Will Manning remain an Indianapolis icon? It's his call

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For much of the nation, Peyton Manning was the personification of Indianapolis, the most visible face of what many see as a faceless city.

But no more.

While Manning will likely always be remembered as an Indianapolis Colt, his time as informal city representative is over, according to sports marketing experts. And it will be up to Manning whether he resumes that role after his retirement.

Manning, who became one of the top 10 most recognizable pro athletes in the country during his days with the Colts, lent his name, image and voice to numerous civic and philanthropic efforts in the Indianapolis area. But his strong association with the city is likely to fade when he puts on another National Football League uniform.

"I'm not leaving Indianapolis. I just won't be with the Colts,” Manning said Wednesday during a press conference in which he and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announced his release from the team. “This city's been so great to me and it's still a big part of my life. It's a departure from the Colts, but certainly not from the great city of Indianapolis."

The Colts are likely to draft Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick of the NFL draft to replace Manning.

“It’s not fair to Peyton to try to hold on [to that association with Indianapolis], and it’s even more unfair to Andrew Luck or whoever the quarterback will be,” said David Morton, president of Sunrise Sports Group, which does sports marketing.

The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association got Manning to narrate a promotional video about the city, which it has used the past two years. Chris Gahl, the ICVA's vice president of marketing, said ICVA planned to retire the video after Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in February.

"Once Peyton Manning dons another team’s jersey, and those iconic pictures of him wearing a Colts No. 18 go away, and are replaced by a new shot, certainly, from a pure marketing standpoint, he’s not as big of an asset [for Indianapolis]," Gahl said. But, he added, "He is still so pro-Indianapolis, and always will be, that regardless for what team he plays for, he will always be an influencer. ... And his community involvement is so longstanding that that doesn’t go away overnight."

St. Vincent Health operates the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, and Manning and his wife Ashley invite their famous friends to the city every year for a fundraising gala. Manning’s PeyBack Foundation stages a football game each year, which also serves as a fundraising event.

Those organizations will continue to operate in Indiana, even after Manning is playing for a football team in another city.

But Morton isn’t so sure about other ties to the city. He noted that Manning has no extended family in Indianapolis (he’s a native of Louisiana and attended college at the University of Tennessee). While Peyton has homes in Indianapolis, he also has a home in Miami.

Besides, Morton said, Manning would be prudent to lessen his public association with Indianapolis in order to further cultivate himself as a national-level spokesman for corporate brands.

“If Peyton wants to be associated with Indianapolis, it is candidly more for the benefit of the people of Indianapolis,” Morton said. “If he were my client, I would advise him that it’s important to move on. Cut the umbilical cord.”

That, indeed, is what former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller has done, after spending his entire 18-year career in Indianapolis. The California native returned to his home state after his retirement in 2005 and has made few public appearances here since then.

But not every sports star takes the same approach. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman have remained in Dallas. Staubach, especially, has been active in promoting the city.

“If he plays a short amount of years somewhere else, and is not entirely successful there, and comes back and does sort of the Roger Staubach model, maybe his legend grows,” said Whitney Wagoner, a former marketing exeutive for the NFL who is now a sports marketing instructor at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. “That stuff could potentially even become stronger.”

The key, Wagoner said, is where Manning’s heart is.

“It needs to seem authentic. That’s the piece that makes marketing and endorsements and connection to markets work,” she said. “I wouldn’t want him to try to stay connected to the city just because he felt there would be some future marketing benefit to him.”

Kevin Speer, chief strategy officer for St. Vincent Health, expects Manning to remain personally involved in Indianapolis for a long, long time to come.

“His presence off the field in Indianapolis will remain in perpetuity,” Speer said Thursday after St. Vincent scrambled to arrange a news conference assuring the public that Peyton Manning Children’s Hopsital would not become Andrew Luck Children’s Hospital or anything else.

“His commitment to us is unwavering. Our relationship is unwavering and we’ll continue to move forward together,” Speer added.

Elizabeth Ellis, executive director of Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, declined to answer a question about whether the annual PeyBack Classic—which pits high school football teams against each other at Lucas Oil Stadium—will continue after Manning’s departure from the Colts.

Nor would she say if the level of grantmaking the Foundation does in Indiana would remain the same in future years. In 2011, the Foundation doled out $800,000 in Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee, with $361,000 of it going to 71 organizations in Indiana.

