The CFL’s big game turns 100 with a massive 10-day festival and big opportunities for sponsors
This year’s Centenary edition of the Canadian Football League’s championship game is being pumped up to linebacker proportions with the accompanying Grey Cup Festival. The event will make Toronto the centre of the three-down football universe for an unprecedented 10 days in November.
Accordingly, a blitz of sponsorship activity is planned for this year’s event. It will feature participation from 35 companies ranging from marketing heavyweights like Telus and Molson to smaller brands like Nolitours and Reckitt Benckiser’s Frank’s Red Hot (that s*** will be all over a pre-game tailgate party billed as Canada’s largest ever), veteran Grey Cup sponsors like Scotiabank to rookies such as Suncor.
“I don’t think anything’s particularly easy in this economy, but certainly we’ve done very well [in attracting sponsors],” says David Bedford, senior vice-president of business operations with the Toronto Argonauts, the host for this year’s Grey Cup Festival.
“We’re a fair bit ahead [of previous years], but that’s also due to the fact that it is the 100th year and many of the partners, both in their investment and activation plans, are ramping things up because of that unique, celebratory nature.”
Sponsors have proven particularly keen to engage with the various family-themed events throughout the event. “It was really a lot of interest for the sponsors to be tied into the family dynamic,” says Bedford.
The CFL will also take part in the City of Toronto’s annual Cavalcade of Lights on Nov. 17, as well as the next day’s 107th Santa Claus Parade with a football-themed float preceded by Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders and alumni.
Game plan: sponsor activations around the Grey Cup Festival
The title sponsor for this year’s event, Nissan’s sponsorship program will be highlighted by the Nissan Family Zone at Yonge-Dundas Square. The venue will feature a mini football field with food stations while the main stage will house cheerleader performances and live music. Nissan will also showcase its vehicles—including new models of the Altima, Pathfinder and Sentra—during the Festival. “It’s a great place to have customers interact with our vehicles,” says director of marketing Judy Wheeler.
A premier partner of the CFL since 2010, Telus is sponsoring the first-ever Fan Cup at the Grey Cup Festival. Comprised of thousands of melted down Canadian pennies, the Fan Cup will be engraved with the names of thousands of CFL fans from across the country that participate in a penny press event during the Grey Cup 100 Train Tour. The Cup will reside in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The Telus Street Party will feature live concerts, team parties, food, beer tents along three downtown Toronto streets. Telus is also sponsoring the Telus Player Awards After-Party.
No major event in Toronto—whether it’s the annual Caribbean Festival or Nuit Blanche—seems to escape the notice of Scotiabank. A CFL sponsor since 2005 (and the league’s title sponsor since 2009) Scotiabank’s activation around the Grey Cup Festival is highlighted by the 2012 “Scotiabank Football Experience.” Fans will be invited to meet CFL players, have their face painted in their team’s colours and participate in football-themed activities including “Scotiabank’s Throw Like a Pro” and “Scotiabank’s Field Goal Challenge.”
The media brand is trying something adventurous at the Adrenaline Zone at Nathan Phillips Square. At 725-feet above street-level, the Toronto Sun Zip Line—which runs between the two towers of Toronto’s City Hall down to Queen Street—will be North America’s highest urban zip line. The zone will also feature an obstacle course designed by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.