Recruit the John El-Way: How Chapters Can Learn from the Denver Broncos’ Courtship of Peyton Manning

This week, one of football’s greatest quarterbacks of all time decided to hang up his cleats and call it complete. After 18 seasons, Peyton Manning retired from the National Football League, wrapping up a career filled with statistical records and two Super Bowl championships. One of those championships came with the Denver Broncos, the team Manning has spent his last four seasons with after being cut by the Colts following the conclusion of the 2011 season. 

How Manning ended up with the Denver Broncos is an interesting story. A story all undergraduate fraternity members should hear as the NFL Free Agency process has a lot of similarities to the fraternity recruitment process. In fact, the only key difference is that chapters aren’t giving their new members millions of dollars once they sign. Reflecting on Manning’s Free Agency experience, it becomes apparent that John Elway’s and the entire Denver Bronco organization’s recruiting process is something all chapters should hope their members mimic. 

The recruitment process for Peyton Manning started the day he was cut from the Indianapolis Colts. On March 7, 2012, Manning had a farewell news conference in Indianapolis. Later that evening, he received a call from then Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox. Denver was one of the first teams to reach out to Manning and Fox simply told him “Denver would love to have him visit when he was ready.” 

Being that first point of contact for Potential New Members is key.

Manning’s recruitment process started the day he was eligible to be recruited. Likewise, the recruitment process for fraternities should begin the day Potential New Members (PNMs) become eligible to be recruited. For some chapters, that may be as soon as spring of their senior year of high school. For others, it may be on Freshman Move-In Day. Regardless of the time, being that first point of contact for Potential New Members is key.

The Denver Broncos were the first team to reach out to Manning, and because of this they were also the first team Manning agreed to meet with. This may have had a lot to do with him choosing them over any of the other teams courting him at the time. Oftentimes, a PNM will choose the first group who he has first met. Chapters should be actively looking to be one of the first people prospective students meet. 

On March 9, Manning flew to Denver to meet with Broncos executives and the coaching staff. Elway and Fox both knew areas they would like to address with Manning. 

For Fox, it was to address two factors he believed would weigh into Manning’s decisions not to join the Broncos. The first factor was the Denver Broncos’ defense hurting Manning’s chances of winning (an idea which is now laughable after Super Bowl 50). The second was the cold weather in Denver. Since Manning had played over half of his career games indoors at Indianapolis, many believed he would suffer outdoors in Denver. 

How Fox combated both claims is key. First, he addressed these claims head-on with Manning. He did not make excuses for them, but instead figured out ways to communicate with Manning how these two factors would not be an issue. Manning is a statistical guy so Fox had two statistics prepared. First, he talked about how 519 games have been played in Denver, and the average temperature for these games has been 60.9 degrees at kick-off. To address the defense, Fox then told Manning, “In your 14 years in Indianapolis, the Colts averaged 26 points per game. In my 10 years as a head coach [with the Panthers and the Broncos], when our teams scored 26 points or more, our record is 39-3."

Fox didn’t avoid the conversation about Manning’s two main concerns and actually addressed them directly with statistical evidence.

Fox didn’t avoid the conversation about Manning’s two main concerns and actually addressed them directly with statistical evidence. Additionally, the Broncos recognized that their defense was an issue for them, and over the years since they signed Manning they improved to become one of the best defenses in the league. 

When talking to Potential New Members, do not be afraid to discuss their concerns for not joining. Instead, encourage the conversation to happen and take their objections and discuss them. For example, if their concern is academics, show them the chapters GPA compared to the university’s all-male average or show them the chapter’s graduation rate compared to the average student on campus. 

Additionally, if there is an issue in the chapter that would keep members from joining, work to change that. For the Denver Broncos, it was their weak defense. They recognized this flaw and improved it over the years. What is your chapter’s “weak defense?” What is an area the chapter should improve upon so that in future conversations with potential new members, this is no longer a concern?

