The brokerage arm of National City Corp. is hoping to turn football fans into mutual fund investors by expanding the banking company's marketing agreement with the Cleveland Browns.

NatCity Investments Inc. signed a three-year agreement to be the team's official investment firm. Last month's deal also makes the Armada Funds, the Cleveland banking company's proprietary fund family, the official mutual funds of the Browns.

"The Browns have such strong appeal, particularly in the northern Ohio area, that it gives us a way to distinguish ourselves" from competitors, said Michael A. Lindley, senior vice president and marketing communications manager for the $84 billion-asset banking company.

Mr. Lindley said the marketing is being done primarily in northern Ohio. This is the new Cleveland Browns' first season; a predecessor team moved to Baltimore.

The deal, which expands on an agreement that made National City the official bank of the Browns, shows how banking companies have been more aggressively pushing their mutual funds and brokerage units in recent years.

"Anything National City can do to increase its brand name recognition outside the bank" will probably have a positive effect, said Norman R. Lubin, the chief executive of FMS Group Inc., a consulting firm in Bluebell, Pa.

KeyCorp, which is National City's hometown rival, has been very active in promoting its retail brokerage and proprietary mutual funds, Mr. Lubin said.

The challenge, he said, will be whether "National City or any other bank comes up on the radar screen" when people or institutions are considering investments or mutual funds. There are 23 Armada Funds, with $11.8 billion of assets under management.

National City has arranged for Browns quarterback Tim Couch to be featured in advertising and signs, as well as make appearances. The marketing is a joint effort by the bank's marketing group and Doe-Anderson, a Louisville, Ky. advertising agency. National City declined to disclose the value of the agreement.

National City will also sponsor special events including a four-day football festival, a five-kilometer run to raise money for Cleveland Browns charities, and a community charity event.

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