ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos Country is about to get a whole lot bigger.
On Wednesday, the NFL announced that the Broncos had been awarded an International Home Market Area (IHMA) in Mexico, giving the organization a greater ability to grow its fan base internationally.
Among the possibilities created by the new policy are "in-person and digital marketing, corporate sponsorship sales, fan events and activations, youth football activities, merchandise sales and co-marketing relationships with other sports and entertainment properties in the market," according to an NFL.com report.
This project has been about two years in the making, Senior Vice President of Strategy Brittany Bowlen said Wednesday, and the results for the Broncos were the product of widespread collaboration and enormous effort by many people.
"We chose to apply for Mexico because we've had a long-lasting relationship in Mexico," Bowlen said. "We've been traveling there for many years, we've played a game there in the American Bowls, and our second-largest concentration of fans is in Mexico. It was really an exciting opportunity for us as an organization to really be able to expand our reach and the work we're doing and put ourselves even more into the process."
While the development doesn't guarantee that the Broncos will be selected for any future international competitions in the future, Bowlen said, the team is hopeful for the opportunity.
"I don't know if I can answer that we're more likely," Bowlen said of playing a game in Mexico. "I think we are, and I think we're very excited about that opportunity, but this allows us to expand our events, our fan engagement, our media outreach, our partnerships with both the community and companies. It really allows us to grow in the region in a way that hasn't been possible in the past. And so that's really how fans will engage with us, either through social media or media posts, through Broncos en Español or through a fan event that we're having in Mexico, whether it be Tochito, flag football or Carne Asada. We have these amazing events that we put on for fans in Denver, and now we'll be able to bring some of those to Mexico, which will be so neat."
Over the years, the Broncos' efforts in Mexico have been consistent, as Senior Marketing Manager Marisol Villagomez said, but the energy and commitment of the fans have encouraged the organization to further devote resources to them. Now, they'll be able to expand even further.
"Broncos Country is made up of the best fans in the league, and ... our fans are extremely committed," Villagomez said. "And so in areas where in the past we maybe needed a little push, they've come out and they've filled in the blanks. It starts there. … We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the work of many of the individuals in our organization, including I think those who have been our biggest ambassadors over the years, which has been the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders. They have been traveling to Mexico for close to 20 years, every year, for their annual trip. And so I think things like that, like selecting Mexico, really provides us an opportunity to see the country in a different manner and a different light and people take notice. Obviously Mexico City being the size that it is, there's more opportunity there, but we are excited to look at other regions as well, to grow our efforts and try and establish our fan base even further. I think we have looked at other states, such as Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Monterrey. So we hope to be able to spend more time in those and or regions moving forward."
As one of nine teams awarded an IHMA in Mexico, the Broncos will not be the only NFL franchise expanding their reach there, but their goal will be to bring an authentic presence and dedication to fans.
"This is something we've talked a lot about," Bowlen said. "… When we put together the bid, we spent almost a whole day just talking about our values and how they should be represented in our strategic plan for Mexico. Authenticity was the first value; and the second one was the Fanatico, or the fan, and putting them first; and the last one was legacy and how could we leave a really strong legacy for future generations of fans in Mexico."
The Broncos' connection to Mexico dates back several decades and really took off in 1997, when the team played in an American Bowl exhibition game in Mexico City against the Dolphins. That summer, the team also had signed wide receiver Marco Martos for a brief stint during training camp. Born in Mexico City, Martos played college football in Mexico before beginning his professional career in the World League of American Football.
That summer and that game in particular can be looked at as a foundational moment in creating the team's considerable fan base in Mexico, Villagomez said.
"I think a lot of the existing fandom came from that [game], and then obviously, I would hear it from our fan groups if I wouldn't thank John Elway for his career, still one of the most popular Broncos in Mexico," Villagomez said. "So it really started there. It started in '97, '98 and then, again, our fan base has just ensured that we have remained relevant in Mexico. Add to that our efforts through the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders, through our Spanish language team, through the visits that we have had in Mexico where we hosted Tochito clinics and tournaments, I think that it has all kind of culminated into this moment right now. But I think that for us, we identify that our fan base is really strong now, but it's not the time to stop. If anything, it's the time to really pick up steam and continue our efforts."