For Elway, his recruitment of Manning was simple. He worked on developing the relationship with him. At the time, Manning was 36 years old and played his entire career with one franchise up to that point. Elway spent his entire career as the starter in Denver. He had also won his two Super Bowls when he was 37 and 38 after many thought his career was done. Elway knew how to relate to Manning. He imagined what it would have been like if he was cut by the Broncos after 14 seasons. During his visit with Manning, Elway told Manning "There's got to be a dagger in your gut right now. Take your time. Be thorough. Make the right decision, whether it's us or someone else." 

Don’t give the hard sell. Let the organization speak for itself.
— John Elway

As bad as Elway wanted Manning in Denver, he knew it was ultimately Manning’s decision. Elway told Sports Illustrated (SI) in 2012, “I put myself in Peyton's shoes. No pressure. Don't give the hard sell. Let the organization speak for itself. I told him that as much as I wanted him to play for the Broncos, I knew it would be stupid if we forced him and it wasn't a good fit. That's how I'd feel." 

Elway’s entire recruitment of Peyton Manning consisted of two things: letting the organization speak for itself and the confidence in the relationship he had built with Manning. It was Elway’s second year as Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager and he was confident in the organization he had helped to build so far, and even more confident in what the organization was to become.

What we can take away from Elway’s recruitment process of Manning is quite simple. Let the organization speak for itself, and focus on building that relationship with potential new members. 

Letting the organization speak for itself means recruitment starts well before meeting a potential new member. Recruitment is year round. Everything the chapter does, positively or negatively, impacts how the chapter is viewed when it comes to recruiting potential new members. Ensure the chapter is excelling in areas which allow for the organization's record to speak for itself, and the members can focus on developing positive relationships with potential new members. 

In terms of developing the relationship, this is the key emphasis to recruitment. People don’t join organizations; people join people. Manning’s top four choices were the Cardinals, the 49ers, the Titans, and the Denver Broncos, who all did a great job at developing a relationship with Manning. SI’s Peter King’s wrote about Manning’s free agency courtship in April of 2012 in a piece titled “Peyton Manning’s Long Game.” In the article, King takes a look at why several teams were, or were not, on Manning’s list. King writes: 

Look at the teams that fell short, and you see familiar faces. Manning's dad, Archie, played with Munchak (Tennessee’s head coach at the time) late in his career in Houston. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is a golfing buddy of Manning's and once coached Peyton at the Pro Bowl. Harbaugh (49ers’ head coach at the time) preceded Manning as quarterback in Indianapolis. The point men for all were former players.

Look at the teams that wanted in but were cut out. Kansas City: Manning knows G.M. Scott Pioli but isn't close to anyone there. Seattle: no strong relationships. The Jets and Miami: ditto. Washington was a little different because Manning knows and respects Mike Shanahan, but the draft deal with the Rams ended that.

The key driving factor to Manning deciding on what team to join came down to one thing: the relationships he built with members of the organization. In fact, Manning talked about how he wish he would not have gotten so close to Head Coaches Munchak and Harbaugh because of how hard it made his decision. When Elway was asked why he thought Manning picked Denver, his response explained the Broncos recruitment philosophy: "I really don't know," Elway told SI. "I never asked him. I never asked him who was in it or where we ranked. I just know if I was in his shoes, I'd know how I'd want to be treated. And that's how I tried to treat Peyton."

The key factor for a quality Potential New Member will be the exact same thing: the relationships they develop with members of the chapter and the members’ ability to put themselves in the shoes of the one being recruited.

Acacia Helps Launch Major National Marketing Campaign for Greek Life

There is a new story being told about fraternities and sororities, and the Acacia Fraternity is proud to be a part of it.

A marketing campaign called “ReThink Greek” was launched this fall. It’s described as “A radical national marketing campaign to shape the future of fraternities and sororities. Targeting unexpected students who value a modern approach to Greek Life.” Dozens of campuses and inter/national fraternities and sororities are participating in the campaign through social media, on-campus marketing efforts, and a powerful website that drives recruitment leads directly to our chapters.

The website,, is the central hub of the campaign. Along with all the other marketing materials, the site is aimed at high achieving, low-risk, thoughtful, selfless students and their parents. Read the entire press release and see some of the additional materials here.

