Saying Goodbye to Two Broncos Legends

A lot of attention has been given this week to Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s decision to resign control of the team. And that attention is well-deserved – he is a legendary owner in the sports world.

The single best stat to illustrate that point is that his teams were more likely to make it to the Super Bowl than have a losing season (six Super Bowls compared to five losing seasons). For comparison purposes, the Colorado Rookies Rockies have had one World Series appearance and 14 losing seasons over the past two decades.

But Pat Bowlen isn’t the only legendary Bronco to retire since the end of last season. Jim Saccomano stepped down this spring as vice president of corporate communications after 36 years with the organization. During his era, Jim established his own signature culture within the franchise’s communications organization.

The results of Jim’s legacy are impressive. It wasn’t a coincidence that Jim and his team were recognized with the inaugural Pete Rozelle award for the NFL’s outstanding public relations staff from the Professional Football Writers of America in 1990, and that the team won it again in 2014 after Jim announced he would be retiring.

So what lessons can your communications organization learn from Jim and his staff?

  • Show up every day and put in a full day’s work. Jim felt it was important for his staff to try to work as hard as the players worked, and that is a high standard.
  • Respect the role of the media. Jim may not have loved every reporter, but he respected the idea that the media helped connect the fans to their beloved Broncos.
  • Understand your role. Jim’s first loyalty was without question to the Broncos, and he was a “company man” through and through. But he understood the needs of the media and served as their voice inside the organization.
  • Embrace change. When Jim got into the NFL, many of the pioneers of what would be known as social media were still in diapers. He had to embrace the changing media landscape, and find ways to integrate digital and social technologies into his PR machine.

Jim faced down a number of challenges throughout the course of his career, but he also would be the first to admit he also had one huge break: an owner like Pat Bowlen.

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