- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. —  Peyton Manning can’t stop shouting about Nebraska’s largest city.

The Denver Broncos quarterback used the word “Omaha” loudly and often during Sunday’s National League Football playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers. According to an NFL.com video montage, Manning barked “Omaha” before the ball was snapped 44 times during the game.

The reason for the word choice, if there is one, is known only to Manning and the Broncos. But it provided some unexpected publicity for the city of 427,000, perhaps best known as the home of both billionaire Warren Buffett and the Fortune 500 insurance company Mutual of Omaha (sponsor of the old TV show “Wild Kingdom”).

Omaha, in fact, was a trending topic on Twitter during the game, and the Greater Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau jumped aboard, tweeting: “We certainly appreciate all the love from Peyton Manning :)”

Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Brown said he was watching the game, and he wondered how his agency could capitalize. Brown said he wants to explore the possibility of hiring Manning, one of the sporting world’s top pitchmen, to shoot a promotional ad for Omaha.

“We’d be foolish not to,” Brown said, adding that he realizes Manning would command a fee that likely exceeds his agency’s budget.

If anything, Omaha once conjured an image of a cow town on the banks of the Missouri River. But Doug Parrott, executive vice president for the Nebraska-based Bailey Lauerman public relations and advertising firm, said that has changed over the years because of the prominence of Buffett and national media coverage of events such as the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

Brown said the chamber of commerce has worked hard to woo corporations to locate to “the Big O,” as locals call it. Omaha is home to five Fortune 500 companies, including Union Pacific Railroad, and sells itself on, among other things, a reasonable cost of living and dependable workforce.

A chamber-commissioned study last year found that 100 million people had been exposed to the “Omaha message” in the past decade and that the city is generally viewed positively,” Brown said..

“But when people are asked why they feel that way, they can’t bring it to a single message,” he said.

Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has been known to say “Omaha” during games and so has Peyton’s brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “Sally,” ”Alpha,” and “Kentucky” are among the many words that amount to gibberish to the typical fan, and sometimes they truly mean nothing. But the words often are a signal to the rest of the offense to change a play or scheme — and defenses sometimes try to crack the code.

It was apparent that the Chargers associated “Omaha” with Manning’s snap count on Sunday because he lured five different San Diego players to jump offsides, an unusually high number of penalties for the same infraction.

For the city of Omaha, the value of Manning’s shout-outs is impossible to calculate, Parrott said.

Parrott noted, however, that air time for a 30-second Super Bowl ad is $4 million this year. If Manning leads the Broncos to the Super Bowl and yells “Omaha” as many times as he did Sunday, well, that’s lots of free exposure for this old cow town.

“Commercials cost money to make, and you have to come up with the idea and hire a production company to make it. It could cost $4 million just for the production, and we get it for free,” Parrott said. “Everybody in Omaha really needs to root for Peyton to take down Tom Brady and the Patriots so we can hear ‘Omaha’ in the Super Bowl.”