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Go inside the origins of 'The Eli Manning Show'


For 16 years, Eli Manning stood in front of the microphone and answered question after question after question in the largest media market in the world. Now, he's the one doing the asking.

That's why Manning 1.0 would have a difficult time understanding Manning 2.0.

"I'd be very confused," Manning said on the Front Office Sports Podcast, where he sat down alongside Giants Chief Business Officer Pete Guelli to discuss the success of the “The Eli Manning Show” and the two-time Super Bowl MVP's post-playing role within the organization. "[I'd be like], what would the show be about and why do I have a show and who were the geniuses that thought of that very creative name? But, yeah, a lot can change in five years and a lot can change when you retire. I didn't have a game plan of ever doing content or having a show with the Giants, but it's been a fun journey these last couple of years."

Following a successful encore, "The Eli Manning Show" recently returned for a third season, presented by Prizm Trading Cards, one of Panini America's most popular NFL trading card brands. The Season 3 premiere, which is now streaming on the Giants YouTube Channel, features rap legend and Bronx native Fat Joe.

"It's been fun for me to just learn how sports have impacted people's lives and how passionate people are about sports," Manning said. "Obviously, I've done a lot of people in the New York area, so it's the Giants, but it might be the Knicks, it might be someone else that's just a fan of sports. They've made their career, they've made their success in some other field, yet they still come back to a lot of it involving their childhood and being around a certain team or organization. Just to get them to talk about that and the role that it's played in their life, that's kind of the unique thing and what so many people have in common. To hear that side of it and have some fun with that or with that attitude is what's made the show so fun."

Once Manning played his final game on Dec. 15, 2019, it didn't take long for him to decide to stay around the team – and vice versa. The show is just the most visible part of Manning's current role with the Giants.

"When you've got someone like Eli on your roster who's been with the same team for his entire career and has had that success in a market like New York, it's pretty clear you want to find a way to keep him engaged," Guelli said on the Front Office Sports Podcast. "I don't think it was seconds probably after Eli retired and gave his speech here at the fieldhouse, we approached him about finding a role for him in the organization. COVID stepped in and it took a couple of years to figure out, but I think we both knew it was something we wanted to do. It is just trying to find that right spot. I think with the content we're producing for The Eli Manning Show, that was the perfect role."

Why content instead of strictly business?

"There is a little bit of that," Guelli said of the latter. "It's an integrated role. He's doing a lot on behalf of the organization, but this was really important. We were going to lean into digital in general. We knew we were going to invest in and grow our platforms. Pursuing next-generation fans and broadening our demos were going to be important and then blending sports entertainment. So, we thought this show and Eli could be a catalyst and check all those boxes for us. And it has."

At the Hashtag Sports Awards earlier in June, "The Eli Manning Show" won "Most Creative Partnership with an Influencer" for the episode featuring rapper Fivio Foreign. The show also won a New York Emmy Award for its interview with NBA superstar Kevin Durant.

The notoriety underscores the range of guests that pop up on the show.

"Authenticity is really key to this whole thing," Guelli said. "We said from Day 1, let's just put Eli in some positions where he's comfortable, and what's been really eye-opening to me is I don't think there's a situation where he's not comfortable. We've put him with a very diverse group of people. One minute, he might be talking to Pete Davidson. The next minute, it might be Michael B. Jordan. The next minute, it might be Bill Murray, might be an influencer like Deestroying – all across the spectrum. We want to engage a very diverse audience, and it's almost the more uncomfortable we try to make him, the more comfortable he is and the more he connects with these different types of entertainers and influencers. That's been really interesting to see him navigate all these different personalities, but he just maintains his and it comes off perfectly."

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of all three seasons of The Eli Manning Show.

While it appears completely natural, a lot of work goes into the final product.

"A big question that we get is the production end of it," Guelli said. "People are typically surprised that we produce it all in-house. We've got a lot of talented people in the building, and it was more about just kind of unlocking that potential and transitioning it into more of a digital space. There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and it kind of seems like it's just happening. But these guys are prepping. They're putting a lot of time in. They're ideating around guests and concepts and ideas and how they're going to engage. Then I think the best part of it is when you're in the moment, they start flowing, and that's when the real magic happens, when Eli's personality comes out and it connects with someone like a Pete Davidson or Derek Jeter or Jimmy Fallon. That's really what the true magic of the show is. There's a lot of work and a lot of prep, but ultimately, we want everyone just to be themselves and we will capture those moments and edit them down into something that people can digest."

Admittedly, Manning needs more prep work for some guests.

"I'm a fan of Bill Murray, so it's like, I got this," Manning said. "I have my questions that I already have been thinking about for 15 years of things I would ask Bill Murray. Then the next one I'm with Fivio Foreign and I'm like, yeah, yeah, I need all the information possible, I'm not up on my hardcore rap scene right now, so I need a little intel. But both of those are exciting and it's a little bit out of my comfort zone being the guy asking the questions, where my whole life I was the one being asked the question. So, to have the flow of it and read a little bit about them and form my own questions where hopefully you can get like kind of a funny response and get them where it's not just the same interview that they've done before."

That's where Shaun O'Hara also comes in.

Before becoming his co-host, O'Hara was Manning's center for seven years. During that time, they became like brothers, which is saying something in the Manning Family.

"A pretty similar relationship that I have with Peyton, I have with Shaun O'Hara," Manning said. "The center-quarterback is a pretty special bond. There's a closeness you don't really have with some of your other players. So, he's still one of my best friends in the world. We hang out with our families and go on trips. We have that closeness where we can get on each other, we can make fun of each other, and we're not going to be sensitive afterwards even though we're making fun of each other for a live show that millions of people might see. And I think that attitude keeps things very loose. Once we start making fun of each other, I think the guest is like, oh, I can make fun of you all too and jump in the action, which makes them pretty relaxed and loose. We want everybody to look good. We're not trying to call people out. We want this to be fun. We want them to share their story, have some laughs, and make it a unique experience that maybe they haven't done something quite like this before."

Meanwhile, viewers see something they haven't quite seen before – especially coming from a team. The success of the show consequently has spilled into more football-oriented content, including "Giants Life."

"We've got great people on the performance side," Guelli said. "Joe Schoen is the GM and Brian Daboll is our coach, who are personalities of their own. We were going through the interview process to bring them in, and one of the conversations that I had with both of them was this entire business now is about content. Content is about access, and access is about trust and I don't have three years to build up trust with you guys. I need you guys to trust me from Day 1, and if you do, we're going to do great things together, we're going to be able to promote the Giants' brand in a way that everyone is going to be happy with.

"They bought in, and obviously we've got guys like Eli who bring some additional credibility to what we're doing, and so now the access that we have allowed us to give us a peek under the hood and provide content for our fans that they've been wanting for years to come. Just a great example is that if you go back and look at some of the things we did around the draft this year, we built a new war room. It's very technologically advanced, and they gave us every opportunity to go in and tell the story of how the draft was conducted this year and give Giants fans a look at what we're doing probably deeper than they've ever seen before. That's kind of been the authenticity of what we're doing and the foundation around the access of what we're doing have really been the two key components to everything."



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