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Off the court: Brooklyn sports merchandise company goes nationwide

Brooklyn Paper
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Score some memorable sports memorabilia in Brooklyn.

A local sports merchandise company has gone nationwide, working with more than 80 professional and collegiate sports teams to develop memorabilia for fans across the country. Flatlands-based Franklin Group makes bobbleheads, T-shirts, promotional material, and other sports gear for teams in every major sport, according to the company’s founder.

“We do a little bit of everything. In today’s world it’s all about fan engagement,” said Steve Zuller. “Sometimes we’ll make bobbleheads for teams, or do a poster, or do tee shirts. Whatever teams need.”

Zuller, a Brooklyn native, founded Franklin Group in 1980 as a general printing company before striking a multi-year promotional deal with the Brooklyn Nets.

“When we first started with the Nets, we were basically printing brochures. As time went on, we started doing more and more over the years,” said Zuller. “We grew with them. It was a Brooklyn company and a Brooklyn team and they were really committed to Brooklyn.”

The company used that deal to develop their business and grow further into the sports world, according to Zuller.

“We learned a lot from that experience, about how teams operate, what’s the most efficient way to help teams with fan engagement, and being an extension of their marketing teams,” he said. “So what we did was build out our infrastructure, in terms of marketing, business development, and really having a structure that worked, and taking that model to other teams.”

Over the last several years, the company has set up shop in various sports hubs across the country, opening offices in Miami, Las Vegas, and Las Angeles, but maintains strong roots in Brooklyn. The company headquarters —located at 1856 Flatbush Ave. — is just minutes from the company’s original home, where they still work on and printing and manufacturing, according to Zuller.

“We have remote office all over the country, but we’ve kept our corporate office in Brooklyn because we started in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s our home,” he said.

Franklin Group now employs approximately 40 Brooklynites across their various departments, after overcoming initial staffing challenges in the borough, reflected Zuller.

“A lot of the times, it was difficult to get the right employees here. But, that has gotten better as Brooklyn has developed more,” he said. “Now Brooklyn is a really good place to do business, there are friendly people, and employees are loyal.”

Now partnered with organizations around the country, Zuller said the company remains committed to their Kings County home.

“We’re proud to be a part of Brooklyn,” he said. “I just hope the Nets bring in some free agents next season.”

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577.
Updated 2:44 pm, April 8, 2019
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