New CFL marketing head unveils three-year plan

Although the cfl continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, at least its new director of marketing has a clear idea of what he wants and how he intends to accomplish it.Geoff Fardy, who joined the 114-year-old Canadian Football League this...

Although the cfl continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, at least its new director of marketing has a clear idea of what he wants and how he intends to accomplish it.

Geoff Fardy, who joined the 114-year-old Canadian Football League this month, has signed a three-year contract with the league and for each of those years he has a definite plan.

During an exclusive interview from his Toronto office, Fardy said in his first year he wants to introduce the cfl to ‘corporate Canada’ and get potential sponsors to see the benefits of an association with the league.

Fardy, who was formerly director of marketing with the Canadian International AutoShow, said he has been holding talks with Chrysler Canada, Air Canada, Visa Canada and Gatorade about large sponsorship packages.

To facilitate sponsorship arrangements, the league has produced – for the first time – a 30-page ‘sponsorship menu’ that allows would-be league backers to pick what suits them, rather than having to be shoehorned into plans that don’t fit their objectives.

Fardy said the idea is to strike mutually beneficial, long-term deals that bring sponsors back year after year.

Fardy said there are three levels of cfl sponsorship: presenting sponsor, Canadian associate sponsor and international (American) associate sponsor.

Two things bolster Fardy’s confidence the cfl can turn the marketing corner this year. The first is a considerable increase in tv coverage on tsn in Canada and much more attention from sports broadcaster espn 1 and 2 in the u.s.

He said this year tsn will show 40 regular season cfl games, twice as many as usual; cbc will broadcast 28 regular season games, six playoff games and the Grey Cup; espn 1 and 2 will air 18 regular season games and there will be three playoff games broadcast on espn 2.

It’s vital, Fardy continued, that the cfl be on tv one regular night of the week in much the same way National Football League fans know there’s always a game on Monday nights – or if it’s Saturday it must be Molson Hockey Night in Canada.

The second reason Fardy is bullish on the cfl’s sponsorship potential is the continuing absence of Major League Baseball. There are few signs the players’ strike will be over by the time cfl teams open training camp June 1, thus clearing the way for some relationship building in Toronto and Baltimore, the two cities with a cfl team and a major league baseball club.

In his second year, Fardy wants to enhance the league’s promotional position. This means making the players more visible in their respective communities and working with each club to heighten its profile in its own market.

‘We have to get the sizzle back,’ said Fardy, who noted the presence of four or perhaps five u.s. teams will be a real help.

The American teams are in Baltimore, Md., Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Shreveport, La., and probably San Antonio, Tex. Canadian teams are in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa.

To support the promotional push in his second year, Fardy suggests a cross-promotion could be worked out so anyone who test drives a certain car could receive a pair of game tickets; or a fast food chain could put cfl teams’ logos and uniforms on tray liners for children to color instead of the more usual cartoon or movie characters.

Also in the second year Fardy wants to re-assess the cfl’s demographics and its sponsorship potential. He acknowledges the importance of families coming to games, but points out all those 30-something and 40-something dyed-in-the-wool football fans are an important group and need to be lured back to the cfl.

Further, Fardy said it should be noted 30% of the cfl’s ‘watching audience’ is female.

In year three, Fardy said he wants to put together a ‘maintenance program’ for the league’s sponsors.

He said far too often sponsorship deals are cut and set in motion in an initial burst of enthusiasm but then peter out.

He said it’s his intention to see whatever drove the deal in the first place is maintained throughout the life of the contract.