A corporate logo may show up on Cleveland Browns Stadium, but it probably won't be that of Pilot Flying J.
Last week, Browns' owner Randy Lerner announced a deal to sell the National Football League team to Jimmy Haslam, CEO of the Knoxville-based company, and at an introductory news conference Haslam said a naming-rights deal for the stadium would probably happen at some point.
So does that mean Pilot Flying J, the national chain of travel centers and convenience stores, could soon find itself sponsoring the team's stadium? Apparently not. Asked this week about the possibility, Haslam said in an email that "We have several people interested in the naming rights and none of those companies at the current time are located in Tennessee."
Naming rights have become a significant revenue stream for professional sports owners, who are always looking for new ways to offset the salaries of star quarterbacks, pitchers and point guards. Unlike European soccer teams, most American leagues have resisted more intrusive strategies such as selling the rights to sponsor a team's jersey, although the National Basketball Association recently announced plans to place corporate patches on the shoulder of team jerseys.
Frank Vuono, a partner in sports marketing firm 16W Marketing, said the real value of a naming rights deal comes from the television exposure. Vuono, whose firm did consulting work for the Browns when they rejoined the NFL more than a decade ago, said the Browns won't necessarily get a premium price for such a deal. "Because the Browns have not been winning they're not on national television that often," he said. "So that's a negative."
But Vuono said the team has a tremendous fan base and noted that the stadium hasn't had a sponsorship before. "If you're going from one corporate name to another, it diminishes the value," he added.