FirstEnergy deal ‘catches up’ the Browns

Posted by Vic Carucci on January 16, 2013 – 12:23 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Let’s be honest about this.

When it came to maximizing its revenue-generating capacity, the Cleveland Browns were behind the times.

Well behind.

I realize there are a fair number of people who appreciated the “old-school” thinking of the team’s previous ownership to simply call the place they played their home games “Cleveland Browns Stadium.” I understand the desire to maintain some sense of purity, in keeping with the franchise’s long history and tradition, while making the stadium’s name virtually the only part of the structure off limits to sponsorship opportunities.

But that thinking no longer flies in an era when so many NFL teams sell stadium naming rights for a substantial price.

It especially doesn’t fly when two of those clubs, the Pittsburgh Steelers (Heinz Field) and the Baltimore Ravens (M&T Bank Stadium), are divisional rivals of the Browns. Naming-rights deals, just like any other means of boosting a club’s income, give their teams a competitive advantage when it comes to having the resources to add talent on the field and throughout the organization.

So, from the moment Jimmy Haslam reached an agreement to purchase a majority interest in the Browns from Randy Lerner last summer, the wheels were put in motion to land one here.

After months of negotiations, the fruits of that labor became public on Tuesday when a giant white curtain was dropped during a news conference to reveal the stadium’s new name: “FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland Browns.”

“I think it, frankly, catches us up in some ways with most of the league,” Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner told me on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford.” “It’s a significant revenue source to most NFL teams, and for a long time the Browns haven’t participated in that revenue source.”

FirstEnergy made sense for multiple reasons, the biggest of which is that it is based in Akron, Ohio, and is run by people who are die-hard Browns fans.

As Banner put it, “it’s a great partnership with a great, local company, so I think there’s opportunities in terms of visibility, doing things in the community, that will be good for the city as well as for the two companies, so we look forward to that.”

Haslam has been looking forward to the completion of the deal ever since he saw, as owner of a minority stake in the Steelers, the benefits the Browns’ chief AFC North rival reaped by playing in a place called Heinz Field.

“It is a very, very competitive league, and it’s competition at the highest level,” Haslam told me on the radio show. “You have to do everything possible to compete, and the revenue that’s coming in from the naming of this stadium will help the Browns compete at a higher level.”

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.


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