With things (finally) going well, Ticats target a younger audience

In the midst of what Hamilton Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell calls a period of “great stability” within the organization, there is still one more challenge for the team — and the league — to conquer: changing the demographics of the fan base.

The Ticats held their annual season-preview conference call Wednesday, and Mitchell painted a rosy picture of the team’s fan support. They expect to continue their string of sellouts, currently at 27, through the 2017 season. Corporate sponsorships around Tim Hortons Field are also completely sold out.

But the CFL has traditionally struggled in attracting younger fans. A 2015 study from the University of Lethbridge found that the league’s top demographic was men 55 and over, with 47 per cent of respondents saying they followed the league. That dropped to 39 per cent for males those between the ages of 35 and 54, and to 26 per cent for those at 18 to 34.

However, the team and the CFL has made a strong push to attract a younger audience over the past couple of years, and Mitchell says that’s starting to pay dividends.

“We’re very excited in the trends we’re seeing in new season seat holders and our renewals of our first- and second-year season seat holders,” he said. “It’s allowed us to change the demographics within our fan base, combining that younger demographic with our hardcore fans.”

According to Matt Afinec, the executive vice-president business operations, the team has added a number of new season ticket holders since moving into Tim Hortons Field mid-way through 2014. Many of those are young families and millennials attracted to affordable season ticket packages and “out of seat” viewing areas like end zones and concourses, as well as the branded spaces like Coors Light Patio and the Pioneer Energy Zone.

“Keeping this segment engaged in the brand via purchasing season seats is crucial to our business,” Afinec said, adding, “the premium inventory at Tim Hortons Field such as the club level and suites has been a transformational part of our business.”

After struggling financially for years, Mitchell says the Ticats have achieved economic stability since moving into the new facility. While the stadium is still mired in legal disputes that are preventing the team from hosting a Grey Cup — Mitchell had little to offer by way of an update on that front — Mitchell said the focus is now clearly on the on-field product.

“We’ve accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish.” he said. “With the sole exception of winning a Grey Cup.”

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.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1168 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.

16 Comments on With things (finally) going well, Ticats target a younger audience

  1. mrnehnehincognito // May 3, 2017 at 8:50 pm //

    Great organization! With their and Ottawa’s string of sell outs perhaps these teams are the true keystone of the CFL

  2. Haven’t had the fortune of experiencing a game at THF yet, but look forward to, this 2017 season. With all the F/A signings, and players changing teams, it looks like a great season ahead. Hard to predict the outcome, of the upcoming season. Last season was dreadful for Ti-Cats with All the injuries they succumbed. Long as we (Ti-Cats fans, young & old) come and support the team faithfully, I for one look forward to 2017!.

  3. Solara2000 // May 3, 2017 at 10:32 pm //

    Good news for the fans, the league, the players and executives, TSN, the sponsors with special thanks to the Caretaker.

  4. Jimmy Breslin // May 3, 2017 at 10:40 pm //

    Drew all they need to do is call Jeff Hunt in Ottawa and ask him how they did it. The REDBLACKS completely flipped their demographic profile, TD Place is brimming with younger fans so much so that it’s become the cool place to be on any given football night. Come to think of it the Argos might want to dial up that same number…and fast !!

  5. The 18-34 crowd is too busy playing video games to venture outdoors.

    • Anthony // May 4, 2017 at 7:15 am //

      jimmy is right. Ottawa definitely is a young persons team. That whole complex with bars and restaurants around the area goes a long way as well to attracting younger people.

  6. They say this, yet they’re shrinking the opportunity for children to become fans: they’ve eliminated one of the two “family” sections this year.

  7. Lindsay Wilcox // May 4, 2017 at 1:11 am //

    I had been a season-ticket holder for 45 years, but this year am giving them up – why ? Between cost of tickets, refreshments, and souvenirs my wife and I, and the couple we go with, have spent $2,000 EACH per year, each of the last few years, but in spite of being loyal supporters…
    Inadequate response to issues re long-time season ticket holders, inadequate parking facilities for us, generally being treated as though it would be better if we shuffled off this mortal coil and passed our season seats to the younger crowd.
    We have been season ticket holders through the good and bad years, has nothing to do with team, on or off the field, but… We have contacted the administrative end folks repeatedly by email AND phone re our issues only to get either no response, or condescending response by a young “representative”.

    • Philski // May 4, 2017 at 2:33 am //

      45 years put’s you back to about 1972…the good old days…when a “fin” at Ivor Wynne could buy you a hot dog, fries and a litre of Pepsi. And a program…for a buck…an actual CFL football magazine usually featuring the visiting team and containing an actual roster, articles, advertisements, coupons and the “lucky number” for prizes. When I finally was able to get to TH’s Field a couple of summer’s ago I asked one of the “representatives” where I could buy a program she looked at me like I just came from Mars. Didn’t have a clue. And the cold hot dog I bought which I threw half away – that crap is not even close to a “Shopsy”!

  8. Joe King // May 4, 2017 at 8:14 am //

    We’re slipping badly and we don’t know it. 🙁

  9. Joe King // May 4, 2017 at 8:21 am //

    I’m one of the silly old fart’s that went to all those game’s rain or shine. Now they want somebody younger.

  10. Never going to win a Grey Cup if the players can’t a way to stay healthy! Here’s hoping 2017 version gets etched.

  11. Long in the Tooth // May 4, 2017 at 9:14 am //

    The younger demographic is the only way the team and the league as a whole are going to survive, we the boomers are getting older, and we in fact started out as ‘young’ fans once upon a time, when the league was a vibrant entity! I love what they have done in Ottawa, the stadium is beautiful, and best of all it has location, location, location!!! The bar/restaurant scene along Banks is amazing and packed prior to and after games. So I have to dig up old skeletons again, why the hell did they ever build on the same old site that was once deemed by the Cats as “a terrible location for a stadium”! Along the waterfront would have been ideal for access and for potential bars and restaurants and a nightlife! That is what would help to bring out the ‘young’ fans! That and of course a Grey Cup team back in the Hammer!

  12. Lindsay Wilcox // May 4, 2017 at 5:57 pm //

    I have been a Ticats fan since their first GC win way back early ’50s. The atmosphere/ambience at THF is much different from that at IWS. West Harbour site was deemed by Hamilton “Set Sail” or whatever it was called back in 2008 as unsuitable for the Commonwealth Games because of parking, etc., issues. It was only brought up by the then mayor/councilors a few years ago as a way to get a free stadium from Panam Group without Hamilton taxpayers kicking in a single $$$. Then when Panam group said stadium MUST meet CFL standards and host a legacy team and Hamilton taxpayers would have to pay for it >>>> that’s when the poop hit the fan re Ticats stadium site, and why we, AND the Ticats, kept getting jerked around by that city council. And why we ended up with a sub-standard stadium in a sub-standard site, and the team had to practice at Mac U and play in Guelph. By the way, any construction in West Harbour would have run into problems because of the gross environmental contamination of soil, water by industrial chemicals, like the barrels they keep finding down there.

    • Philski // May 5, 2017 at 1:08 am //

      Confederation Park would have been a good choice as well…then again I harken back years ago when Pal Hal wanted to build a stadium/sports complex near Limeridge, state of the art it would be at the time, but the city fathers would not endorse it. They were fools then…some things never change.

  13. Jungle Jim // May 6, 2017 at 10:37 am //

    While their getting younger this old fart is going to start watching games on his new 60″ TV away from the snow and rain like I have for many years.

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