Pacers Around the House with Todd Taylor
August 29, 2011
Eddie White: Another edition of “Around the House” as we go all over Conseco Fieldhouse talking to the people behind the scenes who make the place happen – get things ready for the Pacers and your Fever. Today’s guest is one of the newbies! I thought I’ve only been here a little bit. He’s been here less than me! Our Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Sales Officer, Senior Vice President – that’s like a big kahuna here, Todd Taylor. Todd, how ya doing?
Todd Taylor: I’m good. You make it sound very fancy. Thank you, Eddie.
White: I get paid to do that stuff. Now, seriously, you are new on the job, but it’s a very important position, especially considering everything going on. But the first question I’m going to get in to that you worked in the NHL, you worked in the NBA, you worked in Major League Baseball, so you come with a really impressive resume. And it’s real. It’s not a fake one. It’s a good one. Why? The question is, “Why?” Last… You were with, you were with the American League champion, Texas Rangers. They were in the World Series. This is the NBA. This is a team that is turning it around, you know, getting in the bottom of the playoffs, but making it to the; why would you leave, boom, the top to come down here and be a part of this?
Taylor: Sure. Well, I’m from Ohio originally, so obviously geography plays a part in it, but as I was mentioning to Rick Fuson during this whole process, you know, I really think this is a special opportunity. If it wasn’t a great opportunity, to your point, there really wouldn’t be an incentive to leave the Texas Rangers. When I look at the Pacers, you know, I see an organization that’s traditionally has been great, great franchise within the NBA and also professional sports, obviously some down time over the past couple years, but I certainly think its poised to do things a little bit differently. And I think the market will respond very well when we come out of the lockout, with any situation there, but just in general with the direction of the team. So, obviously it’s an exciting time. And I think taking my experiences that I’ve had from other places – really this is a challenge that I can be very, very excited about.
White: One of the things I like to do on “Around the House” is, we talk to different people, different backgrounds, and really talk about the people. And really get their, ‘cause they are experts in each of their areas. We talked to Rick Fuson, what it’s like to run a building. Jim Morris, I mean, he was trying to solve world hunger. So we try to get different things. With you, with this distinguished career on not one, not two, but three different professional sports levels - we just had a crew of thirty some interns work with us this summer in the building – what advice to you have for kids when, one, to get in to sports, but then, movement. Ya know, you see a guy, like look at me – I went from Notre Dame to Dolphins, you know, to Reebok. Why do people move? What advice do you have? And, ‘cause we got a lot of young kids that check this stuff out.
Taylor: You know, I think the key is really, um, is deciding when to move. And I think the thing that I always encourage in this industry is to be patient. Because I think we are certainly in a competitive industry, sports in general, plus most of the people who work in sports played sports. So, I think it makes them very, very competitive. And I think, like all good athletes, they set their goals, and they set very aggressive goals, and they work hard to achieve those goals. Sometimes in sports though, you never know when your next opportunity is going to happen. That next opportunity could be three years, it could be three months. And I think the important thing is to not take necessarily the next opportunity, but to really look at your career and try and choose fairly wisely as to where you are going to go and what it is you want to learn about the business or want to develop in terms of your own skills. For instance, for me, I was working with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I’m from Ohio. Dream Job. I went to school at Ohio State. Doesn’t get anymore perfect than that. But when I was approached to go to the Portland Trail Blazers, I was faced with sort of a career crossroads. Do I want to live in Ohio or do I want to work in professional sports? Obviously, Paul Allen, owner of the Trail Blazers, a very competitive guy, deep pockets – and they were going through a very difficult time, but it was a really a great opportunity for me to decide whether I could go some place and help create a process or if I was just really a product of the system we had in the Blue Jackets. So, you know, for me, it was a decision to really commit to the sports world, if you will, in terms of a career. And then from there, I’m really a ticket guy at heart, so really learning the marketing side of things and picking up additional competencies at each job. So, fortunately having the opportunity to add those on, so you can have a opportunity like this here at Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
White: You mentioned the Portland Trail Blazers, and you said they were in a situation, similar to what the Pacers went through here. You know, they were down and trying to come back up. Do you see market similarities, strategies that work there that you try to implement here?
Taylor: Sure, I definitely think there are some similarities. You know, obviously when I was in Portland, they went through some difficult off-court situations as well. Obviously, I’m not here during that time with the Pacers, un, I think smaller markets, especially here in the Midwest, when things don’t go well off the court with their team, they feel even more personal than some of the bigger cities, so one of the things we did in Portland was really pay attention to the relationship between the fan and the team. And obviously all teams work on that, but I think when you have gone through a difficult time, you need to pay more special attention and you have to have an understanding that in addition to team performance there is also a community pride and how it reflects on the community. So, I think strategies we used in Portland will certainly apply here. I think more than anything, its getting back to our core and that is making sure we are treating people the absolute best that we can regardless of wins and losses and the occasional off court indiscretions.
White: When I ask people about you, I mention your name, people in the industry, people at the national publications or whatever, they always point to your tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers. They say that was the fireworks, that was the Fourth of July, a very successful run, did a lot of great things. Tell me about some of those successes and are they things that you can translate here, to Indianapolis?
