ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As new Broncos team president Damani Leech joins Broncos County, one of his primary goals will be to expand it even further beyond geographical borders.
In his previous role as NFL International's chief operating officer, Leech grew the league's focus at the worldwide scale, and with the Broncos, he'll be able to take his experience and apply it at the team level.
"The NFL certainly is the preeminent sports and entertainment property here in the United States, with designs on being the number one sports and entertainment property around the world," Leech said Monday. "The NFL is what it is because of its collection of clubs and players, and as we — when I was at the league office — were trying to grow internationally, what we realized is people are fans of players, and they're fans of teams. And so giving clubs an opportunity to get international, to grow fans, develop relationships, but then also to leverage that for commercial purposes, was the right strategy. It's something I was excited to see launch, and [I'm] now excited to take on in a more direct role with the Broncos."
During his time leading the league's international operations, Leech managed the NFL's International Home Marketing Areas program, which grants teams the opportunity to conduct marketing, fan engagement and commercial initiatives in specific countries. The Broncos are one of nine teams with an IHMA agreement in Mexico.
In conducting the search to find the Broncos' next president, Owner and CEO Greg Penner cited experience as a key attribute, and Leech's involvement in seeing through the IHMA project proved invaluable.
"Damani really rose to the top with his experience at the NFL, working with 32 different organizations and growing the business on an international basis," Penner said.
More immediately, the Broncos will be able to take another step forward at the global level in late October, as the team will play its first International Series game in more than a decade when it takes on the Jaguars in London's Wembley Stadium on Oct. 30.
HOW TO START WITH SUCCESS
Leech starts his tenure with the Broncos just as the regular season is about to get underway, and so he and Penner will look to have a successful first season in Denver in short order. For Penner, the Broncos will always aim to have high standards on the field.
"Obviously, a key goal would be we want to make the playoffs," Penner said. "We'd love to win a championship — that, I think, always has to be the goal when you come into a season. And so that's our goal, that's our focus."
For Leech, who also spoke of the importance of winning in his introductory press conference, said that success will be defined largely on the business side for him.
"My focus is off the field, supporting football," Leech said. "Providing them with the tools and the resources for them to be successful, whether that's financial or our people, supporting and amplifying what they're doing on the field, in the community. Helping our players grow their brands is my focus. That's what success looks like for me."
BACKGROUND WITH THE BRONCOS
Leech, who attended the Broncos' two home preseason games, has attended at least one Broncos game before — and it happened to be the most consequential game in the past decade for the franchise.
"While I was just starting at the league office in 2015, I had my first experience [here at the] 2015 AFC Championship Game in coming out to this stadium and this community and feeling the fans," Leech said. "It was incredibly palpable. It was really unique, not like many clubs around this country. And it's something that stayed with me, that experience. I'm really excited to be a part of that now. Broncos Country, it's just really special."
In his opening statement, Leech also paid tribute to the organization's history.
"I have great respect for this franchise and its history," Leech said. "Not only great players and coaches — Hall of Famers — not to mention the late Pat Bowlen, who from the league's perspective, is someone who is revered across the league, and Joe Ellis as well. I stand here truly on the shoulders of giants. I really understand that, and I don't take that for granted."
The most visible part of the Broncos' identity is its branding, and with new leadership at the helm, fans have wondered if change may be in the store for the franchise's look, which was introduced in 1997 and refreshed in 2012 to feature orange tops in the primary home jersey.
Asked about that possibility, Leech said that he'd evaluate it, though he noted the historical value of the current uniform set.
"I think you've got to try and balance history and tradition — three Super Bowls wearing this uniform — but also understanding that tastes evolve, your customer evolves, and connecting with fans and representing your brand in the best way is important to do," Leech said. "Again, no proclamations on Day 1, but it's also one of those things, certainly, that I'll be looking at."
Since being introduced as the team's CEO on Aug. 10, Penner said he has become well acquainted with the passionate perspectives about the team's uniforms, though he has not set his mind to any side.
"The main thing I've learned in a few weeks is there is a lot of opinions about the uniforms and that I have not formed any conclusions yet," Penner said.