INDIANAPOLIS** – Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay has spent 28 years in the Indianapolis community helping direct a franchise to be a leader on and off the field.
Irsay's dedicated efforts in the community were noted Thursday when he was one of four individuals inducted into the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana's Business Hall of Fame.
Irsay has seen to it that the organization impacts the community in every possible way. Since the start of the 1999 season, the club has a 140-68 (.673) mark, one of the NFL's winningest regular-season records. The Colts have made the playoffs 11 times in the last 13 seasons, won eight division titles, earned two AFC championships and prevailed in Super Bowl XLI.
NFL teams just as much are civic entities. While all teams compete in their fields, the best ones truly intertwine with the surrounding areas.
Indianapolis just finished as the host site for Super Bowl XLVI, making it one of only 14 areas to host the nation's most prominent sporting event. Approximately 160 million viewers saw images of the city on television, while a reported 1.1 million revelers flocked downtown to the Super Bowl Village.
Being awarded a Super Bowl was a crowning achievement for countless individuals, including Irsay, who were committed to the effort. The efforts by leaders and volunteers made Indianapolis one of the most vibrant host sites in history.
Irsay is attuned to every facet of his organization. He is just as attuned to the public following his team. He is an active user of Twitter and has nearly 150,000 followers. The interaction he has on that and other communication levels and in overseeing an organization that made 876 appearances in 2010 and in-kind or financial donations to 2,400 events and organizations in 2011 allows him to keep a pulse on matters. Irsay knows those following his team are important.
"Hearing our fans, whether it is season ticket holders calling in, on Twitter, on the blogs and all the ways they communicate (is important). You're always listening to your fans. They are your shareholders, and they're a part of this thing in such a big way," said Irsay.
A long-time local business executive who served with the financial group that helped the Colts' transition to Indianapolis has noted Irsay's dedication for years. He likes Irsay's ability to reach all demographics that follow the Colts.
"I have watched him since the team first came to Indianapolis grow from a young man to a very seasoned, caring person," said the businessman. "He has hit home runs very well, all the way from the money he has donated to causes to send bands to go play in certain places. I know he has done a lot that people never know about.
"I think the Twitter use has elevated him to a different level, a different group of people, younger people. He really has become cross-generational in the way he approaches things. He touches older fans as well as younger fans. It is difficult to do. You have to work at it, and he works at it all the time. I think people on the street really admire him. It is a dynamic way to run a business."
One dynamic way of doing business is ensuring fan value in following your team. Since 2003, ESPN Magazine has issued its 'Ultimate Standings' where it monitors all professional franchises in the areas of bang for the buck, fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaching and title track. The Colts ranked 14th in this year's standings, fourth among NFL teams, and the study measured 122 professional franchises across the national landscape.
Indianapolis has been strong performers annually in the magazine's rankings. In 2010, Indianapolis ranked fourth among the nation's 122 professional franchises. In 2009, the Colts were 14th, placing third among NFL teams.
Indianapolis was ranked the top franchise in professional sports in 2008, while being the NFL's top-ranked team and fourth overall in the magazine's 2007 ratings. Indianapolis placed fourth among 92 teams measured in 2006, ranking second among NFL clubs. The Colts were third in 2005, and were the best-performing NFL team according to the ESPN standings.
Indianapolis is the only NFL team to rank among the top four league performers in the standings annually since 2005. The club's seven straight times among the top four NFL teams is ahead of Green Bay, which has appeared five times since 2005. Indianapolis also is the only team to place as the league's top performing team three times (2005, 2007, 2008) since 2005, out-distancing Pittsburgh (twice), Green Bay (once) and New Orleans (once).
"I am always interested in making sure that we are as good as we can be in every single aspect of the way we manage and run the franchise," said Irsay. "I think in terms of making sure the whole experience for everyone who you are dealing with is improved and at a very high level. When you are in a medium-to-smaller market you have to be really good at that."
Irsay was honored along with Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of ExactTarget, Cathy Langham, president of Langham Logistics, and Jerry Throgmartin, the late chairman of the board of hhgregg.