Pop quiz: Can you name the teams battling it out for the Grey Cup on Sunday? If the answer is no, the Canadian Football League wants to speak to you.
At its annual "State of the League" presentation on Friday, the CFL will unveil a new logo, new slogan and entirely new marketing campaign designed to woo "casual fans" and younger people.
The old logo showed the league's letters topped with a red football protruding from a maple leaf, with the slogan "This is our league." The rebranded design stamps the CFL letters and a much tinier maple leaf on a silver, partly football-shaped badge. The new slogan is, "What we're made of."
"We need to be a little more inclusive," CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said. "By repositioning it, instead of 'our league,' we pride ourselves on being accessible to everyone ... You shouldn't just come to the game and support and engage in the CFL brand because it's Canadian; you should engage because it's fun and exciting."
The league will also unveil a new 90-second video, which will run on television during the Grey Cup matchup between the Ottawa RedBlacks and the Edmonton Eskimos, to kick off the CFL's new brand campaign.
Drawing new fans has long been a goal for the league. But it continues to be a challenge. While 40 per cent of people 18 to 34 years old say they follow the National Hockey League closely, just 16 per cent in that age group say the same about the CFL, according to a survey of roughly 1,500 Canadians by the Angus Reid Institute last year. Things have been improving: In 2010, this younger demographic made up 20 per cent of the CFL's TV viewership – that was double the proportion just three years before.
Since 2010, "that trajectory is not going in the straight line up that we want it to go, but the numbers are big," Mr. Orridge said, without providing specific numbers. "All of us in sports are struggling to grow that demographic right now."
That's true: Other leagues, including the NHL, have been working to respond to younger fans who spend more time catching up on sports on a multitude of digital devices, but are also watching less over all.
This group of viewers is crucial, though: Even though the baby boomer generation, which controls a vast amount of purchasing power, represents a strong CFL fan base, many potential advertisers and sponsors are focused on speaking to younger consumers.
This rebranding initiative, which has been in the works for a year and a half, is designed to appeal to them, as well as to new Canadians for whom football as we know it – as opposed to soccer – may be unfamiliar.
The new logo is meant to work better, from a design perspective, on a number of different backdrops, including digital. The CFL has been spending more time promoting the game through social media recently. All month, it has been posting on Twitter and Facebook with a hint to its new slogan, "#WWMO". It is also working on delivering more statistics, in order to appeal to the types of fans who enjoy participating in fantasy sports leagues. This year, it launched its own online game, Playoff Pick 'Em, in which players choose teams they think will win, sponsored by vacation site Redtag.ca.
"We're recognizing the way the casual sports fan is interacting with our product," said Christina Litz, vice-president of marketing. "It goes beyond the game."
While former CFL advertising campaigns have used a great deal of in-game imagery, ad agency Bensimon Byrne wanted to give the video launching this week a more modern look. It features hard-hitting music; shots of footballs engulfed in slow-motion flames; cinematic shots of players training and shattering glass with a single throw; and crowds of partying fans. The director, Davin Black, has directed videos for Drake, Arkells and the Sheepdogs.
"New fans will get very engaged by it because there's a kind of imagery that's much more contemporary than anything we've used in the past," said David Rosenberg, partner and chief creative officer at the agency.
On Friday, the CFL will announce a limited run with Adidas of some new league merchandise. The league has also been doing more collaborations. Last year, it partnered with online retailer eLUXE on clothing for women designed by fashion bloggers. This week, it announced a line of team tuques through Toronto clothing company Tuck Shop Trading Co., whose wares have been spotted on the likes of Lena Dunham.
There has not been time to completely revamp the TSN broadcast with the new logo imagery for Sunday's game, but it will start to appear in the video, as well as in the stadium in places. The full launch of the new look will happen with CFL marketing toward the beginning of next season, which will coincide with the release of new Adidas uniforms.
"It's a much more solid, bolder statement," Mr. Orridge said of the new brand imagery. "It's much more contemporary."