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Keith Pelley, president of Rogers’ media division (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Keith Pelley, president of Rogers’ media division (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Transcript: Canada’s biggest sports executives on state of the industry Add to ...

For those who don’t know the Argos they are the oldest sport franchise in North America, 136 years old or so. We are part of CFL, we are going through some significant challenges in this market. My speciality has been fixing broken businesses and I think this about as big a mountain as I have ever had to climb. At one point in this city, it was either Argos or Leafs. This brand has eroded considerably over last 30-40 years and we’re fighting hard to get back on the a-list in a town that likes a-list things.

This is a big city that sees itself as world class and likes things to be first class and it filters many things through the prism of its own arrogance in some ways. We’ve got to get back on the a-list and it’s hard to do.

There are a lot of challenges we face – erosion of our brand, there are those who would say the venue is not right but I happen to like it and it’s not because I’m sitting beside the landlord but because it’s a place that when it’s got a lot of people in it still has the energy and intimacy that lends excitement to the fan experience.

There’s a lot of clutter in this town, a lot of first-class sports entertainment, tremendous social and cultural entertainment. You’re fighting for entertainment dollars on a number of fronts. There’s a changing culture in city – a highly mixed cultural environment probably unlike any other market in the world.

So the demographic of our fans has changed. Look at our fan base – we have too many people who are older white guys whose tickets have been in the family for many years. So we need to find ways to reach out to new fans and make them part of the family.

We face this perception that this is an NFL city, unlike most of the other cities in this country. In order to move that forward need to attack those things and reengage the city in exciting ways. Product on the field, same as any business. Doesn’t matter what you do. Product isn’t right, people aren’t going to come out so we’ve spent a lot of time this year assessing how you’re going to put out the right product and trying to put best players on the field. A big thing in our own organization is we need to stop making excuses for failure. If you allow your staff and people who work with you to make excuses, that can’t be fine and it never will be fine.

Our venue is what it is, the clutter in the city is what it is. That’s an opportunity, not a problem. People put shows on Broadway because that’s where the theatre goers are. You put a shop in a mall because that’s where the shoppers are. There are a lot of people who like first-class entertainment in this town and our challenge is to create it. There are five or six million people that live around here, we only need 30 to 40 every two weeks. If we can’t do that, then we are doing something wrong.

We’ve had the opportunity to host the 100th Grey Cup this year. Wet alked to everyone who has hosted. Looked at what worked and what changed and try to embrace fact we do have 100. One thing as we try to rebuild this franchise is to make sure we’re focusing on legacies that come out of this – we can’t just look at this as a party that takes place at a certain point and time. If we can’t create a legacy that has a stronger relationship between this community and Canada and the CFL brand and the Argo brand we will have missed a unique opportunity that will come around again.

We’re experiencing some success right now, but I’m not going to live in a fool’s paradise, our increase in season’s tickets sales etc a lot has been because of access to Grey Cup tickets we need to convert those people into ongoing season tickets holders and attract new ones.

There is already a disproportionate amount of excitement around the fact that we made it into the playoffs and won a game. We have to keep investing in our product for the long term, lot of people said when we brought (quarterback Ricky Ray) here we brought someone here who could win a Grey Cup but it’s not about winning one cup it’s about building a franchise that can expect to win every year. You have to think dynastically – we need a five year plan.

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