Winning stays supreme to Broncos, but how will Leech expand the brand?
Change can be scary, and change can be good, but whether you like it or not, changes are taking place at the very top of the Denver Broncos organization.
This is natural when a new owner steps in, which is what has happened in Denver as the Walton-Penner Group took the reigns from The Bowlen Family Trust. This transition could impact the way the Broncos are thought of in Colorado and worldwide. There is room for the team to grow, get bigger, and expand its footprint. A new stadium, new uniforms, new fans in Asia? The man tasked with spearheading all that happens outside the lines is Damani Leech.
The fourth monitory team president in the NFL, Leech, joins a diverse group leading the Broncos into the future. His CV is quite impressive, serving last as the NFL’s International’s Chief Operating Officer. Joining the team from the league office, Leech will lead the business operations of the Broncos and Stadium Management Company, which operates Empower Field at Mile High. He will be equals to general manager George Paton in reporting directly to Greg Penner.
In simple terms, Leech is to business as Paton is to everything football.
“When we began this comprehensive search, our goal was to identify a forward-thinking and innovative leader for the Broncos,” Penner said. “We wanted to find someone who could steer our business operations with innovation and integrity, working collaboratively across the organization. Throughout many conversations with myself and our partners, Damani’s leadership, strategic vision, and collaborative spirit stood out. George Paton’s input and support were also an important part of the process. Damani is highly thought of and respected across the NFL and in sports at large his 25 years of experience of both the NCAA and growing the game with the NFL give him a great base of experience to draw from. And as a former college player himself, he understands football, and he appreciates the value of teamwork.”
Leech met with the media on Monday, speaking about his new role for the first time.
“Our currency around here is winning; we are a football club, a football organization. So we’re all the oars are in the water in that direction of being a successful football club on the field,” he said. “Now my responsibility is to work with George, and I’ll do that—we have a great relationship already—to support football and business. These two things can’t be successful without each other. So we’ll have great candid, open communication, but my focus is outside the lines. I won’t be picking players or calling plays. I’m focused on the fans and the community, growing our fan base of Broncos country and doing what we can to make our players successful on the field and off the field.”
To hear the leadership group of the Broncos talk so bluntly about winning and their goals of a Super Bowl title, again doing it on Monday, has been very refreshing. The historically successful franchise has had a lull over the past half-decade, and if business and football are as connected as Leech says, he’s an essential ingredient in the recipe.
“Winning, winning,” Leech detailed why he left his old post with the NFL. “When you’re at a league office, you don’t often win, and you don’t often lose and to be a part of an organization that’s committed to winning on and off the field was incredibly attractive, but then also having an emotional investment in that success and the outcomes.”
Leech says one of his goals will be to clearly define what wins are off the field as well. His focus on metrics on social and digital properties, buying licensed products, and season tickets will be some of what he outlined.
“At the league office, you have the benefit of really seeing across all 32 clubs and understanding what makes things really successful in this league,” he said. “I plan to take a lot of those learnings, whether it’s data practices, experiences, and really try to connect that with what we do here that’s already successful and look for opportunities to make it even better.”
Leech will have a big impact on you, the fan. Most things he’s talking leadership on are things that impact you the most. How the jerseys look, what a season ticket entails, or even the vibe of the social media channels.
“I think if there’s a theme across our 32, and you hear this across sports, not just football, there’s a tendency for many clubs to do things the same way. And the organizations that have been really successful from a business standpoint, have had a growth mindset and an innovation mindset of zig when others zag doesn’t always work, but definitely take chances to try to connect with fans in new and unique ways,” Leech said. “And that’s no more important now than it’s ever been. With all the different opportunities fans have for entertainment, not just sports entertainment. So I definitely have that approach and that mindset to it. I think uniforms are a good example of that where I think you’ve got to try and balance history and tradition and you know, three Super Bowls wearing this uniform, but also understanding that tastes evolve, your customer evolves, and connecting with fans and representing your brand in the best way is important to do.”
In truth, the Broncos have probably maxed out on the amount of customers they can get in Colorado. Their growth around the country has placed the team as one of the NFL’s most important. The international marketplace is one area where the club can grow tremendously and acquire a new audience. That can be seen with this year’s game in London and the home market rights in Mexico.
“The NFL certainly is the preeminent sports and entertainment property here in the United States. With designs on being the number one sports and entertainment property worldwide,” Leech said. “The NFL is what it is because of its collection of clubs and players. And as when I was at the league office, we’re trying to grow internationally. What we realize is that people are fans of players, and they’re fans of teams and, so giving clubs an opportunity to get international to grow fans develop relationships, but then also leverage that for commercial purposes was the right strategy. It’s something I was excited to see the launch and now excited to take on in a more direct role with the Broncos.”