. It’s a bit of a challenge just to build that continuity of when the games could be released. Our games take place between 5pm and 10pm and it’s hard to create that usual audience when you have to spend so much time trying to communicate when the games are on, where they are. If it’s a cable company or a satellite provider, channeling all of these things, it can be confusing for consumers. And we try to reduce the clutter, to make sure that we communicate as best as possible when the games are launched. “

The Pelicans will partner with a rotating list of local bars to perform activations with corporate and alcoholic partners.

As Hales pointed out, “The first step is to make sure that as a general rule when our games are playing: bars, put them on TV! Nothing drives us crazier than walking into a restaurant or bar and there’s another NBA game. It just can’t happen. So it’s a question of education. It’s all about the network, where we really have to make sure it’s just the default.

“The second part is the promotional side which includes several facets. There are those where we’re just going to go out there with our own staff, we’re going to activate or we’re going to give bars, restaurants resources to do that. Then there are some where our partners could be involved or the distributors could be involved. Neither of them depends on the other, but there may be collaboration, but they may look different to different participants. It was a big part of our strategy before COVID. And something now we have the opportunity to really go back because we had planned a lot about how we were going to really improve this program. And that is, it is definitely going into effect now. And you’ll see a lot more this year.

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