DENVER — As the Broncos searched for a long-term stadium naming rights partner over the last three years, there were a handful of legitimate suitors.
A couple of companies even came close to a deal with the Broncos, President/CEO Joe Ellis said Thursday.
But the perfect partner didn't emerge until June, when Empower Retirement and the Broncos began to negotiate a potential stadium naming rights deal.
From there, things moved quickly. Just a few months after the initial conversation, Empower Field at Mile High was officially introduced on Thursday as the Broncos' 21-year stadium naming rights partner.
"I would just add in terms of cycle times, it was one of the shortest, tightest deals that's ever been done of this magnitude, frankly," Empower Retirement's President/CEO Ed Murphy said. "I think a lot of that had to do with the trust that was built between the two organizations, the fact that there was a preexisting relationship. We were clear on what we wanted and what we needed and what we valued, and I think the Broncos were, as well. Lastly, I would just say, as a growth company, everything we try to do is just a bias toward action. We want to move fast. We don't want to compromise quality, but we want to move fast and bring things to market quickly. I think we were able to achieve that."
Ellis, who worked with Murphy and several officials with both the Broncos and Empower to get the deal done, joked he wasn't sure about the deal getting done until Sunday.
"It took a lot of hard work in a short period of time," Ellis said. "[Until] you sign a piece of paper, you never know. But I was confident we would get to this point and very, very pleased that we have done just that."
Empower has been a partner of the Broncos since 2015, and though a naming-rights deal didn't initially materialize, Murphy said Empower eventually "got to the right place."
"I think on any of these endeavors, you don't just jump in full force," Murphy said. "You think about it, you evaluate it [and] your different options, and we were certainly doing that. As I mentioned, we have other relationships in the sports arena. And I'd say initially we looked at it, and we weren't sure it was the right thing to do back in late 2017, early 2018. But as time progressed and we spent more time with the Broncos and spent more time, frankly, just evaluating whether this is a good long-term investment for us, we came to the realization that it was."
The long-term deal benefits all involved parties.
For the Broncos, the deal expands a partnership with a hometown company and allows the Broncos to provide the best possible experience for fans.
"For us, this expands a partnership that we've had since 2015," Ellis said. "It takes it to the highest level I think you can have with any NFL partnership or sponsorship agreement. It's a great, local hometown company. I like the name a lot. Empower Field at Mile High. That was very, very appealing to us. We talked that through during our negotiations. And thirdly, obviously, and I've talked about this at length — their substantial commitment over the next 21 years allows us to keep this building modernized, whether it's in the form of maintenance or capital improvements. It's not the full solution, but it's a big part of it, and that's important to us. It's important to Ed, too. He recognizes how important the game-day experience is for our fans, or a concert experience is for those that come here over the summer to witness these big concerts that we have and the like. It's those three components for us that were critical, and we found the right partner."
For Empower, the partnership can help a business that is already the nation's second largest retirement plan provider continue to grow.
"It benefits us in a lot of different ways," Murphy said. "Our company really came together over the last four or five years. There were three legacy organizations that had different brands, and in 2014, we brought those businesses together, and then we rebranded the company and called it Empower. We consciously chose that name, because frankly, that's the way we think about our business. We want to empower our people, our employees and we want to empower our customers. One of the challenges we've had for a long time is awareness — brand awareness. Both aided and unaided awareness. And so we've made a conscious choice to look at ways to promote the brand. Many of our competitors have promotional budgets that exceed $100 million. They spend a lot of money on traditional media like TV and radio and the like. We've gone in a different direction, a different path. And we believe that the benefits that we've derived since 2015 with the Broncos and some of the relationships that we have, that this was a good investment for us in creating that brand equity and brand awareness."
For the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, the deal ensures the stadium will stay in prime condition over the coming decades.
And though there have been a number of great moments at the stadium during its first near two decades of existence, Ellis and Murphy both stressed the best is still yet to come.
"The Broncos have enjoyed many special moments inside this stadium," Ellis said. "There have been three AFC Championship games, moments in postseason games that we all remember, moments in regular-season games that we all remember. We've had the most prime-time games in the National Football League. But this venue is not just a top-notch football stadium, it's a major entertainment attraction that has hosted countless major concerts, international sporting events and festivals. In fact, we're coming off a record-setting offseason with nearly 200 events and more than 300,000 guests from January to July. The best, however, is yet to come."
Added Murphy: "In the new stadium logo, we worked to capture the spirit and the energy that has always been part of this team's winning tradition. We love the history of all the great victories at Mile High, the mountains of our beautiful home state and of course, the Broncos orange. Thank you for coming out today. Thank you, Joe and the entire Broncos organization. It's been great to work with this team. We look forward to creating unforgettable moments for decades to come. And as Joe said, we're just getting started."
On a cloudless day at Empower Field at Mile High, that certainly seemed to be the case.
After introducing the newly renamed Empower Field at Mile High on Thursday morning, the Broncos and Empower Retirement celebrated the stadium naming rights agreement at Empower's Greenwood Village headquarters with an outdoor party featuring appearances by Joe Ellis, John Elway, Von Miller, Justin Simmons, Phillip Lindsay, Isaac Yiadom, Denver Broncos Cheerleaders and Miles the mascot.