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What Marketers Can Learn From the Indiana Pacers Surprise Launch Event

Written by: Maria Rummel

Months of marketing planning typically come down to a single, spectacular moment: a launch event, a product announcement or a partnership agreement. Those plans are made infinitely complex when plotting for a surprise public reveal. For the Indiana Pacers, years of carefully crafting a new brand image, persona and mark came down to a highly orchestrated and surprise launch event.

In a single evening on the west side of Indianapolis, the Pacers pulled off a surprise public reveal of two new uniforms, a new mark and started a conversation about their new brand persona. The marketing team was successful because they did four things right.


The Pacers kept a tight circle of key team members working on the project. People were informed on a need-to-know basis, which reduced the risk of leaks and speculation.


Introducing a rebrand can be tricky. Loyal customers, followers and fans have an affinity for the here and now. They recognize brands as they are and require time to adapt to new variations. People expect authenticity and more than ever people feel entitled to input on brands they loyally support.

The Pacers crafted a new brand image, built on the pure love of basketball throughout the state. While not everyone plays, will play, or has played the game of basketball, the values and skills taught by the game are rooted deep within Indiana soil. The Pacers are seeking to connect childhood memories of basketball – a hoop hanging above the garage, a half court in the church parking lot, a packed high school game – with the grandeur of the NBA team.

The Pacers’ new ‘We Grow Basketball Here’ theme is built on a pride for Indiana and a connectedness to its’ people. The Seal of Basketball is symbolic of that. “[It] serves as a symbol of unity, bringing together all those with a shared devotion to the game.”

So the public reveal couldn’t just happen at a press conference or in the polished arena of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers team rightly sought out a community event and location that they could bring attention to with such an unveiling. The event took place just to the west of downtown, in a newly named neighborhood, River West and was free and open to the public. At River West StreetFest, all you needed to sit courtside was love for the game. This genuine approach successfully connected the Pacers with the audience and demonstrated their new brand.


As the gates opened, beats from The Pacer’s official DJ, DJ Bandcamp, filled the air on West Michigan between Tremont and King Streets. The Pacemates signed autographs. The team mascot, Boomer, ran around snapping photos with the kids, danced with the High Octane drumline, and even shot some hoops.

Boomer wasn’t the only one shooting hoops though. As the crowd settled into the bleachers for the show, hundreds of kids were invited out onto a replica of the newly designed Bankers Life Fieldhouse court to play 4 on 4.

The real show got started when the final six kids from the audience were called out onto the court.

Just when the lil’ Hoosiers thought they were about to tip off against each other, special guests – Myles Turner, Lance Stephenson, Glenn Robinson III, TJ Leaf, and Ike Anigbogu – ran out onto the court in brand new warm-up tees featuring the newly released seal of basketball.

On the big screen behind D.J Bandcamp, the new hype video flashed, introducing the new look of Pacers Basketball.

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In sync as the video ended, the five Pacers pulled off their warm-ups, revealing two new uniforms – the Icon and Association editions – for the first time.

The Pacers’ new look, materialized by Nike, reflects the roots of basketball that grow deeply throughout Indiana. The sleek modern jersey design features the team’s full name on the front as well as an outline of the state on the side paneling. Elements from the uniform are closely tied to the new brand marks and court design, which were also revealed at River West StreetFest. Learn more about the new uniforms, We Grow Basketball Here, the unveiling and sign up to be notified when jerseys become available for purchase by visiting Pacers.com .

Camera lights flashed, snapchats were taken and tweets went live. But, before long, everyone was gathered back around the sport they love, for a community and kid-friendly game of knockout with the Pacers players.


Live events are a fantastic way to connect with your audience at a local level. The Pacers created so much energy and excitement, attendees were compelled to share on social media. Their digital stories were organized around #WeGrowBasketballHere, which the Pacers dominated.

During the event, the Pacers social media team coordinated a complicated release plan that included updated social profile images, detailed graphics introducing the new uniforms and an entire microsite: http://wegrowbasketballhere.com .

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For any marketing team, pulling off an event of this magnitude would be a marketing miracle. On top of keeping it all a secret, there were countless moving pieces that needed to fall into place – the weather, the entertainment and the media, just to name a few. The secret to success is a passionate team, focus on clear objectives and coordination around a cohesive marketing plan.

Would a surprise launch event work for your company? Torchlite Action offers a solution that will help you plan and source marketing experts so that the event you once thought was just a really cool idea, can become a reality. Learn more about how it works .