CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge wants a piece of American sports
ESPN SPORTS, NFL NATION
[b]- Before joining the CFL as its commissioner last year, Jeffrey Orridge spent a decade working in the American sports industry. As an executive with USA Basketball and Reebok Sports Marketing, among other positions, he witnessed the frenzied growth of professional sports in the U.S. during the 1990s and 2000s.
And now, quite simply, Orridge wants some of that for the CFL. A league that many Americans view as a quirky sideshow is looking for ways to push into a consciousness near you.
"We want to be a truly globally recognized league," Orridge said by phone recently. "And that doesn't have to mean playing the Canadian game outside of Canadian soil. What it does mean is marketing, promoting and exporting it to other parts of the world. The ultimate goal we have is to be globally recognized beyond our borders."
It's not difficult to understand why. Playing what is in essence the same game, the NFL has pushed its annual revenues past $13 billion. Recent estimates of CFL revenues among its nine teams, based on the numbers reported by its three publicly owned franchises, is approximately $200 million per year.
How Orridge will shepherd the CFL into the global market is less obvious. Part of the process will require navigating a parochial fan and media base that is wary of corporatizing of a league that traces its origins to the late 1800s -- well before the NFL's founding in 1920. Orridge, for instance, received criticism after using the 2015 Grey Cup platform to announce new branding and logo designs rather than focusing on internal issues facing the league -- most notably a season played without a drug policy.
"The time has come," Orridge announced at the time, "to update and transform the way we present ourselves."
A new drug policy has since been adopted, and Orridge wants to portray the CFL as a fast-paced and innovative league that opens its season during the dead time of the NFL calendar, features more than 50 percent American players and boasts a fan-friendly emphasis on the passing game that well exceeds the NFL's proportions.
Orridge speaks with a marketer's ease, suggesting that elevating interest is simply "about exposure and awareness." He wants the world to see "not only this unique brand of football, but also the athletes that Americans have known throughout college and have continued their careers in the CFL.
Is the CFL an American-ready sport, set to be consumed more broadly if only it is shared and promoted more strategically? I'm not sure anyone can say that yet. But the dominance of the NFL is too compelling to ignore. The CFL won't match its popularity, but it certainly has room to grow.[/b][url=http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/208439/cfl-commissioner-jeffrey-orridge-wants-a-piece-of-american-sports]http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post ... can-sports[/url]