CFL brings together stars – and rivals – for big promo push

On Tuesday night, Ticats kick returner Brandon Banks ate dinner with men who, under normal circumstances, would be trying to knock his head off clean off his slender shoulders.

To his left was B.C. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian. On his right, Saskatchewan defensive end Shawn Lemon. Former teammate and now Toronto Argonaut Bryan Hall was a couple of seats away, talking constantly.

“I was sitting at the table thinking, ‘in a couple of months these guys are going to be trying to kill me,’” Banks laughed. “But it’s been a lot of fun getting to know guys.”

Banks was one of 50 players from all nine teams who were brought to Toronto over the past two days for series of photo shoots and promotional activities designed to help boost the CFL’s profile – and that of its stars. In past seasons, TSN and league promos were filmed during training camp with a limited number of players and resources.

Not this time around. Receiver Luke Tasker, another of the seven Ticats in attendance (Simoni Lawrence, Ted Laurent, Zach Collaros, C.J. Gable and Chad Owens were the others) said the set up was vastly different from his previous three seasons with the club and included a session on a Mississauga sound stage featuring state-of-the-art cameras.

“We’re getting the big time treatment,” Tasker said. “It does feel different, especially when compared to the shoots we’ve done in the past. It seems like it’s at a higher level.”

The players were flown in from across North America, put up in a downtown hotel and given a stipend of around $1,000 for their time. There was a lounge with an impressive food spread and each player received a bag full of hats, shirts and other clothing items. The cost was shared by the league, broadcaster TSN and new apparel sponsor Adidas, who will unveil new uniforms next month.

Banks modelled the new look for his photo shoot – which included a body-mounted 360 degree camera – but was then sworn to secrecy. He was able to provide a quick review, however.

“I love them, I really do. It’s a different look and they got a little bit more swagger to it,” he said

“It’s not crazy but you can tell that changes have been made.

“Feel good, play good. I can’t wait to show everybody.”

The investment by league and its partners comes at a critical time. While attendance remains strong, television rating for broadcaster TSN have declined the past two seasons. A recent survey of Canadian sports found that interest in the CFL remained high – behind hockey, on par with baseball and well ahead of the NBA and MLS – but that its support was weakest in the critical 18-to-34 age bracket.

The league and its teams have invested heavily in social media and web content – Collaros took over the league’s Twitter account for a question and answer session with fans on Tuesday – and is hoping to leverage this week’s sessions to a significant amount of quality – and innovative – content.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed by players, who are more than willing to do their part, says Tasker.

“You get a sense that the league is going in the right direction, that it’s getting bigger and stronger,” he said.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1485 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

10 Comments on CFL brings together stars – and rivals – for big promo push

  1. Great – can’t wait to see the new-look duds.

  2. Billinburlington // April 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm //

    I too can’t wait to see the new look. A positive article -glad the league and TSN seriously concerned with boosting interest in the important 18 to 34 age bracket. Also positive that they have ramped up their approach to developing promo material… Very progressive. Seems the players had fun too! Season is around the corner!

  3. When the league starts to cater to the 18-34 age group l hope they do it in an intelligent manner, otherwise they just might insult the old fans. P.S. I’m 58 and my son is10 are season ticket holders.

    • I do too. Though I doubt the more savvy people running the league, its teams, and its major network would allow the marketing and engagement push to alienate any strong fan demographic group. Winning over new customers always requires more effort and resources, but never at the expense of losing the current ones.

      I’d hope that promotion continues all season long too. TSN should continue to film the players during camp, and during the season. New promos are fantastic but it’s important to continue keeping the chatter going continuously with fresh stuff (especially in the social media world)

      Seeing Owens in Ticat duds is still going to be weird no matter how “different” the look is and how much “swagger” it has. But it should be a good intro for him, and I think he’ll fit the colours just fine.

  4. I’m 38 and a current season seat holder in hamilton my take on it is the league undoubtedly respects the older generation and is trying to revamp a few things to attract the younger crowd . I’m all for it need that next generation of fans to climb on board. Looking forward to seeing the new jerseys

  5. When in Rome, do like the Romans! A client mentioned that if we don’t communicate with and in the same manner as the younger generation, they will not be interested in us. Even a 28 year old just told me she is happy to be getting ‘millenniuals’ as a part of her client base, along with the older ones.
    If the CFL did not follow this thinking, they may not be a league for us ol’timers. So lets imbrace and not feel insulted! The future depends on it!

  6. Werner Anders // April 21, 2016 at 7:52 pm //

    If they truly want to reach the younger generation then they need to make the games available online without a cable subscription, just like Rogers did with their recent release of a Sports betting app available to everyone. C’mon Bell and Tsn, get with it. Cfl should be pushing Tsn to do this now.

  7. Werner Anders // April 21, 2016 at 7:54 pm //

    That should of said “Sportsnet” app.

  8. Sadly, unless they are world shattering I won’t be buying one because of that ugly needless Grey Blob of a logo. If they are world shattering, I’ll have to investigated taking the only logo and sewing it into the collar.

  9. I think we need better video, mainly decent slow motion replays. Trying to decipher those jerky pictures we get compaired to the NFL replays-well, there is no comparison! C’mon TSN! Good slow mo has been around for years!

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