DENVER (CBS) – “It’s just been a sad year,” said Ann Cummiskey owner of the Ace Hardware in the Cherry Hills Market. She makes a little room in her store for selling Broncos merchandise and it always has sold well.
“It doesn’t sell as well as it used to,” she told us. But don’t think the Broncos are losing shelf space. We’re a long way from that.
“I’m totally behind the team, totally behind the team regardless,” said a man shopping for souvenirs at Invesco Field at Mile High.
“Well re-establishing your reputation is difficult,” said D.U. professor of marketing Steven Hartley.
“But there’s typically three things teams and organizations can do. The first typically focuses on communication and usually there’s some statement that reiterates values and that’s one of the first things we’ve seen them do,” Hartley said. That’s certainly what the Broncos did in the days leading up to and the day they announced coach Josh McDaniels was being fired. Which leads to the second category of changes – personnel.
“With organizations it might be a CEO, with an athletic team it’s typically the coach,” said Hartley. “And then the third category would be to see some changes in attributes about the team.” Hartley said that means adding some other value that’s not necessarily related to the performances.
We wondered about the change in quarterback. Tim Tebow brings a different kind of excitement and interest to the Broncos.
“So I think what Denver’s looking at with Tim Tebow is kind of an Elway factor,” said Adrenalin sports marketing president Daniel Price.
“He’s a winner,” Price said.
The team may not be worried about selling out, like some other NFL franchises are doing, but Tebow opens the door for a wider group of fans.
“Kurt Warner was the last guy that brought that Christian faith into the NFL. And everybody pulled for the guy,” Price said.
So Price suggests there’s an opportunity there with a player whose jerseys were the top sellers before he’d ever played a down.
“You just get behind somebody like that, the excitement is there you just build on it,” Price said.
Once the expectation of winning is created for a sports team, there’s a seemingly greater demand for more. The Boston Red Sox were hapless yearly August dropouts for decades and whether they’ll admit it or not, longtime fans had learned to deal with it. The Chicago Cubs have created an expectation of losing, not winning – and people identify with it.
But the Broncos have been winners in recent memory. Fans liked the way that felt. These days with free agency in sports, there’s rapid movement up and down the standings.
“You don’t know if you’re going to win or lose every time you take the field,” said Price. “But if you develop a campaign and a brand for your team, you can control that regardless of your wins and losses.”
Fortunately, sports fans seem to have a little more tolerance for poor performance.
“A restaurant for example or a hotel, you’d be much less tolerant of wide variance of performance or quality,” said Hartley. But fans are likely to give teams years to improve their product. Partly because teams have a bit of a monopoly in their communities, partly because teams are brands that have huge levels of loyalty the makers of products would love.
“For 50 years man I’ve been a loyal fan,” said an older fan we talked to outside Invesco Field. “It won’t disappear,” Hartley said.