As football players, the only thing Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow have in common is the position they play. But the two drastically different quarterbacks have made a similarly positive impact on high-end ticket sales for the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos made an unlikely turnaround, both on the field and at the box office, once Tebow took over as starting quarterback after five weeks last season. The Broncos, who were 1-4 in their first five games of 2011 and just 7-28 dating back to the seventh week of the 2009 season, went 7-4 in their final 11 regular season games and came back to win the AFC West as well as a wild card playoff game over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to Forbes.com, the Broncos’ extended struggles in 2009 and 2010 resulted in the team selling far fewer luxury suite leases than usual at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for 2011. But the Broncos’ resurgence allowed the stadium to sell out the vacant suites down the stretch last season and gave them plenty of momentum with which to begin 2012 sales.
The biggest boost in sales of luxury suites and club seats, though, happened when the Broncos replaced Tebow with Manning, whom they signed to a five-year contract as a free agent in March. Tebow was subsequently dealt to the New York Jets in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
With Manning — a surefire Hall of Famer who threw for 399 touchdowns in 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before he missed all of last season following multiple neck surgeries — in the fold, the Broncos have sold out all their club seats for 2012.
“We were on pace with Tebow, but when Manning signed, we sold out,” Broncos senior director of premium seating Ryan Barefoot told Forbes.com.
And the demand for luxury suites is so great that, according to Forbes.com, the Broncos plan to turn two 32-person suites that they normally lease on a game-by-game basis into several mini-suites that they’ll lease for the season. The old suites would go for $15,000 per game while the proposed suites would cost $60,000 for the year.
“Even when [Manning] came out for a visit a week before he signed, we received quite a buzz,” Barefoot told Forbes.com. “People calling in saying ‘What do you know, what do you hear? I need to get my tickets.’ So anyone who was on the fence, that was a budge in the right direction.”
One very important person with the Broncos was also more enthusiastic about Manning than Tebow: Executive vice president of football operations John Elway, who quarterbacked the Broncos from 1983 through 1998 and capped his Hall of Fame career by winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
While the Broncos won with Tebow, his decidedly unorthodox style of play — including an awkward throwing motion — never won over Elway. The Broncos completely revamped their offense and deemphasized the pass for Tebow but still scored less than 20 points in nine of his 13 starts (counting the playoffs), including five of his regular season wins.
Manning, on the other hand, is a prototypical dropback passer, just like Elway, whose last year in the NFL was Manning’s first. The Colts ranked amongst the NFL’s top five in scoring nine times in Manning’s final 12 seasons in Indianapolis.