Kevin Griffin, the Vice President of Fan Experience & Marketing for the Cleveland Browns, was a guest on Browns Daily on Friday with Vic Carucci and Nathan Zegura. With the Browns releasing their training camp schedule for the 2014 season, Griffin elaborated on some of the things fans might expect this year. You can listen to the interview here, or read the transcription I did below:
Zegura: "Talk about the decision to move Family Day to Akron this year, and the excitement around camp in general."
Griffin: "As you two know, being in the building here all the time and being around Alec [Scheiner] and Jimmy [Haslam], we've made a commitment to really connect with our fans. Our fans are right here in Northeast Ohio, but they're also all around the state and all around the country. When we have the opportunity to take an event like Family Day off-campus, it's nice for us to be able to reach another audience that typically can't get in to our training camp or over to the stadium, so it's just nice to continue to spread the word and get the Browns out and about throughout the state of Ohio."
Carucci: "Let's talk about camp in general -- the schedule that is in place, and the anticipation that this is expected to be an extremely well-attended camp. There's greater interest in this team than we've seen in a long, long time. Talk about the team's preparation and handling of that."
Griffin: "I think I arrived here last year in May, and one of the things I noticed right away is that we weren't very good as an organization in what I call 'Digital 21st century organization.' We didn't capture data, which didn't allow us to communicate back with our fans and understand our fan base in a more broad way to give us a real good mosaic.
So one of the things that we talked about last year but weren't able to implement was a registration system for a large event. This year, we had enough run time to go through proper planning phase, find the right vendors and everyone else that could help us pull this off. We had been planning to have a registration process in place for our fans to make it a little more streamlined and deliver a better service. We will have that in place this year -- all fans have to register for training camp to get a free ticket to come to training camp.
That's going to be nice -- we did the same thing for our Draft Night Party and it went really well. It just allows us the opportunity to communicate directly with those fans who we know are registered for an event. Let me give you an example. Let's say there is a thunderstorm coming through and we know we are going to have to cancel practice. We have that information well in advance, and now we can pinpoint exactly who we need to let know, 'Don't come out here, practice is closed.' It makes it much more convenient for those fans who are going to travel here to Berea to watch the Browns."
Zegura: "What kind of numbers (of fans) are you expecting to attend training camp this year, and what kind of enhancements might we see to camp?"
Griffin: "Everything that we measure from a business standpoint is really beginning to rock and roll and take off. You guys know this, for example -- our digital numbers have exploded. The interest in the team is measured by how we're performing from a digital standpoint, merchandise that we're selling, tickets that we're selling. This weekend, we're traveling down with Barkevious Mingo and Hanford Dixon to Columbus to do a FanFest/Browns Backers event on Saturday the 21st. We're expecting over 300 guests.
Things are going well, it really feels good to finally have some momentum and the pendulum swinging in the right direction for us. With that also comes a responsibility to make sure that everything we do for our fans is top-notch, so we'll obviously continue to enhance our ingress at training camp and to the gameday. Fans will come in and it will be much more tunneled and funneled through. We'll have great food like we did last year. We enhanced our food service at training camp with gourmet food trucks -- we'll have that again.
I don't know if we'll have this yet, but we're working on a zip line for kids, which we think will be awesome. I wanted to do a huge waterslide, but there was no place to put all the water (laughs). So we're looking for a zip line, so our staff is working on that. It's just always thinking about our young fans and a family-friendly environment, and things that are unique that we've not done before. That's just a little bit into the mindset of what we're trying to do. I think fans that attended camp last year would tell you that it was a much-improved experience over camps of the past."
Carucci: "You only have a limited amount of space to work with in Berea, and I know you're trying to maximize that. As you move forward, are there ways that you think you can expand the experience -- does it mean you'd have to move camp to accommodate more people being there?"
Griffin: "As it relates to moving camp off-campus here, that's really a football conversation that Mike [Pettine] and Ray [Farmer] would have to lead for us, and if they are comfortable with it, then Alec and I and the rest of us will line up behind them and figure out the best way to support it. It has to start with those guys. I know Mike has mentioned it in the media before, so you can already imagine that we're doing some work to figure that out from a football standpoint as well as a business standpoint.
I'll give you an example of other things, though. Although the space is limited, one of the things that we're trying to do a better job of is making our players and alumni available. Last year, we didn't have any of our alumni out to sign autographs. We're working closely with Tony Dick and Kevin Mack to make sure that at as many practices as we can, we'll showcase and highlight some of those alumni that have meant so much to this team and this community, having them sign autographs. We've got players and will be pushing them out after practice to sign as many autographs as possible.
Nothing is promised, but we'll continue to push those players to interact with the fans, and I thought that one of the really nice things that Chud did last year was every other practice, he would figure out some way to engage the fans. You guys may remember, he pulled out two fans from the crowd last year and they got to kick a field goal at the end of practice, and if one of them made it, the offense didn't have meetings that night. If the other one made it, then the defense didn't have to make it. Those kind of opportunities are really fun -- and by the way, those fans happened to make the kick, and those are really cool moments.
We need to figure out ways to keep fans engaged. We've got community work going on -- Renee [Harvey] and Jenn [Tekancic] are doing a great job in that area, from our Back to School Drive for supplies and our blood drive. Training camp should be a festival, that's how we look at it. It should be a celebration of Cleveland Browns football, our players, our heritage, history, and all that we do. It's a collective effort that everyone is involved in, and we all get excited when we start seeing footballs flying around in the air."
Zegura: "A different start time for training camp this year, Mr. Griffin [in reference to mornings]?"
Griffin: "Yes -- that's a football operations decision, a coaching decision. I know morning time makes it difficult for you guys to get up early, you prima donnas (laughing), but I know you guys will be there. You might even talk about what you guys are going to do internally about these 'live look ins' that we started doing last year that we're really excited about."
You can follow Griffin on Twitter at @KevinGriffin425.