She issued an e-mail statement, saying, “The Foundation will continue in Indianapolis and support youth-based organizations in Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana.  The grant distribution amount differs every year; we should be distributing the 2012 funds by the end of April.”



  • Colts fans have lowest football IQ in NFL
    Thank you Joe for instilling a little common sense into these delusional Colts fans. I find it laughable reading how everyone thinks Manning should just be a Colts coach.

    are you serious?? the guy still loves playing and the doctors already cleared him saying that he's no more likely to get seriously hurt now than before the surgery. Every blowhard out there wants to give manning advice on how he should just quit.

    Never seen a fan base turn on a team because one player was released. Especially under circumstances where they have the opportunity to draft a guy of Lucks ability.

    Remember what Peyton has done for this city. He was highly graded coming out of college. Luck is being graded the same. You might want to save your breath to cheer Luck instead of bad mouthing the Colts and Irsay.
  • What??
    Terry, you're delusional. First off, Peyton was paid $26M for the 2011 season. So your comment about him "being instrumental in not getting paid" is completely detached from reality. Regarding his March 8th bonus of $28M, Irsay CUT him so he didn't have to pay. Finally, this notion that Peyton will take a Senior Management position with the Colts is absolutely out of the question now that HE'S BEEN CUT. I know this is hard to absorb, and that ignorance is bliss for some people, but this guy was just shown the door while still wanting to play. The only senior position he'll be taking will be as the starting QB for another team.
  • Peyton Manning
    Most Indianapolis Colt Fans had little knowledge of Manning in the beginning. Unless fans watched Peyton as a college player, they had no idea of the work ethic and knowledge of the game that Manning had back then. I see Andrew Luck as the same type of player, and I believe that Manning was instrumental in this decision to step aside. Manning made the decision not to be paid during the 2011-12 Season, which showed his commitment to the Colts long term. I personally feel that Manning should not play again, thinking only of his personal safety and the impact of another serious neck injury could have on his future. I believe Manning will end up in a Senior Management position with the Colts, and be a direct influence on Andrew Luck and the Colts Organization going forward. As for the fans, they will continue to support the Indianapolis Colts.
    • Peyton not gone
      It's the Manning - Staysniac Show - weekdays at 10, on 1070, The Fan! Or something...
      The Pey & Joe Show? Think about it...
    • Peyton
      I was sadden to hear that Peyton was let go from the Colts. I wish he would have stayed, would like to see him as a mentor to Luck but it is not going to happen. Heck I never got to see him play but that beside the point. I can see both side of the situation. Isry has no guarantee that Peyton will be 100 percent. Even Peyton said he was not the place he wanted to be with his rehab. So now this is something new to him and I wish him well. Just remember, Indianapolis is where you started your career in the NFL. If he would have stayed he would have to learn a new system like Luck will have to do. Who every he end up, they will have to let him run the offense on the field.
    • Colts value dropping
      Many Colts fans of the last decade were bandwagon fans. Nothing wrong with that, but you can expect the Colts bandwagon to get steadily lighter now.
    • Really?
      The guy got the city a SUPERBOWL CHAMPIONSHIP AND A NEW STADIUM? Really?
    • COLTS FAN?
      To those of you who are angry and upset that Peyton is moving on for whatever reason, remember that this was never your decision to make, and despite the fact that we'd ALL love to keep Peyton here and healthy and taking snaps behind Jeff Saturday and throwing touchdown passes to Reggie Wayne FOREVER, this was never meant to be. So, let's move on - Peyton will be fine, Jim Irsay will be fine, and if you really were/are a true COLTS fan, the COLTS will also be fine! Let's see what this city is really made of...GO COLTS!!!
    • He will
      He will be forever tied to Indy. He has continuing ties to both Knoxville and New Orleans. So why would he not keep at least some times here?
    • The real question
      The real question is how many Indy fans will bail now because there favorite player got released. Will they support their hometown team and the new qb or bail on the team. I'm guessing they do what Indy fans do best and disappear when the team struggles.

      Oh, and after reading Indy Star comments, after your hall of fame qb leads a team to a superbowl and has a hospital named after him, can Indy fans learn that Peyton is spelled with an 'e' and not 'a'

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      1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

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