SBC Messenger: CFL League-Wide Jersey Patch

Recently, the CFL opened up bidding for their league-wide jersey sponsorship. Adam and Jeff connected on Facebook Messenger to discuss the league’s strategy, and speculated about the patch’s value and who some of the potential suitors may be. Here’s what they had to say:


Adam Puddicombe

Jeff, recently the CFL opened up bidding for their league-wide jersey patch. Do you see this as more of a gimmick? Are businesses going to apply for this real estate or are the CFL going to have to sell this to somebody?


Jeff LushJeff Lush

I was a little bit surprised by the move to introduce it to the marketplace like that. It is certainly a gimmick to me. Something like that you want to negotiate and really get a key partner with. The inventory has such potential for a sponsor and for the league. That should be a dialogue and try to maximize use for both parties. Otherwise, sure just auction it off and see what you get. However, maybe I’m out of touch with the value of CFL’s inventory nationwide being out west.


Adam Puddicombe

Yeah for the Raptors we talked about their jersey sponsorship as being as gateway to get some new sponsors in the door. I think it’s different for the CFL. I see the jersey sponsorship as being part of selling a bigger sponsor. The CFL could benefit from a big player joining the fold vs. the Raptors already have that luxury. I think the value is there. Most games are televised nationally on TSN. Do you think this is comparable to a Raps jersey sponsorship for a Canadian brand?


Jeff LushJeff Lush

They have a car, telco, a bank, they have a lot of the blue chip space covered though. I think it’s more valuable in Canada. The viewership of these games would be higher than the Raptors and the high end (Grey Cup East/West Final) would beat the Raptors in almost any year. I think that this is great inventory. Also, the Raptors can suck with one injury, but a league is always good.


Adam Puddicombe

I agree. The only thing lacking is star power. Lowry, DeRozan, Ibaka bring more clout than say a Bo Levi Mitchell. But you’re right, a league is more insulated to wins and losses than a team. If the Raps go into full on rebuild half way through a jersey sponsorship agreement, you’re toast. Whereas, a league is more of a zero sum game.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

True, being associated with an NBA player would mean more than most if not all CFL players.


Adam Puddicombe

Yeah but, love it or hate it, the CFL is a great Canadian property. It’s about the teams vs. the players. And sorry I’m a bit in the dark when it comes to CFL’s major sponsors. I just feel like leveraging that space to land the best known sponsors you can makes sense for them.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

It’s the B list of the blue chip. Nissan, Shaw, MNBA. It isn’t “Ford” or “Rogers”, but they still have the major categories covered.


Adam Puddicombe

Yeah maybe you package the jersey with something else. Use it as a piece vs a standalone. Whereas I thought it made sense for the Raps to sell it as a standalone.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

But yes, gotta get CP off the jersey. Get Westjet, Samsung, Amazon, Google, TD, or something on there.


Adam Puddicombe

Exactly, CP, while a great Canadian brand, speaks B list to me. The league could benefit from an A lister.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Yes, very much so. WestJet makes a ton of sense to me.


Adam Puddicombe

Yes, big in the west. I feel like this space is undervalued. Maybe that’s the CFL’s play with the call for submissions. Get the word out there. If one company fills out the form, then great. But I would imagine it’s full court press inside their league offices to get this in front of every major Canadian player that they can.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Yes, you have to assume this is the going concern. Especially because it’s so public.


Adam Puddicombe

It’s public. And premium. If you can’t sell this, then I’m a bit worried in terms on how sponsors view the league.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Yes, unless you want to get maximum value and you’re willing to leave it empty for a bit. Or if the individual teams want to sell it at the team level instead.


Adam Puddicombe

That could be an interesting play. Have a “Sponsor Me” message for X number of games. Show how many impressions it gets.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

“This ad works.”


Adam Puddicombe

Social media. TV. Photos. Just really giv’er. I personally love the jersey patch. It’s non-intrusive but great exposure on every medium outside of radio.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

I love it. It’s great, and as we’ve seen in soccer it’s a great time capsule. I still laugh at some of the old English sponsors.


Adam Puddicombe

Each team also have a team jersey sponsor.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Look at that, so they do.


Adam Puddicombe

I don’t think every team has sold it. But Tim Hortons and Telus are among the players.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Belairdirect in Edmonton.


Adam Puddicombe

So one of those brands could really doubledown. Go league-wide.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Interesting.


Adam Puddicombe

League exec Tyler Mazereeuw also mentioned being open to a non-Canadian brand.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

I agree with you though, amazing value. Interesting. I wonder what brands that are not Canadian would be interested.


Adam Puddicombe

Agree. I’m trying to think.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Expedia? Google? Amazon? Sony? Samsung? Each of those makes sense but yet seems too blue chip. Microsoft is interesting on a few levels.


Adam Puddicombe

Yeah those are interesting. I just don’t know if they care about the Canadian market enough to go CFL. I’m trying to compare this to the Raptors in my head.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

I feel like Google could use it for Google Play music or something. As for Amazon, they’re just so big and into everything.


Adam Puddicombe

More games. But regionalized games. You have the Grey Cup which is a guaranteed big draw in Canada. But if you get the Raps playing say the Cavs in the playoffs then that’s big numbers and over the course of a series. Yeah if Amazon 2nd HQ comes to Canada then that’s very interesting.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Is it actually though? Haven’t the Raptors only cracked a million viewers a few times, whereas the CFL does that a few times a season?


Adam Puddicombe

I know they got up to 1.5 million in 2016. Playoffs are key. Over a 7 game series it’ll win out.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Yeah, that was the most watched game ever. Whereas CFL in regular season just casually gets 450,000 per game for 2-3 games. Every week.


Adam Puddicombe

The CFL does routinely draw half a million. More games too.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Then the Grey Cup and the playoffs get stupid. Either way, I feel like if you’re an American based company you’re like “Yes, the Raptors” whereas the CFL is like sponsoring a bake sale. Even though it’s the biggest bake sale in the country. It just doesn’t seem as sexy. Perhaps we look to Curling? Pintys? Tim Hortons? Scott?


Adam Puddicombe

Yeah you’re right and the Grey Cup is off the charts. Peaked at 5.7 million last year which blows the Raps out of the water. And it’s guaranteed give or a take a few hundred thousand whereas the Raps it’s a total roll of the dice. I think an American sponsor would have to be well versed in the Canadian sports landscape to jump on this.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Completely agree.


Adam Puddicombe

It is the profile. And I think a lot of national sponsors are Toronto centric which bodes well for NBA vs. CFL. A weak CFL market.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Agreed. NBA just seems sexier.


Adam Puddicombe

The CFL is a unique audience also. I think it lines up more closely with hockey which is beneficial. But very regionalized skewing more west. Winnipeg. Regina. Not the sexiest places.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Yeah, that’s why I wonder if it’ll be an Agrium or Caterpillar for that reason.


Adam Puddicombe

I think if the CFL can land an B+ or crack the A list (maybe Tim Hortons?) then it’s a win. If it’s a CP then it’s a miss.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

Exactly. Get something B+ or better and you’re laughing.


Adam Puddicombe

We’ll have to wait and see but Tyler Mazereeuw is joining us on a future podcast so it’ll be interesting to get his insight.


Jeff LushJeff Lush

That will be must listen for people following this deal, and the league in general. Always great to get insight into the financial health of the league, and this is a big barometer.


Next time, Adam and Jeff will discuss The Athletic’s expansion and the long-term viability of the company’s business model. 

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