JONES: CFL commissioner unveils Genius marketing plan

Ambrosie referred to the 2021 season being “a triumph” because of creating a new business model, the revenue sharing initiative and the partnership with Genius

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HAMILTON — In many ways it was vague and devoid of detail. But CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie unveiled a grand new plan Friday for the league to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as a brand new business.


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“If you look through the lens of what had to happen, Winston Churchill famously once said ‘Never waste a crisis’ and I’m happy to say we didn’t,” said Ambrosie.

“For the first time in almost 40 years we now have a revenue sharing model that’s going to help teams get back on their feet,” Ambrosie announced at the annual state of the league media session.

He then announced what he termed a “historic” partnership with an international sports marketing company, Genius Sports, attracted by Canada’s new single-game betting legalization, to build a platform for the league that it has never had before.

It’s a league perceived by many to have placed itself on the endangered species list yet again, this time by missing an entire season in 2020 because of COVID-19and playing a reduced schedule this year involving mostly shabby football prior to the four exceptionally entertaining playoff games leading to Sunday’s 108th Grey Cup between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.


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Ambrosie referred to the 2021 season being “a triumph” because of creating a new business model, the revenue sharing initiative and the partnership with Genius.

“I’m not going to tell you we’re going to be able to fix everything. I’m not going to suggest we don’t have challenges on the horizon. We do. But what I want to say is that we did a lot of heavy lifting that was long overdue.

“We did things like resetting our business model which was probably overdue. We used the crisis to re-examine. We literally examined this thing from the bottom up and from the top down and we found a way to restructure our business in a way to give us a much stronger foundation, a much stronger financial foundation.

”We attacked a long-time outstanding issue and that’s revenue sharing. I think we’ve now created an environment, created a philosophy that all teams can and should, if they do most of the right things, can and should be able to break even. At the heart of the philosophy is that we want all teams to be able to break even. And we’re going to hold each other to that standard. And that’s an exciting message.”


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There have to be devils in the details but Ambrosie offered no details.

How are you going to sell season tickets to fans of the community-owned Saskatchewan Roughriders to drive 500 kilometres to go to 10 games, knowing that they’re going to underwrite Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors?

Since taking over the Argos, MLSE is believed to have lost maybe more than double the $13 million the community-owned Edmonton Elks has in their “rainy day” fund.

Maybe the geniuses at Genius Sports can solve that?

Ambrosie followed up his announcement on revenue sharing by saying, “I am now very proud to tell you we’ve created a partnership with a company called Genius Sports. Genius is a technology, fan engagement, sports betting organization — one of the best in the world. They have relationships with 400 leagues around the world.


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“We have created a historic relationship with Genius and effectively move our commercial assets into a standalone stand alone equity investor into our commercial business.

“Genius is going to employ their technology, their fan-engagement. They are going to bring the entire world of all their capabilities to the CFL that have been proven with the Premier League, the NFL and the PGA and allow us to reach into the markets and find fans and communicate with those fans and get those fans excited about our league. We really think there’s an opportunity with Genius in Toronto to find fans and reach out to them.

“This isn’t just transformational for our league but for Genius as well because Genius is not joining us as a vendor but is joining us as a partner.


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Ambrosie said one of the things he’d kept hearing was, “Why aren’t you doing more marketing? Well, we’re now going to be doing something in a marketing thrust that we could have never imagined before.

“This is in some ways the beginning of a new beginning. I believe we are ready to tackle our issues and to tackle the future. For us, this is the opportunity we’ve been looking for — a catalyst to drive our business in a new and positive direction. I think it’s an opportunity to do something special. It is a tremendous opportunity for the league going forward. So we didn’t waste the crisis.

“It’s a league that is ready for change. It is a league ready to ask where our challenges are and what the solutions are to those. We have to look at the way Apple approaches its business and go to our fans and ask ‘Why?’ as opposed to ‘What?’ That the start of a whole new conversation.”

Sooner than later the CFL has to get details to the fans and forget about ‘Why?’ or ‘What?’ and when it comes to both revenue sharing and Genius, explain ‘How?’



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