Colts ‘forging heartland pride’

Indianapolis Business Journal

The Indianapolis Colts this week are unleashing the most extensive and expensive marketing campaign in the team’s history.

Colts officials are hoping the campaign triggers a stampede of good vibes from fans, corporate backers and even those inside the team’s headquarters.

On Wednesday, the Colts launched a new web site,, to highlight the campaign’s theme. On Thursday, to coincide with the opening of the NFL season, the team will trot out a new television advertising campaign that also will air heavily on Sunday during the Colts’ Week 1 tilt in Los Angeles.

The research for the campaign began 18 months ago, according to Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. It included focus groups with ticket and suite holders, corporate partners and media members. The campaign has been spearheaded by team executives Carlie Irsay-Gordon and Kalen Jackson, the daughters of team owner Jim Irsay.

The Colts hired Philadelphia-based marketing and advertising agency 160over90 to help design the campaign, Ward said. While Colts officials would have liked to hire a central Indiana agency, Ward said they were impressed by the Philadelphia firm’s NFL project experience.

Ward declined to say how much the Colts invested in the campaign, but said it was significant. One ad executive told IBJ that if the Colts have 18 months invested in this campaign, it’s definitely a six-figure expense and, depending on the media buy, could easily be a multimillion-dollar campaign.

“This is the most complex campaign we’ve ever done,” Ward said. “It’s important we get it just right.”

Other elements of the campaign will be rolled out throughout this season and beyond, Ward said. The team’s TV ad campaign will “evolve” throughout this season, he added.

He insisted the campaign isn’t driven by the persistent injury to star quarterback Andrew Luck, which will keep him on the bench for the start of the season, or the fact that the Colts still have tickets available for six of eight home games. Ward is confident the Colts will sell out all their home games this year.

“It’s not about this season,” Ward said. “It’s about a long-term strategy to define our brand.

IBJ and other media members got a sneak peak of the campaign Tuesday. The brand positioning statement for the campaign is “Forging Heartland Pride.”

Ward explained that the campaign will have four pillars: “family forward, always overcome, our way—the right way, and makers of moments.”

Another key theme to the campaign, Ward explained, is “Everything will be earned.”