The ReThink Greek campaign was born from the lack of a single, positive, inclusive narrative for the entire fraternal industry. Collectively, our organizations are made up of nearly one million undergraduates and nine million people including our alumni. Fraternities and sororities collectively own massive amounts of real estate, we positively impact the lives of a quarter million new students each year, and we are made up of some of the most educated, driven, resourceful members of society -- yet our industry has previously lacked a collective marketing campaign. One of the creators of the ReThink Greek campaign put it simply, “We need a ‘Got Milk’ initiative for fraternity/sorority life.”

ReThink Greek approaches promoting Greek Life from two angles. Through some of the marketing efforts, the campaign makes a direct and bold approach, sharing the power of Greek Life in no uncertain terms. Through other marketing efforts, the campaign takes a more subtle approach — the language, design, videos, and materials speak to students who want something “more than the typical college experience.” In these efforts the campaign is hinting at the wonder of Greek Life, and directing prospective members and their parents to (which redirects to

The campaign was built by Innova (, a marketing company focused growing fraternities and sororities. The company is working hard to shake up the fraternal industry’s expectations of how to market its membership to high performing students. Most organizations and campus fraternity/sorority communities joined the campaign for free.

Our members can participate in ReThink Greek primarily through Social Media or by connecting your campus community with the campaign. Follow @ReThinkGreek on Twitter, Like on Facebook, search and share images tagged with #ReThinkGreek on Instagram, and check out the powerful collection of stories and posts at

2014 Strategic Plan - Playing in Rhythm

International Acacia leaders spent several months collaborating over the spring and summer to create the next Strategic Plan for the fraternity. With input from alumni and undergraduates alike, the 2014 Strategic Plan, Playing in Rhythm, was adopted by the 58th Biennial Conclave delegation and outlines the fraternity's vision, objectives, and goals over the next six years. Download the 2014 Strategic Plan (PDF)

2014 Strategic Plan - Playing in Rhythm

Top 5 Ways to Optimize your Website’s Homepage for Recruitment Success

Top 5 Ways to Optimize your Website’s Homepage for Recruitment Success

#1 Recruitment Sign-up Form

  • Encourage prospective recruits to leave their contact information with you!
  • After your visitors submit the form, your recruitment officers will be emailed their names, phone numbers and other details (it’s also saved in your Recruitment Database).
  • Some chapters make the mistake of putting the sign-up form on its own Recruitment page but Webmasters should always keep a short and simple recruitment sign-up form on their homepage.

#2 Revolving Twitter Feed Widget

  • The simple motion of a scrolling Twitter feed conveys that your chapter is active and makes your website look trendy compared to other groups/clubs on campus.
  • Don’t have your own Twitter? No worries, it’s perfectly fine to HQ’s Twitter feed (@AcaciaHQ) –it will still make your chapter look active.

#3 Image Gallery Widget

  • It’s a great idea to place a small Gallery on the homepage showcasing recent activities and great moments. Galleries are excellent opportunities to impress prospective recruits.
  • But… avoid using multiple/duplicate images of one event on your homepage. Try to find 1 or 2 images that highlight a recent event and aim to show as many different events as possible. If you have 10+ images from one event, pick just 1 and save the other 9 for an album on one of your inner pages.
  • Lastly, make sure pictures are up-to-date! Using pictures on your homepage that are older than 3 months old will make your website look neglected.

#4 Recruitment Calendar

  • Place an Event Listing widget on the homepage to showing your next 3 to 5 recruitment events and put it right next to the recruitment sign-up form.
  • Remember that your goal is to get prospects to see WHY THEY SHOULD JOIN your organization. Consider showing a list of your upcoming socials, academic, and athletic events that are members-only as well.

#5 Recruitment Officer Contact Information

  • Make sure your chapter’s Recruitment Officer can be identified (and it’s even better if there’s a picture or link to their Facebook Profile).
  • Prospects that are invited to your events will want to introduce themselves. This makes it more comfortable for the prospect knowing he has a point-of-contact with the chapter.
  • This is also important so that your Recruitment Officer can have the opportunity to meet the prospects and introduce them to your other members.