CFL thoughts including videogame

Not long after he inherited the job of CFL commissioner, Mike Lysko travelled to the U.S. with B.C. Lions owner David Braley for a meeting with NFL vice-president Gord Smeaton and then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The tête-à-tête got off to a curious start.

"Mr. Commissioner, I should tell you that I'm a very powerful man," Braley sternly addressed Tagliabue, according to a person familiar with the meeting. This reminder to a commissioner who dealt many days with the likes of Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who helped start Microsoft alongside Bill Gates.

Mark Cohon, welcome to the CFL.

Cohon is the CFL's new commissioner. Voted in 8-0 by the league's board of governors, the 41-year-old garnered a five-year contract that pays him about $450,000 a year.

The league's owners are a divisive, volatile lot and once the honeymoon period ends, Cohon's job is sure to be choc-a-bloc with tumult. With that in mind, it's worth pulling together a list of a several items he should make a priority. Getting at least a few of them accomplished might keep his more irascible employers at bay.

Perhaps the biggest and most understated challenge Cohon faces is burnishing the CFL's flagging national sponsorship program. The league likes to boast about year-on-year percentage increases in sales and sponsor-related revenue. But the fact is, there's no meat behind those percentages.

Few of the league's top-flight sponsors pay any more than $400,000 a year, several sources told the Star. In fact, according to one "sales deck" sent out to sponsors a year ago, the CFL asked for as little as $450,000 a year.

Many sponsors pledge so-called contra, or free products or services, towards their sponsorship and that means the actual cash value of a main CFL sponsorship probably averages out closer to $350,000. That should be a cause for concern for Cohon, who's well-versed in marketing. His father George was involved in starting up McDonald's Canada.

At the same time as the CFL needs to redouble efforts to burnish sponsorship revenue, the league should also open its purse strings and license a video game.

Like most leagues, the CFL has said it covets young sports fans, who advertisers typically have a hard time reaching. Teens and pre-teens are among the most loyal of video game players. It almost makes too much sense. The fact development costs for a new CFL game would eclipse $1 million – even if the game was built using the same programming as EA Sports uses for the popular Madden football game – should not hold the CFL back. There's no better way to turn 12-to-18-year-olds on to the CFL.

It'd also benefit the league by improving its relations with the CFL Players' Association.

In the U.S., players like now-retired Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis are a household name because the league didn't flinch at the idea of having to pay the players union for the right to use its stars in advertising campaigns. "That's why players like Damon Allen and Danny McManus still aren't associated with any products in Canada," says Craig Cripps, the CFLPA's former director of marketing. "CFL owners don't want to spend the money."

Finally, Cohon has his work cut out in Toronto.

Just ask the Argos brass; it's tough enough to sell season tickets and merchandise in the country's largest market in the summertime, going head-to-head against the Blue Jays, and myriad music festivals and concerts.

I wish Tagliabue had hauled off and slapped Braley right across the face as a sign of their difference in “power”.

i wonder what possessed Braley to say that, if its true???

anyone ever see that canadian tire commercial where the dad throws a football really really far and the kid chases it and lands in dirt?

canadian tire shulda got a CFL QB to play the part of the dad.

or can CFL players get sponsorship from a company not sponsoring the league?...cuz league sponsor is Rona.

ha ha i dont know about u guys, but im really liking this new commisioner! CFL video game? and on top of that it sounds like hes gonna go hard at expansion, plus sponsership revenue. hes willing to spend money to make money, something our commisioners in the past refused to do. hes getting off on the right foot for me, not to mention hes probly gonna get the CFL mixed in with Micky D's of canada!!!!!

I remember hearing that the CFLPA hired someone - I believe it was Ron Rooke, who the Stamps fired during the F-Troop Reign of Terror, but I could be wrong - who stated he was going to ensure that the star power in the league would be more accessible (ie, seen in the media more), starting this season. That would be great, a huge boost for the League's profile, and hopefully it's still a go.

I don't know who else here gets the CFLNation surveys, but very recently there was one about a CFL video game. It definitely gave the impression that the CFL is well aware of how good it would be to have a video game, but that they're intimidated by the costs - which, according to them, were well upwards of $1 million. In any case, they gave the impression that it's being pursued, and they were looking for fan feedback.

If sponsorship really is in such dire straits (it certainly doesn't APPEAR to be as bad as the article made it out to be), hiring a marketing genius as commish should only help.