Peyton Manning brings his own economy along with his record-setting passing game when his Denver Broncos play.
This weekend, the package comes to Indianapolis, where Manning for the first time will face the team with which he won a Super Bowl and four National Football League Most Valuable Player awards.
After returning from a neck injury that left his future in doubt, the 37-year-old is on pace to set single-season records in touchdown passes, yardage and accuracy, and his team is the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the Super Bowl. When he plays, ticket prices double on the secondary market and more people watch the game on television. He has as much influence with consumers as Bill Gates and actor Tom Hanks, according to Matt Delzell, a senior director at Marketing Arm, a Dallas-based brand promotion company that measures celebrity popularity.
“He’s done so many good things on the field, and he’s done so many smart things off the field,” Delzell said. “Based on the numbers, at least quantitatively, there’s really nothing he can’t do.”
Manning has completed 74.2 percent of his passes this season and is on pace to throw for more than 5,800 yards, which would break records of 71.2 percent and 5,476 yards set in 2011 by the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees. Manning also has thrown for 22 touchdowns, on pace to break Tom Brady’s record of 50 for the New England Patriots in 2007.
Fans bid up tickets on the secondary market to see Manning play. Five days before the Oct. 20 kickoff, the average resale price for the game against the Colts (4-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was $319, more than double the team’s home average this season of $158, according to TiqIQ, a secondary market ticket-price aggregator. It’s the priciest ticket for a regular-season game at the stadium since at least 2010.
For the 6-0 Broncos’ other road games this season, ticket prices on the secondary market are up a league-high 41 percent over those teams’ averages for home games, according to Vivid Seats, a Chicago-based secondary ticket marketplace.
Manning left the Colts after sitting out 2011 following neck surgery. He signed with the Broncos, and ticket prices rose to an average of $298 from $214, or 39 percent, for home games as the 2012 season began, according to TiqIQ. By the end, they averaged $310 as Denver went 13-3, tying the Atlanta Falcons for the top record in the NFL.
He draws fans in their homes, too. Television viewership of Broncos games rose 11 percent, to 917,000, for the 2012 season as Manning replaced Tim Tebow, according to Nielsen Holdings NV.
This season, the Broncos’ 51-48 comeback win Oct. 6 against the Dallas Cowboys on CBS drew the highest big-city ratings since the Academy Awards in April. It was watched in 18.6 percent of the homes in the biggest 56 metered television markets.
Manning, whose salary is $15 million this season, ranks eighth on Sports Illustrated’s Fortunate 50 listing of the top- earning American athletes. It said he makes an additional $13 million from sponsorship deals that include Adidas AG’s Reebok, General Mills Inc.’s Wheaties, DirecTV, PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade sports drink, General Motors Co.’s Buick and the pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc., where Manning owns 21 franchises.
Over the last decade, Manning has showed off his comedic flair and everyman persona, starring in commercials such as ones for MasterCard Inc. that portrayed him as a fan of accountants, insurance adjusters and stock boys.
His willingness to poke fun at himself and his adeptness at delivering lines while picking suitable scripts has created “something very accessible about him,” according to Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. He’s done it while becoming the on-camera antithesis of basketball Hall of Fame player Michael Jordan, perhaps the most successful athlete endorser, Dorfman said.
“Jordan presented as kind of like Superman, almost untouchable, on a pedestal,” Dorfman said in a telephone interview. “With Peyton Manning, you feel like you could have a drink with him in a bar — a buddy, a pal. Even though he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, you feel as though he’s one of the guys.”
As of Oct. 1, Manning ranked 95th out of 3,127 people in the Davie Brown Index, a measurement of celebrity compiled by the Marketing Arm, putting him on par with people such as Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier; actor Jack Nicholson, and musician Elton John.
Betty White and Will Smith
Manning ranks 10th in the degree to which consumers believe a celebrity is an influence in today’s world, on par with Gates, the Microsoft Inc. founder and richest man in the world; U.S. President Barack Obama, and the actors Hanks, Will Smith and Betty White, according to Davie Brown. He’s also No. 8 in the rankings of how much consumers aspire to be like him, in the company of golfing great Arnold Palmer.
What’s “overly impressive for a sports guy” is how universally likeable Manning is, the Marketing Arm’s Delzell said in a telephone interview about the University of Tennessee graduate.
“To think that somebody from Florida, Alabama, Kentucky or South Carolina — people across the country, 90 percent of them, no matter where they went to school, no matter what pro or college team they root for, they find the guy likeable,” Delzell said. “You do not find that very often with sports guys, especially guys with his profile and his caliber.”
Manning has three years remaining on his contract after this season. By then, he could be the game’s career leader in several passing categories. His 61,666 yards passing and 458 touchdowns trail only now-retired Brett Favre (71,838 yards, 508 scores).
“What Peyton has done is take the quarterback position back in time,” Tony Dungy, who coached Manning on the Colts for seven seasons, said on a conference call with reporters.
When Manning’s father, Archie, was in the NFL from 1971 to 1984, quarterbacks often called their own plays in the huddle, a responsibility that later shifted to coaching staffs. Peyton Manning never wanted to run plays he knew wouldn’t work, so he started calling them from the line of scrimmage when he saw what the defense was planning, said Dungy, who won a Super Bowl with Manning in February 2007.
“He has inspired a generation of quarterbacks who want to study, and want to know and want to put their team in the right play,” said Dungy, an analyst for NBC, which will broadcast the Broncos-Colts game. “That has spawned this whole no-huddle thing that’s going all the way down to college football now.”
Whenever Manning retires, he would easily find success as a broadcaster, general manager or team owner, though not as a coach, Dungy said.
“He’d expect everybody to be at his level and would get so frustrated at guys who only want to put in 50 hours a week at work,” Dungy said. “I don’t think he’d last long.”