Home Openers

Just curious as to why the CFL doesn't do a better job at generating interest in home openers.

In other sports and other leagues home openers are a REALLY big deal. The CFL sometimes there is a bit of a spike in interest - but rarely a sellout anywhere. Announced attendance at the four home openers last season were 24,782 in Winnipeg, 26,135 in Calgary, 24,524 in BC and less than 20,000 in Regina (who unlike other teams report turnstile count instead of tickets sold. None were a sellout and most were not even close to a sellout.

Compare that to something like the Blue Jay home opener which sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale today with people already asking quadruple face value on resale sites. In Toronto there is always huge demand for home opener tickets for every other pro team.

Why is this not the case with the CFL?

Any ideas why that might be the case? Any suggestions to change it?

There are way more baseball fans in S Ontario than CFL fans, tons more. People from all over S Ontario, and I'm sure upstate NY as well, will travel for a Blue Jays home opener. Not the case with the CFL, CFL doesn't get all the fanfare and media attention from the American television stations that baseball gets with all the American teams and in a major league. Home openers for MLB teams is a big deal on American televisions stations for all the teams.

Fair enough Earl - but American media attention doesn't explain today. Just some social media posts, a few print ads taken out by the Blue Jays and a couple of mentions on local Toronto programs and in no time flat the 25,000+ tickets available to the home opener gone. And the opponent is Tampa Bay - not usually a great draw.

CFL TV ratings top Blue Jays TV ratings so I don't think you can say there are more baseball fans. I'm sort of stumped as to why that sort of urgency to get tickets to the home opener just isn't there with the Argos or any other CFL team for that matter.

I'm sure the Cats home opener this year against the Argos will sell-out - which is great. But even that I doubt it sells out within minutes of single game tickets going on sale as was the case today. I don't know why that is the case - and it would be great to see CFL home openers move up to that echelon of demand and excitement.

The league does need to do a better job at promoting itself, and making opening day an event is one of those strategies it needs to look at.

There really isn't much of a late spring campaign to lead into the season, and they really need to implement one for a good 5+ years to see the results. Maybe the Canada Day kick-off promo will evolve into a tradition someday, but they need to do more to get it across, I think.

MLB and the Jays already have this as an event so they don't need to do much to promote it now (like the CFL doesn't have to do much to promote Labour Day matches anymore).

Well if you are are using that example I would argue it is not a Blue Jay thing but a baseball thing. It does not matter what MLB city it is the opening day has always and will always be the biggest draw of the year other than World Series. It is a tradition over a 100 years old and baseball has more tradition than any other sport. It has always been the way and now with slick hype /marketing it has become even more the thing to do. Blue Jays will draw 40k for even the worst opponent on opening day and have 12k the next day for the same team. Only if it is Yankees or Red Sox does attendance stay up for the series.
I like the Grey Cup rematch as opening day CFL strategy. Seems when they started it a few years ago TSN focused on it but have lost the push. It should be a large part of their season set up hype and I would even reshow the previous years game the night before.

Probably should do a concert of some magnitude for opening day and change the site year to year. CFL that is.

Which is what the NHL/Hockey Night In Canada have done on opening nights lately.

Do CFL teams do any kind of giveaways on opening days? TFC you almost always get a (fairly nice) scarf, which the Leafs recently have also picked up on and given away at a couple of their recent home openers. I don't often wear a scarf but the Leafs home opener scarf that I got from going to the home opener two years ago has come in very handy with some of these -35C wind chills we have been facing the last couple of weeks here in Southern Ontario.

I know the Ti-Cats gave out mini-footballs at the THF opener on Labour Day last year and Steelers-like 'Terrible Towels' at the EDF last season and for another game had t-shirts waiting for people at their seats. But none of those giveaways were really a marketing effort to sell more tickets.

What sort of giveaways do other CFL teams do and are any of those tied in with their home openers - and do any get marketed in advance to actually increase ticket sales?

The Blue Jays giveaways that they usually do on Sundays and promote extensively for weeks in advance are responsible for tens of thousands of extra ticket sales during the season. I've been at a couple of their bobblehead doll giveaways where only the first 20,000 get dolls and those games almost always end up as sell-outs or at least very close to sell-outs and 20,000 people (or more) are lined up at the gates before they open close to two hours before the game even starts.

Does any CFL team have similar sort of success with that kind of marketing giveaway either for their opener or any other game for that matter?

Pat, you forgot that there was a monsoon in Regina for their home opener. Otherwise it would have been a sell-out. Ottawa's home opener was a sell-out, and Hamilton's real home opener was a sell-out as well. Funny how you conveniently forget about those games. Hmmmmmm. :roll:

I just looked at attendance for Week One and with Regina I did point out that number was not tickets sold but people who showed up.

