Why are fans reacting so strongly to the Cleveland Browns and their newly revamped logos? Perhaps it's because the Browns of recent vintage have been all hype, no playoffs. 

Fact: The Browns have not earned a trip to the NFL postseason since 2002. They have not won a playoff game since 1994. That lesson in recent football history is painful enough for Browns fans. But what makes it galling is that the Browns appear to be spending time and energy on marketing endeavors, when the team's on-field performance in recent years is nothing to brag about.

No one begrudges any company's right--really, its mandate--to market itself, to gain visibility for its brand and logos. Nor is anyone saying a company can't simultaneously market itself and attain in-the-trenches results (in this case, winning games). Still, it's just common sense--especially in sports--not to run your mouth unless you can back it up with performance.

On some level, the Browns seem to know this. Prior to last season, head coach Mike Pettine declined the chance for the Browns to be the NFL's featured team on the high-profile HBO TV series Hard Knocks. As Tom Reed points out on Cleveland.com, HBO wanted the Browns very badly after the team had selected celebrity quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft.

But Pettine preferred to get through his first year as a coach without the additional management challenge of handling HBO's ubiquitous cameras. "Let's just get through our first year and see how it goes," he said at the time.

It was common sense. Get your house in order before you invite the nation for a televised look. 

But here's what's happened since then:

  • The Browns lost their final five games, to finish 7-9, and missed the playoffs yet again. 
  • Both Manziel and the team's other first-round pick, cornerback Justin Gilbert, had disappointing seasons on the field and myriad issues off of it. 

So you can imagine how Browns fans felt when, earlier this week, they learned the team's revamped logos were a whole two years in the making. It wasn't that they disliked the logos, which were subtly changed in font and color from the old ones. What they disliked was how the team hyped the new logos. As NFL columnist Frank Schwab points out on Yahoo:

First of all, I like the Cleveland Browns' helmets and I'm glad they didn't do a massive overhaul just because they felt they needed to.

Though, announcing it as a "new" helmet is kind of overselling.

It's the same. The orange color is a little brighter.

I mean, maybe that looks a ton different on our television sets in the fall. But on a screen, it just looks like someone spilled a little more paint (the new Dawg Pound logo is pretty good though). The new color is billed as "brighter and richer and matches the passion or our fans and city." Sure. The brown face mask is new, and a nice touch. They also changed the font on the wordmark, which I hadn't noticed before and won't notice moving forward.

Schwab's opinion mirrors many fan opinions you'll find in the comment sections of stories about the logos. On the whole, fans don't mind the changes. What they mind is how much attention the team is drawing to subtle changes that were two years in the making.

The Browns marketing department--let's give it credit--is superb at seizing opportunities. Not long ago, for example, the Browns were featured prominently in a Kevin Costner film called Draft Day (released in April 2013), in which Costner played the general manager of a fictitious Browns team. That's a whole lot of free exposure for (now outdated) Browns logos.

In addition, the Browns marketing department deserves credit for bringing all this media attention to the team's new logos. The story has dominated sports sections since it was announced on Tuesday. ESPN.com's article, to cite just one example, has garnered 15,000 Facebook shares and 823 comments in about one day. That's a win for the Browns marketing department.

But it's time for the Browns to start winning on the field. Until they do, the team will keep disappointing its fans, no matter how much exposure they gain through their skillful marketing efforts. 

Published on: Feb 25, 2015