It’s been almost a month since the CFL and XFL jointly announced they were in talks about a potential partnership or merger.
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s only statement has been that the two leagues are “talking about talking.” There’s clearly much more to it than that, although the online discourse has been heavy on speculation, with way more maybes, ifs, and potentials, than hard, factual reporting.
One of the things that has come up repeatedly is that a merger with the XFL makes sense because The Rock is now a part of the XFL’s ownership group. Some online have argued that his star power, massive social media following and proven history of money-making endeavours are exactly what the CFL needs.
I’m not convinced a big-name celebrity with millions of online followers is what’s going to put the CFL on stable ground in a post-pandemic world. However, if you are inclined to believe that, you know who else has those things and already works for a CFL owner? Drake.
I’m sure some of you reading are scoffing and rolling your eyes, but hear me out. I’m not suggesting Drake become an owner or put his own money in the CFL, but if you stop and think about it — if the league is looking to make inroads with a younger demographic — Drake brings the same things to the table as The Rock and has the added benefit of being Canadian.
Star power? Check. Tens of millions of followers? Check. Multiple successful business ventures? Check.
It’s come to light that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — owners of the Argos — are one of the main forces pushing for an XFL merger because they are discontent with the Boatmen losing money. That’s a bit ironic considering MLSE has yet to really sink any significant marketing dollars into the oldest pro sports franchise in North America.
MLSE’s hype machine is like no other, as any of the recent Leafs, Raptors, or Toronto FC marketing campaigns demonstrate. Yet since buying the Argos in January 2018, MLSE has never thrown the same kind of effort into building the Argo brand as they have for the other sports franchises they own.
Case in point, just last week MLSE launched a digital arena for the Leafs and Raptors while mentioning it was coming for TFC, but failed to include the Argos. Why?
With that in mind — and given that Drake is already a global brand ambassador for the Raptors, an MLSE property — would it really be so difficult to get him involved with the Argos? After all, if the league is chasing younger folks and online engagement, Drake is the perfect man for the job, especially since he doesn’t carry the risk of alienating half the league’s existing fan base.
So what would leveraging Drake look like? The possibilities are endless.
On the low end, it could mean something like having a piece of Argos merch (jersey, hat, t-shirt) in a music video. It could be getting Drake to write a line referencing the Argos in a song. It could be as simple as an Instagram story of him watching an Argos game at home being put out to his 66.5 million followers.
On the higher end, it could be having him physically present at a game. It could be letting him design a third jersey, like he’s already done with the Raptors. Maybe it’s having OVO’s clothing line incorporate the Argo logo in a few pieces. Perhaps it’s an OVO sponsor patch on Toronto’s jersey. Possibly it’s a Grey Cup half-time show.
Any of the above mentioned suggestions are things that would be relatively easy for MLSE to ask of Drake or pay him to do. Given that he’s repeatedly proven how proud he is of his Toronto heritage, he probably doesn’t say no, especially to some of the easier asks.
Having Drake involved with the CFL or Argos in any form suddenly changes perceptions and likely generates tons of interest from his fan base. The fact of the matter is if Drake seems interested in something, there’s a strong chance many of his fans at least check it out.
Using Drake to try and engage that coveted younger demographic is a made-in-Canada solution that doesn’t comprise the unique traditions of the CFL. If you’ve been shaking your head as you read this piece, thinking how ridiculous this sounds, just ask yourself, does it sound any worse or less plausible than what The Rock can do?
The current CFL owners owe it to fans to explore every possible alternative to a merger with the XFL before going down that road.