The ALSternative — Improving The Fan Experience For 2015

S.J. Green

Bienvenue/Welcome to 3DownNation, the new home of The ALSternative! If you’re looking for a true fan’s perspective on the Montreal Alouettes, you’ve come to the right place!

So what does it mean to be a fan of the Montreal Alouettes football club? I guess it all depends on what you personally are willing to invest as a fan, both emotionally and financially. There are several members of Alouettes Nation, but they are very much a minority. Since this team’s last Grey Cup win in 2010, there’s been a significant drop-off in fan loyalty.

The same team that had hundreds of thousands lining the streets of Montreal for its last Grey Cup parade now struggle to find its fanbase in a sea of bleu-blanc-rouge love from the Canadiens and their faithful. This city lost its baseball team a decade ago due to “no loyalty” but somehow those same citizens managed to flood the festering eyesore that is Olympic Stadium for two meaningless baseball games in the spring.

So much in love with sports is the city of Montreal that the lowly Impact, who finished dead last in the Major League Soccer standings last season, still managed to convince people to fill the Big O for a soccer championship match that WASN’T a World Cup game. There’s certainly no shortage of fandom for sports in La Belle Province. So why doesn’t it seem like there’s any love for a team that has NEVER missed the playoffs, been to 8 Grey Cup games and brought home 3 championships?

I think a better but fair question to be asked of Alouettes management is; What exactly have you done to encourage them?

Have you provided a winning team? For the most part, yes. There’s been some lulls and last season’s start was certainly forgettable to say the least. It’s very easy to cheer for a winning team and more often than not, the Alouettes have provided a team that everyone can get behind. But have you provided that unbelievable fan experience? Coming at this strictly from a fan’s perspective (I am and always will look at things from a fan’s viewpoint), I’d have to answer with a resounding NO.

The only fans who truly matter to the Alouettes organization are the ones who are season-ticket holders. Most of the great experiences that fans of this team have are as a result of their willingness to plunk down their hard-earned money for every single game at Percival Molson Stadium. But if you’re a tried and true fan, who for whatever reason can’t make the full-time commitment to the team with your wallet, then there’s nothing for you.

I’m friendly with fans of every single CFL franchise, which allows me to hear of special events and promotions that other clubs do for their fans, whether or not they are season ticket holders. There’s a lot of things in common with how each club operates and several differences. Certainly some perks may not be doable for other franchises and I get that. However, there’s a lot that can be applied to this Alouettes franchise that would lend itself to this fan base and generate a lot more participation.

And let’s be honest, happy fans are paying fans. Since this team craves season ticket holders so badly maybe these gestures, done correctly, will convince these fence-sitting fans to make the leap into full-time season ticket holders. So here are my suggestions to improve the fan experience for the Montreal Alouettes:

1. ALL FANS MATTER: There’s nothing more frustrating as a fan to see any sort of exclusion from special events. And then, to see said event poorly attended as a result. The STHs should have ONE special event just for them, as a thank-you for their loyalty and support. But keep that to a players-only meet and greet before the season starts, not the postseason locker room sale. Every single fan should matter! If a fan wants to buy Josh Bourke’s game-worn socks, they shouldn’t be excluded from the “priviledge” because they didn’t commit financially to the whole season.

2. OPEN IT UP: I love that training camp is held in Lennoxville. I’ll make that trek every year. But not every fan will. Day One of training camp should be held at Percival Molson Stadium and should feel like a fan festival. With doors wide open, invite everyone over and let the entire city of Montreal take in a great event. Sell merchandise, have food trucks come in to feed the fans and then let casual fans be reminded of how much fun this great sport is. Then move camp back to Lennoxville for the remainder of preseason to keep distractions to a minimum.

3. NO MORE PRESEASON GAMES DURING THE WEEK: Thursday nights in June are meant for sitting on the patio on Crescent Street with cold beverages, not shelling out $100+ to watch a game that has no meaning other than talent evaluation. You really want to pack the stadium? Like when selling your home, make it an open house on the weekend.

Make it Saturday afternoon, $25 no matter what seat, first come first served. EVERY pre-season game in the CFL should be that way. Even STHs usually don’t attend these games and making them pay full price for this game is a travesty. Open it up to casual fans, let them experience the Alouettes first hand and if they like it, that’s when to offer them an attractive option for becoming a STH.

4. SEASON TIX MUST INCLUDE PLAYOFFS: How embarrassing was it to see a half-filled Percival Molson Stadium for the Alouettes’ lone playoff game of 2014? It may have been the weather, but I doubt it. Regardless, if the Alouettes are going to take a bath on any game, I think they’d rather it be the pre-season game as opposed to the game that matters most at that pivotal moment of the season. While making the playoffs is no guarantee for any team, the Alouettes HAVE made the playoffs every year since returning in 1996 so I think you can safely include a playoff game in this particular scenario.

5. ENCOURAGE ROAD TRIPS: It shouldn’t be difficult for Montreal fans to represent themselves in the opposing team’s building. The Alouettes should make clear a section of each opposing stadium where their fans can buy tickets and sit amongst their fellow fans. The San Francisco 49ers started an Invasion movement where their fans “invaded” enemy territory and showed off their pride in the team, even being encouraged to buy special t-shirts to commemorate each road game. The Alouettes can easily do something like this for all their fans in each CFL city.

6. DO BETTER AT PROMOTING IN-HOUSE: For any number of reasons, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of promotion for things like road game viewing parties, contests and other events that fans can be a part of. When it gets mentioned on the Alouettes web site, it almost seems like an after-thought. As though you can attend if you want, but it’s no big deal. Well, MAKE IT A BIG DEAL!

The Montreal Canadiens do a terrific job encouraging fans from all over the world. In fact, I’ve never once seen ANYTHING special done solely for their STHs. Take a cue from the Habs as far as getting all people excited about upcoming games, road events and so much more. A great way to start is by having a fan club for everyone; affordable, no age limit, no exclusions.

7. EXPAND MORE OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERIENCE: Everyone and their mother has a smartphone nowadays. This team did a good job with interacting with fans via Twitter during matches and that has to continue with in-game promotions, interactive contests and so much more. With Telus being a main sponsor for the Alouettes, maybe they can look into providing free wi-fi for fans in attendance during games to encourage the interactive nature of posting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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My aim here is not to be critical of my favourite sports franchise. But rather, I want this organization to be the envy of every team’s. For years, General Manager Jim Popp has built a winner on the field year in and year out. I truly believe that the Alouettes can and should be just as popular with fans as the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

But as long as management continues to focus solely on their dwindling base of season ticket holders instead of looking at the bigger picture, this will always feel like the lesser sports franchise in Quebec. A team with as much success as the Montreal Alouettes deserves much better than that.

Got anymore thoughts/suggestions on how to improve the fan experience, whether you are an Alouettes fan or of another team? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s discuss it.

Until next time, GO ALS GO!!!

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