Hamilton didn't really have a home opener. They had three 6,000 people games at Mac then a few 13,500 crowds at a half built THF. Which of those do we call their 'home opener'?

Ottawa were brand new stadium, brand new team - so of course they would sell out.

But none of the other 'regular' home openers were even close to a sell-out - never mind selling out in minutes weeks before the game as is the case with the Jays, Leafs and this year the Raptors.

That screams missed opportunity to me.

The scarf idea is one at least some CFL teams should try to emulate in some way. The initial cost might be a hit, but if the fans wear that merch around town, you get 'free' advertising. I know the Stamps do (or used to) something similar--not sure if was for those in attendance at the home opener or just for seasons tickets holders, but they used to give away car-window stickers with of the horse logo. Eventually, you saw them everywhere so that the team is now a subconscious part of the local culture.

The individual teams should be doing more to encourage the "Home Opener" as a big event just like they do for the "Labour Day Classic" It's also too bad that the Thanksgiving Day games are not nearly as popular as the Labour Day games. The Canada Day games only happen if Canada Day falls on a Friday to Sunday, so it's hard to make that day special, unless they made Canada Day the 1st Monday in July instead of the 1st of July.

Thursday would work for Canada Day games too, but your point still stands.

A couple things that Labour Day has going for it that the other two don’t: 1. longevity–if the league and teams keep marketing Canada Day and Thanksgiving Day in a dedicated way as big events, they will eventually catch on as such; 2. consistent/traditional rival match-ups. The Canada Day and Thanksgiving Day games always seem to feature different match ups while the Labour Day games (for the most part) have the same ones, which goes a long way to making it an anticipated event. Perhaps if they made the other two days consistent match-ups, this would help too.

From an Argos perspective, for example, have every Canada Day against the Red-Blacks and every Thanksgiving against the Als. Then fans know year after year the date for these match-ups. Of course, being able to do this depends a lot on having favourable stadium dates, so the sooner BMO is fitted for the Argos the better.

Yeah... Let's hand out scarves in July... brilliant... Dave Braley would never give anything out for free anyways

I think it is simple as CFL is just not popular. That's it.

Look at the east teams, if they were even somewhat popular with the right demographics, the tiny stadiums would easily sell out. Instead you have a team like the Als which has not sold out even once since they expanded their stadium.

Even the Ticats, having been to the GC two years in a row, hasn't sold out season tickets in their small stadium, and is needing to offer incentives to purchase what really are cheap tickets.

I think the league just needs more time to grow and improve the product. The quality of the product, is night and day from 10 years ago. Eventually every team will be a in a professional quality stadium, and I would think at that point sellouts will be common place.

Even though season tickets don't sell out, I expect every Ticats game to be a sell out, and I would think that means some people would be left out, and maybe they eventually try to get seasons tickets to not miss a game.

Can I argue with myself? :?

It is not just about the league as much as all things CFL the individual markets. Every one of them has to develop a plan in their city that maximizes that opening day buzz. Some do based on demand (Sask), some do based on hope(Ott) some do based on promise ( Cal and this year Edm maybe) some do what ever ( or at least it seems that way) (Winn. / Mont) and some do nothing (Tor and not sure about BC).
All a reflection of their ownership and how professionally they treat the team as a brand and possible income stream. Same as it always has been. Some good owners some bad. Some look forward some have their heads in the sand. Which I have and will continue to argue is no different in any league but with only nine teams much more apparent. You can't hide like you can if there are 30 teams and no one pays attention to the bottom half of them until you do something truly outrageous ala the La Clippers last year..


Canadian Football is very popular in Canada....Last year was worst in recent times why....did we forget the strike don't think the league did not take 2 steps back with that....it was resolved right before the start of the season yes but killed all the mojo for the start...second opening day in Baseball is like labour day in cfl....Canadian football is solid...why...contact the hitting people love it....the leagues has been doing great...check out all the empty seats for next day at blue jays game lots ....funny thing is you can get jays tickets for on 6 bucks might be wrong just what I found online..The league as we know it will be rocking in 2015

The Riders home opener last season was an ugly day. High winds and lots of rain. Plus it was against Hamilton. This year the Riders play the Bombers for the home opener, so I expect it to be sold out.

Kevin Glenn will start because Durramt will still not be emotionally ready

Hamilton historically has only averaged 17k.... So I don't see what the huge surprise here is.

If you had said "Canadian football is popular in WESTERN Canada, I would agree with you.
As for the Jays, they averaged 36k last season while the MLB averaged was 30k And you are talking EIGHTY GAMES. The cheap tickets you are talking about can be had for around $16 not $6 and judging by the empty seats up there in the rafters they don't sell too many of them cheap seats.