The Cleveland Browns and you

When the Cleveland Browns are beamed across ABC and ESPN airwaves for the team’s first home game Sept. 12, National City Corp.’s green and white corporate logo will reap some valuable national exposure. But don’t think the benefits of the local banking giant’s sports marketing deal stops there.

Sure, the 10-year agreement to sponsor one of the new stadium’s four main gates guarantees the bank massive corporate billing, right down to the drink holders beside each seat. But Michael Lindley, National City marketing communications manager, says today’s sports sponsorship deals cannot survive on mere advertising alone.

“The people that are really good in the sports marketing field spend a lot of time leveraging programs with product promotions, customer events, those sort of things,” says Lindley. “Otherwise, you can’t maximize your investment.”

That’s why National City is using Browns training camp and home games as a way to entertain corporate clients, and last month unveiled a special Cleveland Browns checking kit that Lindley hopes will send diehard fans scrambling to their local branch to open an account.

The association with the Browns will also be used to further strengthen the bank’s local charity work. To sweeten the deal, National City inked a “fairly exclusive” three-year contract with rookie quarterback and first round draft pick Tim Couch to serve as the spokesman for its line of tie-in banking products and a yet-to-be-developed annual charity event.

Don’t go looking for a team to sponsor just yet, though. Lindley is tightlipped about the price tag on the Browns deal, disclosing only that it is “significantly less” than the $5 million other companies routinely shell out each year for exclusive stadium naming rights.

But with the need for the Browns to stay financially competitive with other teams, it’s obvious you better have some marketing dollars to burn to survive in this game.

Jim Vickers