Recently, Weltch Media posted an excellent piece about the many different kinds of “football” found in the world. The reason the article is excellent, in my view, is because someone obviously did their research and recognized that Canadian and American football are not the same animal. Same species, but not the same breed. Well, it didn’t take long for the many thousands of Canadian Football League (CFL – Canada’s professional football league) fans who use Twitter to pick up on Weltch’s story and distribute it broadly.
It was a breath of fresh air to see someone from outside North America not getting sucked into the hype that is the American football machine.
When I saw the Weltch story, I posted a comment on Twitter, saying that the CFL is on the cutting edge of using social media to interact with its fans. Weltch saw this and has kindly asked me to provide a fan’s perspective on the CFL and its use of social media. In that my use of social media as it pertains to football is focussed strictly on Twitter, this is the medium on which I’ll remark and I want to say that I appreciate the opportunity to share this with Weltch’s readers this way.
All we want as fans of any team or sport is to feel like we matter to the game. The Canadian Football League is already a league that is hugely fan-dependent, much more so that its American cousin, the National Football League, a large part of whose revenue base is derived from television. However, our league is much smaller than its U.S. counterpart and its players are paid salaries to which most regular people can easily relate. They’re not starvation wages, by any means, but most players hold down jobs outside of football. All in all, it’s a league that’s tailor-made for the fans.
The CFL has wisely built on this ethos by using social media, especially Twitter, to interact with its fans (so have all the teams and many of the individual players). The CFL (@CFL) itself currently has over 11,000 followers, but the best part is that it’s following back almost 6,000 of them! Twitter is at its best when there is interaction and engagement (rather than just announcements or advertisements) and the CFL staff will answer questions, comment on other people’s posts, or make its own comments about the games or off-field situations. It does this responsibly and professionally, and within the context of its corporate image and objectives, but it does it nonetheless. I can promise you that, when the League itself is interacting with fans this way, we most certainly feel like we matter to the League and to the game itself.
Here is the best example of the CFL using Twitter to solidify its fan base. The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League championship and the game is held at the end of every November on a rotating basis in the eight cities that make up the League. This past year, the game was in Edmonton, Alberta, which is the CFL city closest to me (although I’m not an Edmonton Eskimo fan – I’m a proud Winnipeg Blue Bomber fan!). My family and I attended and my wife, Michele, and I were invited by the CFL, via Twitter, to a private party (“tweet-up”) for many of the CFL fans on Twitter who were in attendance.
Not only was it an amazing opportunity to put faces to names, but there was free food, free liquor (I was driving – sigh) the Grey Cup trophy itself, the Commissioner of the CFL, Mark Cohon, and several of the players who are themselves on Twitter. It was a feast, it was an opportunity for photographs, and it was a celebration of Canadian football at its best. But, most importantly, it was a way for the CFL to connect directly with its fans and say “thank you” for the support. The game this past November was good (albeit cold), but I can tell you that the “tweet-up” was the best part of our weekend, hands down.
This is just a small slice of the potential that social media has in terms of bringing fans closer to their favourite sports, their favourite teams, and their favourite players. In my opinion, the CFL is setting the standard in this regard and others would do well to emulate. I’ve been a fan for 42 years, but at no time have I ever felt closer to the action or more appreciated than I do today.
Not bad for American football’s “close cousin”, as it is described in Weltch Media’s article. Not bad at all.
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