With upstart spring leagues like the USFL and XFL proving to be more than one-and-done endeavours, the Canadian Football League is facing more competitors than ever before.
However, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie believes all his league needs to remain successful is a little more confidence in their advertising.
“I believe we’re the funnest, fastest, most entertaining brand of gridiron football in the world and one of the things that we need to do is we need some swagger,” Ambrosie said in an appearance on 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton this week.
“We need to see and understand that what we’ve got here is special and we need to promote it that way.”
Fans have long criticized the CFL for its lack of marketing but Ambrosie’s tenure as commissioner in particular has been a lightning rod. The former offensive lineman entered his role in 2017 with big promises about revenue growth but has yet to deliver meaningful returns with his Global initiative or successfully secure expansion to the Maritimes.
In the meantime, the league’s public image took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic when a cancelled season was punctuated by a number of snafus by the commissioner. Merger discussions with the XFL and a focus on evaluating all aspects of the game, including Canadian football fundamentals like three downs, seemed to undermine the league’s confidence in itself.
In the end, the CFL made only minor tweaks to their rulebook ahead of the 2022 season and Ambrosie believes those changes were important to creating a marketable product going forward.
“I think we saw some real positive signs from those rule changes that they’ll enhance the game. Less two-and-outs, more long drives, more big plays, that wide-side receiver now is a much bigger part of the game,” the commissioner explained. “We’ve got work to do, but we have a great product.”
After two unsettling years for fans with little to show in return, the CFL has finally begun making progress on promoting the game in a modern way. Their partnership with data and technology firm Genius Sports is now producing fruit after being called revolutionary a year ago, though like the new LiveStats system, there will be bugs to sort out.
South of the border, the league has a new television partner for half of its schedule in CBS Sports Network and increased their broadcast revenue. To compliment it, they’ve launched a free streaming service and earned a rousing ovation for finally entering the 21st century.
According to the commissioner, all that has been done in an effort to become more competitive throughout North America and properly present the league’s unique brand.
“We can all access entertainment in so many different ways, we can access entertainment from all around the world at our fingertips. That means we need to be competitive. I think one of the conversations we’ve been having and it’s certainly not finished, but one of the constant conversations is about what are our biggest strengths and how do we play those strengths in the marketplace,” Ambrosie said.
“The three words that keep coming up is fun, fast and entertaining. Those are three qualities that our game has in abundance and that I think we can go head-to-head with virtually any product in the world. We can promote fun, fast and entertaining as three reasons why a fan would watch us.”
Those three buzzwords are not new to Ambrosie’s arsenal, but the league’s marketing approach finally appears to be changing to match them. After having its confidence shaken, the CFL may soon have its swagger back.