Bo knows branding: Mitchell calls for individual player sponsorships to be allowed

Bo knows how players could take advantage of playing in the CFL for their own financial benefit.

The league currently has an exclusive jersey and apparel provider, New Era. The league’s agreement with the brand started for the 2019 season and runs until December 31, 2023.

“A big thing for me is we do a really good job as a league finding sponsorship for the league, but Simoni (Lawrence) could be a Jordan guy, I could be a Nike guy and Cody (Fajardo) could be an Adidas guy,” Mitchell said.

“That’s what I want to wear to be able to perform the way I want to perform, but we’re sponsored by one brand and we’re only allowed to wear that one brand. That’s a chance for us to make money outside of just what, you know, our team pays us.”

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

South of the border, Nike and the NFL have a deal for uniforms and sideline apparel. Individual players can seek sponsorship without being fined for wearing a different brand. For example, Aaron Rodgers is with Adidas, Tom Brady tied to Under Armour, Davante Adams wears the Jordan brand and Russell Wilson happens to be with Nike.

North of the border, CFL athletes aren’t currently able to go out and seek individual sponsorships. The top players in the league could be prime for companies wanting to have their brand represented in Canada. Not to mention the players could benefit in a variety of ways by creating and furthering their star power, including appealing to the younger demographic.

“I’m not in the business side. I’m not going to pretend to be in the business side of CFL and understand that side of it and what all goes into it. But as far as individual sponsorship, I think we should be able to represent certain brands and be able to capitalize off that,” Mitchell said.

“Why can’t I, like in the NFL, go get paid $10,000 grand by Nike to wear their cleats. Or I’m a quarterback who throws with a glove on, that’s a marketing opportunity for myself right there to be able to wear the glove of a certain brand.”

That ability should be allowed for players, especially if the league entertains or puts in a quarterback salary cap. The highest-paid QB in the league is Mike Reilly at $725,000 per year and Mitchell is second, averaging $700,000. Every other signal caller in the league checks in at less than $600,000.

“I think our value is very well stated when it comes to a football team and a passing league, but that’s not to say that we’re not ever overvalued. Mine and Mike’s agent did a very, very good job of getting us a number that we were both very happy with,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s hypothetical quarterback salary cap number was either $450,000 or $500,000. Even though the two-time Most Outstanding Player can see how it might make sense, the idea certainly has imperfections. Cody Fajardo is an ideal case study.

He made approximately $150,000 in 2019 while rising to franchise status in Saskatchewan. If the cap existed, Fajardo and others in the future would be well within their right to ask for the maximum amount on their next contract.

“There’s not really anything that’s going to divide anybody from a ten-year starter to a two-year starter because everybody’s going to ask for that top number,” Mitchell said.

“You can only make a certain amount of money for so long, and I’d love to make as much as I possibly can. Any individual who is getting paid for services would say that.”

Mitchell is on board to do what’s best for the league as whole, but either way the CFL needs to allow players the opportunity of branding themselves. It could add to the appeal of the league overall.

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