As the court where Bill Russell and Larry Bird became legends, the Celtics’ parquet floor is considered by sports fans to be hallowed ground.
Now a copy of the most famous court in basketball will form the ground where rain-soaked bus travelers wipe their feet before catching the 93 to Sullivan Square.
With training camp set to open next week, the Celtics are launching a marketing campaign that includes installing a partial replica of the TD Garden’s fabled parquet floor under an MBTA bus shelter on State Street.
There will be no championship banners hanging over these planks of wood. Then again, the odds of hanging another banner over the real ones this season appear slim.
Rebuilding with a cast of mostly young and unheralded players requires creative overtures to fans that weren’t necessary during a run of six straight playoff appearances between 2008 and 2012, when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen starred for the team.
“No question we’ve ramped it back up,” said Shawn Sullivan, the team’s chief marketing officer. “When we had KG, Paul, and Ray here, that was a much different team to market. On this team we’ve still got [Rajon] Rondo, but the pieces around him are much younger.”
Seeing the parquet floor lookalike at a bus stop should “trigger something in fans’ minds that basketball season is starting and get them thinking about the Celtics,” Sullivan added. The replica includes a sliver of the Garden court’s painted lane, and the shelter’s enclosure features a mural of fans in the stands — lending the feel of standing on the floor, being cheered.
Only a couple of years ago, Boston sports fans needed little prompting to think about the Celtics. But with the “Big Three” era over, the team finished 25-57 last season and failed to add a marquee player through free agency or the draft.
Celtics fans are loyal, no doubt. Among non-playoff teams last season, only the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers sold a higher percentage of home tickets than the Celtics at 97 percent.
But even a franchise with 17 league titles must compete for attention when it isn’t winning like it used to, said Catherine McCabe, who chairs the marketing department at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School.
“We know the Celtics have a winning history, and if other teams were to suffer a similar slump, they’d be in worse shape than the Celtics,” she said. “But it’s still a challenge to keep people interested in following the team when the win-loss record isn’t interesting.”
The parquet bus stop was conceived by Boston ad agency Allen & Gerritsen and is planned for a part of the city with a lot of foot traffic, near City Hall and many businesses. Sullivan said passersby on their lunch breaks might be surprised by ticket giveaways or guest appearances by Celtics dancers and Lucky the Leprechaun.
Construction of the floor is scheduled for overnight on Tuesday, the first day of training camp.