Broncos among front-runners in social-media usage

Posted June 01, 2011 @ 2:33 p.m.
Posted By Alex Mayster

There's not much discussion currently taking place in NFL circles.

The players can't speak to their coaches, general managers aren't allowed to reach out to potential free agents and the NFL and players' association executives have more or less chosen not to talk to each other.

But that's where the silence stops.

There's no shortage of football gossip around the country. Newspapers have continued to publish NFL-related stories. TV and radio provide constant updates and the bloggers keep on blogging.

Some fans take to Twitter and Facebook to vent their frustrations, while other old-schoolers keep the traditional water-cooler discussions alive.

And the talks vary. Some are lockout related, but others are team-specific. Packer fans are still talking repeat, while the Browns' die-hards are stuck on potential.

In Denver, it's Tim Tebow, John Elway, an organizational turnaround … and Tim Tebow.

One thing is clear, there's no lack of support when it comes to football.

"If there's anything else that this lockout shows, it's that," Broncos team president Joe Ellis said. "What it has shown is that (Broncos fans) have this strong desire to connect with our football team."

For that reason, the Broncos have been among the NFL front-runners in the constantly changing world of the technology. The organization is using it's website to provide fans with exclusive content, creating videos and multimedia packages to bring viewers closer to the team. It's also utilizing Twitter to deliver breaking news to its followers.

"It's essentially become the way of the world in terms of communication and getting in touch with fans and customers," Ellis added.

The Broncos have not only realized the revolution that is currently taking place with social media — and communication as a whole — but they've taken the initiative to do things that NFL teams have never done before.

Following the firing Josh McDaniels, the Broncos brought in several candidates as potential replacements for their former head coach. Each was met at the airport by multimedia producer Chris Hall, who would film them from the time they shook hands at baggage claim, during the car ride to team facilities and even during parts of the actual interview.

"It was a chance for us to show fans what it's like when an organization tries to go out and find a new coach," said Hall, who never met any resistance to his project during the process. "The decision makers in the building are comfortable enough with our staff to let us go out [and shoot stories]."

The team's initiative starts atop the organization, where both executive vice president of football operations John Elway and Ellis have been open to the transparency of the team.

The Broncos' executive director of media relations, Patrick Smyth, sat down with Elway before the Hall of Famer officially returned to the organization to discuss the direction the team was headed with social media. At that time, Elway admitted to having a only Facebook account to "keep up with his kids."

Six months later, he has around 85,000 Twitter followers. He even announced the hiring of head coach John Fox via Twitter.

"He's got it on his computer, he's got it on his iPhone. A couple weeks ago he did a Mother's Day (tweet), completely on his own," Smyth said. "Having played here for 16 years and leading this team to five Super Bowl appearances … if there's anyone out there who knows how important the Broncos are to this community and its fans, it's John Elway."

While unique peeks into the organization can be great for the fans, a perceived bias arises when a team tries to more-or-less "cover itself."

To combat this, the team often sticks to more fact-based reporting on its website. Both Ellis and Smyth have stressed that they are in no way trying to replace other media outlets, such as The Denver Post, but are instead trying to complement their coverage with exclusive content only the Broncos can provide.

"There's our story, and then there perhaps are other stories that offer a different point of view," Ellis said. "That's why we're complementing traditional media with the new media. For the most part we've been able to give a balanced approach. If we're not balanced, plenty of others will let us know."

The organization, as a whole, has come to the conclusion that the team should establish itself, first and foremost, as the No. 1 authority on the Denver Broncos. The team doesn't need to turn to a TV show such as HBO's "Hard Knocks" to give fans an inside look, because it has the capability to do that on its own.

Five years ago, the Broncos would have addressed a coaching change by writing a press release. They would then have sent that out to local media outlets, and wait for others to report on it.

It was drastically different this year, when the news first broke on Twitter, and there's no telling how NFL teams all around the league will be keeping their fans informed down the road as communication and technology continue to evolve.