Viewers watching the recent NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers could hardly have missed Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning shouting “Omaha, Omaha!” repeatedly while calling signals. Someone counted up all the “Omahas” and came up with a total of 44 out of 70 snaps.
According to ESPN analysts, calling “Omaha” as a signal — either to alert teammates to an impending hike or changed play or possibly to draw the defense offsides, as Manning did twice — actually started years ago with quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. But with Manning wired up by CBS during the Broncos’ telecast, “Omaha!” has now become a minor football phenomenon. #OmahaOmaha even trended on twitter during the game, and @VisitOmaha, the twitter handle of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB), tweeted: “We certainly appreciate all the love from #PeytonManning.”
To hark back to yesterday’s post on attaching the power of celebrities to your destination marketing efforts, Omaha, Nebraska, had suddenly struck gold — without having to pay Manning a penny. Adweek pronounced it the “most random tourism marketing ever.”
The president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, David Brown, certainly took notice. As reported by the Associated Press, Brown mused about hiring Manning to do a promotional ad for the city of 408,000 people — though, of course, that would involve actually paying the future Hall of Famer.
Meanwhile, the Convention and Visitors Bureau is considering whether to buy paid advertising capitalizing on the publicity, presumably during next Sunday’s game between the Broncos and — you guessed it — Tom Brady’s Patriots, where we may hear a plethora of dueling “Omahas!”
The OCVB”s social media manager, Jasmyn LeFlore, told Adweek that “We are considering all avenues at this time. But we’ll likely focus our efforts on listening and engaging on Twitter.”
As it was, the freebie signal-calling couldn’t help but implant the idea of “Omaha” in every viewers’ brain. It’s entirely possible that an inordinate number of Omaha Steaks were served that evening after the game. Some folks who may have felt under-insured might have made a note to call Mutual of Omaha on Monday morning. And I’m sure visions of Berkshire Hathaway financial wizard Warren Buffett, Omaha’s most famous resident, danced through many heads that day.
But this blog is concerned with baby boomer travel, so I thought I would check out the Omaha CV&B’s website to see what’s cooking there besides steaks. With billionaire Buffett choosing to live there, I figure, it must have something going for it. (While I think I briefly visited Omaha as a child, I have no particular memories of it.)
For starters, they have an attractive, if not always easy to follow, website. What immediately caught my eye was “Things to Do in Omaha.” If you click on “map,” it takes you to 15 featured things to do. (Why you have to click on “map” to reach this list is a mystery to me.)
I did learn a few things. Omaha’s Boys Town, the “youth care program” as it’s now described, founded by Father Edward Flanagan in 1917, is now one of Nebraska’s top tourist attractions, drawing 100,000 visitors per year. Baby boomers like me may recall seeing the movie about Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney; while it was made in 1938 before the boomer era, it ended up showing on lots of old-movie channels back in the 1950s. Still, it wouldn’t get me to go to Omaha.
I was more intrigued by the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, named for former governor Kerrey; the bridge is 3,000-feet long, spans the Missouri River, and is apparently affectionately called “Bob” by the locals. It’s said to connect to 150 miles of nature trails as well, and, as far as I can tell by looking at a map, leads to Iowa.
The site also describes a number of museums, arts centers, gardens and the like, and notes that “when the sun goes down, Omaha’s nightlife heats up” — which makes perfect sense, by definition — and hints at “quirky cuisine” besides steaks, though I can’t imagine going to Omaha and not having at least one ribeye.
But I did find something apparently unique to Omaha that would definitely warrant a stop the next time I’m in the Midwest. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is said to harbor the “world’s largest indoor desert” and “America’s largest indoor rainforest.” I’m a sucker for “world’s largest” anythings and will go well out of my way to find one. TripAdvisor reviewers praise it as one of the world’s best zoos as well.
So I’ll add Omaha to my bucket list. And I’ve heard Warren Buffett lives in a modest house there, too — that would be worth a look, though when I typed “Warren Buffett’s house” into the OCVB’s search box, nothing came up.
Nor was there any mention of Peyton Manning, yet — though if the Broncos win the Super Bowl, we might expect to see his visage — preferably with audio — front and center.