When Eli Manning announced his retirement on January 22nd of last year, Giants Co-Owner John Mara indicated that nobody else in franchise history would ever wear number ten. At that moment, Giants Chief Commercial Officer Pete Guelli huddled up with Pat Hanlon, the Giants’ Senior Vice-President of Communications, to see just how the Giants would go about honoring Manning’s career and his resume that includes two Super Bowl championships.
“That led to broader discussions with ownership John Mara and Steve Tisch and it led to a formal relationship where we were able to bring Eli back into the organization to become part of it again,” said Guelli.”
Manning, who is officially back in the Giants organization in a front office role, will have his number ten retired his coming season at halftime of the Giants’ September 26th game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium at which time the two-time Super Bowl MVP will become the 43rd individual to join the Giants’ Ring of Honor. To make the day even more special, the first 25,000 fans through the gates that day will receive an Eli Manning bobblehead. The bobblehead shows Manning in a passing motion with replicas of his two Super Bowl rings on the base.
When the idea of a bobblehead giveaway came up, the Giants made sure that Manning was included in the process.
“We went through some of the iterations with him to look at it and try to settle on a design that worked and then incorporate some key aspects of his career,” said Guelli. “He probably looked at three different versions until we felt like we had something that was close enough that it, at the very least, was identifiable with Eli Manning and he felt good about.”
Manning enjoyed a storied 16-year career with the Giants that saw him set more than 20 franchise records including 236 regular season games. Manning never missed a game due to injury and also participated in 12 post-season contests. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Manning adored Giants fans and enjoyed a special bond with them. The Giants initially thought about retiring his number last season, but those plans were scrapped because fans were not permitted to attend games as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, the retirement of Manning’s number ten, the induction into the Ring of Honor, and everything else around Manning’s special day would have to wait until this season when MetLife Stadium will be filled to 100 percent capacity.
Eli being honored in an empty stadium just didn’t make any sense.
(Giants Co-Owner John Mara with Eli Manning)
“We knew that wasn’t the right way to do it,” said Guelli. “We needed to do it in front of the fans. We know how much he appreciates them and we felt like we needed to find that opportunity.”
And with everyone showing patience, September 26th is shaping up to be the latest special day in the Giants’ storied history. It’s one thing for the fans to be there to see Manning get honored, but it’s another thing to be able to take home a special souvenir, especially something that is not generally something the Giants have been part of in the past.
“We haven’t done a lot of bobbleheads,” said Guelli. “This is relatively new for us and to do it with Eli the day that he’s going in (to the Ring of Honor) has created just an amazing groundswell of excitement.”
As the Giants get set to welcome 80,000 fans back to MetLife Stadium this season, Eli Manning’s special day is just part of a season long plan to reconnect Big Blue with their fan base. The Giants will have a fan fest at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday August 11th and the event has already reached their full ticketed capacity.
“We’re trying to do as much fan engagement to welcome our season ticket holders back this year as we can,” said Guelli. “This is part of it. There’s a lot of other things throughout the year.”
And the Eli Manning bobblehead giveaway is just one way that the organization is doing that.