A couple months before Bernacchi, a former chief marketing officer for Mazda’s North American operations, started with the Browns, Mike Mossholder was hired as the chief revenue and marketing officer of Haslam Sports Group.
For a period of time, as businesses were closed and sports were put on hold, the Browns operated as a media company, Mossholder said.
“As difficult as COVID was, there was some great stories to tell about coach and Andrew and the success that they had in their first year during a COVID outbreak,” the former UFC executive said. “It was an amazing story, and our leadership allowed us to have the type of access to show that.”
Capacity crowds weren’t an option, but the Browns’ playoff run, in addition to all of the digital gains, generated huge local TV audiences.
Fourteen of the top 20 TV broadcasts in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton market were Browns games in 2020. The team’s regular-season games generated an average local rating of 35.5, which ranked seventh in the NFL, and the postseason contests against the Steelers and Chiefs drew massive ratings of 51.5 and 48.3, respectively.
The Browns, after giving season-ticket holders the chance to receive a refund or opt out and push their commitment to the 2021 season, adjusted their sales cycle during a year in which most fans stayed home.
The team switched to a two-phase renewal process that kicked off in November. That, Mossholder said, is becaxuse the core fan group’s enthusiasm is at its highest during the season.
The club’s timing was pretty good, as the Browns won four consecutive games to get off to a 9-3 start. Deposits for the club’s season-ticket waiting list increased 110% in October and November, and grew 231% in December.
By the spring, the Browns’ season-ticket renewal rate had topped 97%. The team, entering a season in which it’s viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, again has reached its season-ticket cap of about 60,000, and Mossholder expects the waiting list — which requires a $100 deposit — to exceed 10,000 by the time the 2022 sales cycle begins.
Fans on the waiting list, Mossholder said, are treated “exactly like they’re a season-ticket member, with the exception of getting the ticket.” The group has an early window to purchase single-game seats before the general public, and they receive exclusive content and access to events, just as season-ticket holders do.
“We want to build that relationship now,” Mossholder said.