The Story Behind The Colts’ Anvil (As Told By Its Biggest Fan)


Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts

Each iconic sports tradition has to start somewhere: a simple refreshment request from Louis Meyer in Victory Lane made the chugging of ice-cold milk a yearly tradition at the Indianapolis 500 since 1936. A ten-foot high drum and a grown man wearing candy-striped pants may look absolutely ridiculous to outsiders, but Purdue and Indiana fans will throw you down a flight of stairs over the World’s Largest Drum and IU’s iconic hoops gear.

Nearing their 35th anniversary in Indianapolis in 2017, the Colts wanted to establish their own tradition. Knowing the above would be nearly impossible to top, they strove to come up with something that Colts fans today would accept and enjoy, but moreso that their great, great, great, great grandchildren would also cherish and celebrate (you know, if football and America still exist in the 3090s). They needed it to be unique. They needed it to be powerful. They needed… a big BANG.

Enter The Anvil. You might say, “But, Derek, this is just some marketing gobbledy-gook that some suit thought up! Another lame ‘tradition’ to sell t-shirts.” Lame tradition, eh? So are the octopi in Detroit, or the horn in Minnesota, or LeBron’s chalk toss. Where else in sports do you have 5,000 megatons (unofficial measurement) of “do not even think about f**king with me” Hoosier steel, forged with fire, stallion mane, and authentic beads of sweat from Peyton Manning’s gigantic forehead? Why are 70,000 butts on the edge of their seats to see it get banged before each home game?

You see, The Anvil isn’t some contrived conception. Far from it…  The Anvil is strong. The Anvil is resilient. The Anvil represents all of us, our collective grit, and this hard-working, wave-to-strangers-at-Kroger’s type city we call home. And, let me assure you, it absolutely BANGS.

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to talk about The Anvil’s meteoric rise with Roger VanDerSnick, the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for the Colts, who was able to give some background on The Anvil’s creation, while also discussing The Anvil’s immediate and significant cultural impact, and the very exclusive selection process for Guest Anvil Banger:

I know you get asked to talk about The Anvil all the time, so we really appreciate you taking the time to exclusively speak with us at Indianapolis Monthly.

My pleasure.

Since it has so quickly reached iconic status, some may not realize that The Anvil is still a relatively new addition to the Colts’ gameday experience. How did The Anvil concept come to be? Was it a group brainstorm or was there one individual who had a dream, or perhaps some sort of out-of-body experience and/or spiritual vision of greatness, to bring this badass tradition to life?

We hired an agency about four years ago to help us with determining what the Colts’ brand truly meant. We focused on the idea of “Heartland Pride”, so we built around that with a number of things. One of our focal points was finding a gameday tradition. Other teams have traditions – the Vikings have the horn, for example – so we wanted to search for something that could be ours. This idea of an anvil, because it’s the Colts, horseshoes, and iron felt obvious. So, that’s how The Anvil concept came out.

Fans are cynical, and the problem with “new” sports traditions is that sometimes they can feel forced or contrived (I have fought and will fight anyone who thinks this about The Anvil, btw). Obviously, that’s not the case with something as incredible as the The Anvil. Were you confident that The Anvil would come off as naturally as it has?

I wouldn’t say we were over-confident or anything. You’re right about sports fans being skeptical; and the takes on social media aren’t for the faint of heart. To make this successful, we thought we needed to hit on a couple of things: 1) It had to be reasonably authentic, so the tie to the Colts would make sense; 2) In a perfect world, you get team performance – if the team wins and people inevitably jump on; 3) We wanted notable figures and celebrities to come in to give it a push. Colts fans aren’t going to boo Pat McAfee, you know what I mean? We feel good about those aspects of The Anvil, but it’s only been a few years. We’re going to toy with some more ideas.

I always say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I can understand always wanting to improve with new ideas. I mean, Michael Jordan still went to practice each day… am I right?

Sorry, what was that?

For a long time, when Indianapolans Indianapolisites Indianapolisonians people from Indianapolis would travel out of state or even out of country, the most recognizable thing about Indy to outsiders was the Indianapolis 500 or, later, Peyton Manning. Now, it’s clearly The Anvil. For example, I got stopped by mall security in Florida last year when I was wearing a “BANG IT!” t-shirt. Are you surprised how quickly people from all over the globe have embraced this handsome hunk of menacing metal?

What I would say is the Colts definitely matter in Indianapolis. Heck, we’ll do a 25-30 rating for games locally. The Colts are a big deal here, but the NFL is such a global brand, so all of that helps build our brand across and outside Indiana. We’ve been here longer than the team was in Baltimore, so you now have a multi-generational effect where there’s now a long line of Colts fans. That obviously wasn’t true in the early days. All of those things help build those traditions. At the end of the day, The Anvil is just such a tough and masculine image and football is a tough game. That combination has really worked for us.

Before we get to the “masculine” and “tough” thing, Peyton Manning has a statue – I’m not sure people remember that he has one – and it was unveiled right around the introduction of The Anvil. Is it fair to say The Anvil has inevitably overshadowed the Manning statue as the more prominent and beloved inanimate object in Indianapolis Colts’ lore?

Yeah, I don’t think so. What Peyton did for the team and city is difficult to match. Between the two, Peyton Manning’s legacy will undoubtedly live on forever.

Peyton is long gone, though. The bangs of The Anvil still ring throughout our city…

It’s only been around for three seasons, Derek. What we need with The Anvil is some reps.  It’ll start to grow that brand and drive that tradition. Even then, I can’t imagine it’ll ever eclipse Peyton’s impact.

We’ll have to agree to disagree. Lastly, I have a friend, who is definitely not me, who is a prominent figure locally. This person, who is not me, and is both tough and dripping with masculinity, had asked me to ask you what the process is for getting invited to be a celebrity guest Anvil Banger. Can you take us through that?

We would love to know who this… uh… “friend” is.

Like, is there some sort a of metric you go on when inviting a celebrity guest to bang? Fame? Strength (I heard the hammer is heavy)? Attractiveness? All of the above?

We don’t have a hard and fast metric, but I think whoever the special guest is, that person needs to be authentic to the Colts and to Indiana. Is your friend from Indiana?

They are not from here, but he has been in this amazing city and state long enough to firmly establish himself as a powerful #brand across three different media platforms, is verified on Twitter, and in peak physical condition.

We’ve used Tony Kanaan and Tamika Catchings, who aren’t from Indiana but are beloved by Hoosiers and check all of the boxes you just mentioned, so yeah, we’re open to that. 

YES! I mean, oh… you don’t say? OK. I am happy to hear that.

I bet your “friend” will be, too.

Thanks again for your time today.

Thank you and go Colts!