I am of course primarily a Rider fan but I love the CFL as a whole. So I find it great to see other teams doing such awesome things. Ottawa is doing the Behind the R series which is giving an incredible view behind the scenes (much watch if you haven't checked it out). Edmonton ran a promotion for $99 season tickets targeting families. BC has a family zone with $10 tickets and $85 for the season and is starting to hype a big party for the season opener. The more each time succeeds, the more the league succeeds and I think that is great.
It got me thinking about what the Riders are doing from a marketing perspective to keep pace with their competitors and attract new interest and fans. The answer is unfortunately nothing.
As is too often the case in Riderville since 2007, the Riders are resting on their laurels and adopting a “if you build it, they will come” approach. Take a look at what percentage of games have sold out since the new stadium opened and you’ll see how well that approach is working. I would describe it the way Chris Jones describes Darian Durant… moderately successful. Sure we are doing above average in terms of CFL teams but we have sold out 2 games in the past 2 seasons… seasons that featured us fishing 1st and 2nd and earning home playoff games. And that’s “announced” sellouts by the team. Actual butts in the seats are always much less that what ticket sales are.
So if moderately successful is what you want then by all means, continue resting on your laurels. But the fan base is not getting younger so at some point it will become a big enough problem to matter financially. Do you want to be proactive about that? Or wait until its too late?
Here are my thoughts on what the Riders should be doing to help market the team.
Any moderately useful marketer knows the power of a child nagging their parents. To grow the next generation of football fans you gotta get them hooked at a young age. Its clear that the new leadership in BC and Edmonton have clued into this. But as it stands the Riders don’t seem to care. Its expensive to go to games. Its expensive to feed them even the lowest grade popcorn and hotdogs. Also, how prominent are kids during the in game entertainment? Not very. Go to a Regina Pats game and they get it. Every break kids are plastered on the jumbotron. That is crack to a child. My son has been coming to games with me since the new stadium opened. You know how often in that time the cameras or prize giveaways have come to the second deck in that time? Once. It used to be a regular thing in the old stadium but now the Riders rest on their laurels and put in minimal effort. And given the high price of seats, where do lots of non-season ticket holding kids sit? The second deck. Make kids (all kids) the focal point of the game day experience and it will pay dividends both in long term fans and short term ticket/food sales. My kid would damn near pay for a chance to dance on the Jumbotron.
Also don’t limit it to game day. If you are from Regina you know the massive success of Flag football. The spring league is one of the biggest on the continent. You know what all those kids are walking around wearing as living billboards? NFL logos. Guarantee most kids could name more NFL teams/players than CFL ones. The CFL used to sponsor fall flag and my kids used to have CFL gear to wear around. But they pulled out of that a few years back for reasons I don’t understand.
This is tied to getting kids/families in the stadium. Its bloody expensive to go to a game. To get into a game is $60-100 easy and that only gets you the right to buy insanely expensive booze and food. Any time you don’t sell out it’s a wasted opportunity (and as mentioned, we are not selling out). Much like other teams are doing we need a set of really cheap tickets (like $10) to get people in the door. We also need a value menu. I’m totally cool with high priced options (I mean occasionally a guy just wants a 2 foot hotdog) but have a small value menu: $1 pop, $2 popcorn, $3 hotdog $5 draft beer. Not only will this make the games more affordable for new fans, it would also suck more money out of existing guys like me. Most games I spend $0 on food (mostly out of principle). Give me a value menu and you would bleed my dry toonies at a time.
Market your stars
I want you to honestly think about which Rider players have been the most hyped. Its Dan Clark and Jon Ryan. Now I get the hometown connection but can you imagine an NFL team with their centre and punter as the most hyped guys?
Who should we be hyping? Obviously Fajardo. Dude is not only the face of the franchise he’s immensely likeable. When “Sprinkles of Jesus” became a thing it wasn’t the Riders who seized on the marketing gold, it was a local podcast, Piffle Podcast, that made shirts for charity. Guys like Leonard, Shaq, Moore, Duke, Moncrief their faces should be plastered around. These are the playmakers that people will notice when they come to the game. Whatever happened to Fantuz Flakes, All-Dressler chips, or the infamous Dressler teaser-pleaser Humpty's commercial… hell look at how iconic the Jurasin bandana was (the fact that I can’t buy one today at the Rider store boggles my mind).
Yet we have spent too much of our efforts hyping the likes of a fullback called the Canuck Truck, 4th string receiver Jason Clermont in addition to the aforementioned mediocre punter and moderate liability of a centre.
Not going to go too far down this rabbit hole but you have to admit that for a sport that is predominately played by African Americans, we sure give a disproportionate amount of marketing attention to white players in Saskatchewan.