Return of Browns Means Business
THOMAS J. SHEERAN
May. 25, 1999
CLEVELAND (AP) _ From her youngest days growing up in Cleveland, Patty J. Flynt knew the appeal of the Browns.
Her father had season tickets and was delighted when his five daughters began dating and getting married: that way he knew more guys for talking up football and the Browns.
``I knew every Monday morning we would be talking about did the Browns win or lose,'' said Flynt, 47.
The city has been without a professional football team since the old Browns moved to Baltimore in 1995. But the expansion Browns begin play in the fall.
Flynt still sees their appeal, this time from a business standpoint.
Her company, Columbus-based CoreComm, has a 10-year sponsorship deal with the team. The company provides long distance, cellular and paging services.
Flynt, who is president of CoreComm, said the deal gives the company stadium signs, a suite and bragging rights as the team's ``exclusive telecommunications sponsor.'' The Browns get a ``substantial payment,'' although Flynt won't say how much.
``Connecting ourselves as a company to part of what I believe is part of the fabric of the city of Cleveland is very important. They are a great tradition,'' said Flynt.
The CoreComm deal is one of a growing array of ``partnering'' announcements by the Browns, led by billionaire banker Al Lerner and Carmen Policy, the savvy Youngstown native who helped build the San Francisco 49ers into a National Football League powerhouse.
The Browns also have an official engineering services provider (Enron Energy Services Inc. of Houston), an exclusive travel provider (Allsports Travel of Youngstown), three concessionaires (Facility Merchandising Inc. of suburban Los Angeles, Restaurant Associates of New York and Sportservice Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y.) and an ``official office products/office supplier'' for Cleveland Stadium (OfficeMax Inc. of nearby Shaker Heights).
The business deals even extend to the rowdy Dawg Pound cheering section in the bleachers, which will be replicated in the new stadium. The Browns have licensed a Dawg Pound logo _ a helmeted dog with a football in its mouth _ providing them with sportswear profit opportunities.
Of course, sports partnerships aren't new: Ford Motor Co. makes the ``official vehicles'' of the Cleveland Indians, Southwest Airlines is the ``official airline'' of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Sprite is the ``official soft drink'' of the National Basketball Association.
A Cleveland brewer who has tested the appeal of the Browns said the team has the hearts of the people and its resurgence presents an enormous business opportunity.
``There is an enthusiasm and excitement for the return of this team to this town that is unparalleled in professional sports, and I mean any of them,'' said Chris Livingston, president of Crooked River Brewing Co.
His brewery was a hit with its ``Expansion Draft'' beer released in time for the Browns' draft selections. The beer (Livingston calls it ``a good, light beer ... a classic American beer'') doesn't mention the Browns on the label and wasn't sanctioned by the team, but he expects it to generate more than 20 percent of the brewery's revenue this year.
Livingston, who is still talking with the team about getting his beer sold at the stadium, dismisses any suggestion that the Browns may be overexposing themselves with corporate backers.
``There is just tremendous depth from the marketing standpoint that the Cleveland Browns bring to this town and this region,'' he said. ``They are smart guys. They are not going to over-leverage the franchise.''