Pistons Prep for Wembanyama Mania on Lottery Night
The Detroit Pistons are hosting a private watch party for the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night at their midtown team headquarters, where an exclusive group, which includes corporate sponsor executives, prospective season ticket holders and three-time All-Star Richard Hamilton will be in attendance.
As the lottery unfolds at the Barclays Center 600 miles east, the more than 100 party-goers will look on from a swanky loft event space overlooking the team’s two practice courts, where the Pistons’ top draft choice will start work next month.
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And they all want the same pick: Victor Wembanyama.
“We’d love to get No. 1,” Pistons chief marketing officer Alicia Jeffreys said in an interview.
The NBA’s top draft pick is coveted every offseason, but especially this year since the winning team will have the chance to draft 7-foot-2-inch prodigy Wembanyama, who many consider the most talented prospect since LeBron James in 2003.
Jeffreys insisted the Pistons will be fine if they don’t get the chance to take the 19-year-old from France. “Even if we don’t, wherever we’re selecting, this [rookie] will add to our young core we already have,” Jeffreys said.
Pistons fans would rather not take that risk. In 2003, Detroit missed out on the No. 1 pick, and watched Cleveland take James while the Pistons selected epic bust Darko Milicic second overall. Perhaps their basketball fortune will be better 20 years later.
The Pistons are one of three teams, including the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, that share the best chance to win the Wembanyama Sweepstakes at 14% (7-1 odds). They’re hoping their lottery representative, Ben Wallace, a former Pistons star turned team advisor, can bring the same good luck he did in 2021, when the Piston got the top pick and used it on former Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham.
Meanwhile, the Pistons’ marketing team has more than a dozen strategy meetings since their 17-65 season ended last month. The staff has been working in tandem with the revenue team to engage potential new fans while supporting other initiatives like season ticket deposit and member campaigns.
There’s no better time than draft season to provide options and deliver season ticket plans. Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who netted millions in the first 24 hours after earning the chance to draft phenom Connor Bedard. The New Orleans Pelicans secured more than 12,000 season ticket equivalents after drafting former Duke star Zion Williamson in 2019—their biggest haul in more than a decade.
The Pistons’ digital marketing team has already put together an extensive go-to-market strategy, a plan that’s ready to be activated on lottery night. Jeffreys says they’re aiming for a boost in ticket sales, as well as increased engagement on their e-commerce site and social media channels. That’ll be done with help from digital billboards, text message alerts and other avenues.
The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since 2019 as they undergo a rebuild under owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver. While most basketball fans are tuning in to see which contenders reach the NBA Finals, the Pistons view this unique marketing opportunity as a chance to promote their brand, from lottery night through draft night on June 22.
Wembanyama’s potential impact both on and off the court, immediately boosting a franchise’s valuation, is why commissioner Adam Silver sent a warning shot earlier this season to teams interested in tanking.
The Pistons have extensive plans for a social media campaign to drive momentum around the big night, which could usher in a franchise hero to join the likes of Hamilton, Wallace, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Bob Lanier.
Social media managers and marketing staff have already designed content for a handful of potential scenarios. Jeffreys says storytelling that builds hope around the team’s young core of players will remain the top priority regardless of the result on Tuesday. But the longtime executive admits it’ll be difficult to shy away from Wembanyama Madness if the Pistons’ lottery number comes in.
The business impact surrounding the champion of France’s Pro-A league will be immediately felt by whatever team snags the top pick. In addition to ticket sales and merchandise, the lucky team is likely to see an increase in the number of national primetime games. A media analysis for Octagon foresees that happening for the Blackhawks after getting Bedard; they are expected to gain more national coverage next season after ESPN shattered its record for the most-watched NHL Draft Lottery of all time.
“We’re definitely leveraging the anticipation for what could happen,” Jeffreys added
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