Northern Exposure: How The CFL Utilizes The Web

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canada1.jpgADOTAS – The Canadian Football League sports a rich and storied tradition. Stars like Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Joe Theismann helped forged their legacy in the CFL. While the league currently consists of only eight teams, it boasts a strong following in Canada and offers fans a unique football brand that holds its own in the sports marketplace.

The internet offers the CFL a prime opportunity. Not only can it use the web to grow in Canada, but fans across the globe can log on to CFL.ca and engage the league. There are also opportunities for sponsorship and marketing which generate new revenues and help the CFL and its franchises remain financially competitive and viable.

Chris McCracken, the league’s vice-president of broadcasting and media assets recognizes the importance of the internet as a fan engagement and business tool. “It gives leagues and sports marketers the chance to constantly engage fans and consumers,” he says. “The web offers a 24-7 presence and really allows us to build a site as a branded destination. We can provide a focused and differentiated experience as it relates to football in Canada.”

McCracken also believes it serves as an educational and global dialogue medium. “It helps us provide more information to fans who, after watching a game, want to learn more,” he says. “It really helps extend our brand. In fact, we see traffic from areas as far away as Singapore and New Zealand. As a result, it helps us build relationships and continuously engage fans both in Canada and outside the country.” 
 
The CFL is taking full advantage of this opportunity, particularly in the area of video content. “We do a lot of statistics online, which provides fantasy and forum opportunities,” notes McCracken. “But, video really plays a role in bulking up our content. We do extensive packages here. It is what I like to call the afterlife of our broadcast properties.”

From press conferences to league draft coverage and game broadcasts, CFL.ca offers an exciting fan experience and an environment with advertising and marketing appeal. “We are able to create a broadband site where we stream games and offer network quality video online to our fans,” McCracken says.  “The key is to connect with fans while creating a sponsorable environment.  The internet gives us this asset and also gives sponsors a good way to reach our fan base.”          

The Canadian football market is bilingual in nature, catering to French and English speaking fans. Does this present a challenge for the league? Not according to McCracken. “Catering to such a market is just part of what we do as country,” he says. “It becomes part of our business plan. We address this accordingly when we formulate content delivery strategies.”  

One franchise acutely familiar with this issue is the Montreal Alouettes.  “About 65% of our market is French speaking,” says Louis-Philippe Dorais, the club’s assistant vice president of communications. “The other 35% speaks English. So we have to strike a balance and try to cater to both groups.”

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