Taylor: Well, I hope so. I think I have tried to learn something at each stop that hopefully will help all of us here. You know the big thing, whether it was in Columbus or Portland, Milwaukee or Texas, you know, at the end of the day, the sports teams are all trying to accomplish the same thing. We are trying to sell tickets. We are trying to sell sponsorships, increase fan engagement, make people life long fans of the team. It really does come down to the people. And that’s the one thing I learned about it. Its how effective of a team can you build? How integrative of a culture can you create with your sales and marketing folks? Can you really create a group that are fairly selfless and obviously want an organization to succeed? - Even in spite of how I describe this industry as being ultra competitive and always trying to get to the next stage. So, you know, there’s certainly programs we did in Milwaukee that would work. You know, I think that at the end of it its how well the people execute those programs. You know in general we really focused on retaining our customers, we worked really hard to sell new season tickets, we focused on more mini plans. Teams always want to sell full seasons, but we actually going to have a look here that’s much more like your 401k. They always encourage you to be more diversified. So we will have a nice mix of small plans versus large plans. And really the key is, once you convince someone to support us and be a part of what’s going on here, you want to make sure you don’t lose them. And again sports – you have some incredible highs and you have some difficult lows. Really the key is, to make sure that when people have those lows, they are treated very well and they obviously want to stick around for the next time we have a high.
White: My career was in PR. It was training and PR and stuff. I dabbled with a little bit of marketing, especially with the Dolphins. You’re in sales and marketing – that old Gospel question – What’s the difference in sales and marketing? Do they – they gotta go hand in hand, but there’s a difference, right?
Taylor: Sure, absolutely, and I just left a meeting where we were talking about some of the new products that we are coming out with shortly. And, we are really looking at our process here. Part of that was taking our ticket sales staff and pairing with marketing. And really the difference, or how they work together – the sales people, they obviously go out and have the conversations. What I want to encourage the marketing people to do is listen to those conversations. Because the successful sales people – you can tell when something is really working because you start hearing the next person in the next cube then all of the sudden the entire sales staff is saying the same thing. While, marketing, their job is to take those words and put them into print and images to reinforce that same feeling that someone has on the phone. So, that when we make our first point of contact, whether its us calling out or someone calling in, the conversation is already positioned from the marketing materials that we have. So, you know, really again back to the people and the integration, I don’t want sales and marketing to view themselves as different. But they obviously play different roles in the sales process and the marketing people certainly have an art of figuring out who it is that the sales people should be talking to. And, if the sales people aren’t talking to them, then the marketing pieces, whether its social media or whether its traditional, that has to do the speaking in advance of the sales people.
White: Now, earlier, you mentioned you were an Ohio State guy.
Taylor: I am.
White: You do know, this is Big Ten country. There’s this school called Indiana University in the south. Then there’s this other school, Purdue, up that way. You know, are you a little challenged here? Any reservations coming in here?
Taylor: Actually, I’m going to take the diplomatic approach on this. We just left Texas, where it was obviously football and Longhorns. So, we were certainly excited to be back in the Midwest where we are part of the Big Ten in general. Obviously, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ll be certainly cheering for the Buckeyes. It’s certainly nice to be able to see them. But obviously when we’re not playing I’ll be rooting for IU and Purdue as well. Always a Big Ten guy.
White: And you will always have Clark Kellogg. He’ll have your back.
White: The last thing and I appreciate your time. The last thing I want to ask you is I couldn’t help but think about this – tell me if I’m off the wall or out of my mind here – your last two organizations, the one you are with now and the one you were with, the Rangers and the Pacers, led by two guys who played their sport at the highest level almost the same way, tough as nail, guy’s guy, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Nolan Ryan, Larry Bird, I mean, you have been blessed, my man. That’s pretty good stuff.
Taylor: I mean, this industry is amazing. Where else can you switch jobs like that and work with two people who are such legends. I think it was great when I went in to talk to Nolan about taking this opportunity with the Pacers. He was great. He talked all about family and getting close to your family. And it was great, the wisdom he was able to impart from his playing days. You know, he pointed out that he played most of his career in Texas and he could have played on some World Series teams at the deadline. Obviously, he always wanted to be around family. He appreciated the fact that I was doing the same thing. And he actually mentioned Larry Bird, and kind of the just ironic nature from being able to go from legend to legend and what he knows of Larry, obviously expected that this is going to be a great organization based on his influence as well, so this is a great industry.
White: So Nolan Ryan went home to run the baseball team in Texas. Larry Bird came home to Indiana to run the team here. And you, you have come home to the Midwest. So, we are glad to have you. Welcome to the family!
Taylor: Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to it.
White: Thank you for being another guest. This is an award winning program. We have only had four or five of these things and the Peabody’s are coming in, the Cronkite award, I’m waiting for my Academy Award presented by Halle Berry. That’s coming soon.
Taylor: I thought I was going to present for you.
White: No, it’s Halle Berry. Hey we got more. Join us next week. More great guests coming up. Tune in.