According to ratings and attendance stats, the CFL has been attracting more and more fans to the sport. Cisco, as the official technology partner, has been working with League, the Clubs and the Stadiums on improving the fan experience, increasing operational efficiencies within the league, and providing greater collaboration between the League and the Clubs.
We recently sat down with Mark Cohon, CFL Commissioner, to discuss some of the highlights of this past season, the partnership with Cisco, and his vision for the future.
Q. Following all the excitement of the 100th Grey Cup last year, can you share with us some of the highlights of this season and what fans can expect from the upcoming Grey Cup?
We’ve had an awesome year. On the field we saw records set for rushing by Jon Cornish, passing by Ricky Ray and field kicking by Rene Paredes, and the emergence of young quarterbacks including Zach Collaros and Bo Levi Mitchell. Our attendance was very good: more than two million Canadians attended a CFL game. And our television ratings were up again. They were the second highest in the history of our league. I’m equally excited about what’s happening off the field. We’re building the new look CFL of the future. Saskatchewan is planning a new stadium for 2017. Tim Hortons Field opens in Hamilton next year, and a new team, the Ottawa REDBLACKS, debuts in another new stadium. And this year we opened Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. Also next year, our new TV deal with TSN and RDS kicks in, and we’re planning to unveil some really exciting new third uniforms. So while we’re proud of our traditions, we’re also building something new and modern.
Q. The Grey Cup is taking place in Regina on November 24th, any weather predictions for the day?
I’ll predict more than that. It will be cold at the stadium, the welcome we all receive from Rider fans will be incredibly warm, and the game itself will be really exciting. We’re Canadian and this is the Grey Cup. We’re not going to let a little thing like a thermometer get in the way of the best party, and most compelling championship game, we have in our country. I can’t wait to get there.
Q. We were really excited to partner with the CFL, a uniquely Canadian organization. Tell us a little about the size of the league and some of business and technology challenges you faced?
Well, we are in many ways, a big league. More people watch the CFL on television in the summer than any other sports property, and throughout the entire year, we’re second only to hockey. And the Grey Cup, of course, is the largest single sporting event in the country. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a larger event of any kind. But as with so many Canadian businesses, our people are spread out across the country, working in different time zones, and under different pressures and sometimes in different cultures. So communication is absolutely vital to our collaboration and success. Cisco has been absolutely brilliant in enabling us with technology such as WebEX and Telepresence that helps us stay connected and work more collaboratively with ease. We are not in the business of technology so being able to easily use the solutions is critical.
Q. What improvements have you seen within the league as a result of some of the Cisco technology that has been integrated into your offices?
Cisco technology has changed the way our office works by removing many past limitations, for example our new Voice over IP Phone System, faster network, and wireless allows us to become move efficient in the office as well as remotely. We now have access to the same tools no matter where we work.
Q. We’ve just outfitted each club with TelePresence video conferencing. How do you see the communication and collaboration between the league and the clubs improving?
Well, the interesting thing about our teams is that they compete like crazy on the field, but collaborate constantly off the field, so the video conferencing allows our executives and staff to talk, everyday, face to face. But it provides us with other opportunities down the road, to interact more effectively and easily with the media, and our fans. We can look at virtual news conferences, or town halls. It’s really exciting and Cisco has really made us better at working together.
Q. How has the in stadium experience changed?
Fans are complementing their onsite experience with an online one. Social media has really transformed the way fans consume the game. They are sharing their experiences, interacting with other fans and seeking out information related to the game.
I know you guys are working with stadium owners to ensure that fans have online access and that their online experience runs as smooth as their onsite one. And that’s huge because there is whole new generation of fans who have an entirely different definition of a great, live experience. And our future really depends on meeting their expectations.
Q. Can you give us a snapshot of what we should look forward to in the upcoming season?
New stadiums, as I mentioned. New stars. New wrinkles in the CFL on TSN broadcasts, as our new deal with Bell Media and TSN kicks in. The unveiling of some new uniforms. Really, you’re really going to see a new look CFL emerge. I like to say we’re true to our roots and our core values but will stay up to date and innovate. I’ve coined the phrase, steeped in tradition but built for the future, and I think that sums it up pretty well.
Q. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to watching the Grey Cup on November 24th as well as our continued partnership with you.
Thank you. We’re honored to have Cisco as a partner, and really consider the people here to be dear friends. So I’d like to thank everyone here and wish you all an exciting Grey Cup, and a wonderful holiday season to follow.
To learn more about our partnership with the CFL watch our video here.
Author: Vince Mammoliti, Director, Strategic Investments and Partnerships.