NFL: What a penguin and $619M have to do with Manning's 'Omaha'
Omaha, Neb. • Unless Peyton Manning changes his habits, the Super Bowl-watching world will get to hear "Omaha!" again and again this Sunday.
The Denver Broncos quarterback's word choice at the line of scrimmage has cast a bright light on the Midwestern city over the past few weeks. Omaha has been mentioned thousands of times on Twitter and in media stories, and been visited by everyone from ESPN to the NFL Network.
Will the city be able to turn all of that into a long-term economic boon? Don't count on it. For now, locals are just enjoying the unlikely ride.
"I don't think because a football player shouts your city's name that a corporation is going to up and move here," said Jeff Beals, who closely tracks the city's economic development as vice president of World Group Commercial Real Estate. "The city gets the same benefit as a corporate entity gets from having its name on a billboard. It cements the name in people's heads."
The city knows the spotlight will fade after Sunday's game between the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, so the efforts to cash in are fairly modest. Omaha Steaks is selling an $80 "Omaha, Omaha" variety package of meats for Super Bowl partiers. An ice cream parlor is serving a new flavor, "Omaha, Omaha," which has an orange-vanilla base mixed with blue malt balls Broncos colors. A local business has sold about 1,000 "Omaha," T-shirts at $20 apiece, with about half sold to out-of-town customers. A Minnesota sports novelty business is hawking "Omaha" pennants.
The Omaha zoo chimed in by naming one of its newborns after Manning: Peyton the penguin may be around long after the latest buzz goes away for the city best known as home of billionaire Warren Buffett and the College World Series.
No Omaha corporation is believed to have looked into buying ad time on Super Bowl Sunday. An in-game ad costs $4 million for 30 seconds.
Omaha-based giants ConAgra, Mutual of Omaha and Union Pacific Railroad didn't ignore "Omaha!" mania. They and other companies sent a gift basket to Manning full of Omaha-made products. They pledged to donate $800 to Manning's Peyback Foundation for at-risk youth for every time he said "Omaha" in the AFC championship game against New England 31 times netted $24,800. They announced Tuesday that each "Omaha" in the Super Bowl would result in a $1,500 donation. Las Vegas sports books are taking bets on how many times Manning will shout "Omaha," with the over-under set at 27Â½.
Here's another number: $619 million. According to Universal Information Services, which monitors the breadth and impact of print, broadcast and social media exposure for about 700 clients, that's the "publicity value" the "Omaha!" hubbub has garnered through more than 5,600 stories.
Universal's Todd Murphy said the free advertising number is based on a formula that takes into account the potential number of people exposed to the message through broadcast, print and web traffic, Murphy said.
"A pebble dropped in the water, and it didn't come from a marketing team or million-dollar investment in image building. No one could have planned for this," Murphy said.
Cathy Evans, a school librarian from Duluth, Ga., was looking at her Twitter timeline when she saw Omaha Steaks and First National Bank of Omaha were co-sponsoring a contest challenging participants to guess how many times Manning uttered "Omaha" against New England in the AFC championship game.
Evans, who said she envisions Omaha as a friendly city with "buildings in the middle of nowhere," guessed 31 because her birthday is on Jan. 31. She won a $1,000 gift card from Omaha Steaks.
Omaha boosters will tell you the city is the birthplace of Fred Astaire, of actors Marlon Brando and Henry Fonda, baseball and tennis greats Bob Gibson and Andy Roddick and civil rights leader Malcolm X. Screenwriter and director Alexander Payne is an Omaha native who has earned an Oscar nomination for best picture with "Nebraska."
After Manning's famous snap count went viral, ESPN did a video feature with local high school basketball players, Omaha Steaks workers and Mayor Jean Stothert imitating the "Omaha, Omaha" call. A major television network profiled Omaha but mistakenly showed Nebraska's State Capitol Building in Lincoln, 50 miles away. A national sportscaster wrongly called Omaha the home of the Little League World Series.
Beals, born and raised here, acknowledged there is an inferiority complex among some residents who believe Omaha is generally considered a sleepy cow town, but not as much as there used to be. He also said some Omahans, true to their stoic Midwestern nature, love living here and don't care what other people think, if anything, about their hometown.
The people interested in raising the city's profile, however, are counting on Manning to keep spreading the word as long as the buzz can last. Omaha Steaks, for one, is looking at approaching Manning to serve as a pitchman.
"I could imagine the commercials," Beals said.
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