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THE MOJ: CFL a great game, but kudos to the Lions for knowing the event matters

Quality of the marketing finally catching up to the quality of the game north of the border

It was about four hours before kickoff on Saturday when I ventured into Lions owner Amar Doman’s suite at BC Place Stadium.

Doman was there with his kids, the lone occupants at that time, watching 50 Cent’s stage being erected on the field prior to the Lions home opener versus the Calgary Stampeders.

He was a little nervous, hoping that the afternoon would go off without a hitch.

A great kickoff concert followed by a Lions win would do the trick.

I never caught up with Doman after the game but I can bet he was all smiles.

The Lions knocked off the Stampeders 26-17 with the tone being set by 50 Cent’s 45-minute-long concert that provided an electric atmosphere at BC Place.

There are those on social media that will point out that the sold-out crowd of 53,788 slowly eroded as the game progressed but it baffles me that some people just don’t understand marketing.

Will all of those 25,000-plus extra people that showed up for the concert become CFL fans? Of course not. But even if you have engaged 5,000 of those fans to the point where they want to come again, the promotion should be considered a success.

And introducing the Lions and the CFL to those concert-goers was the objective of the whole exercise.

I just wonder why people like to pile on the CFL all the time.

I love football.

Whether it’s high school, CIS, NCAA, CFL or the NFL, it’s a great game at all levels.

I chuckle when I hear the haters throwing bricks at the CFL and throwing nothing but bouquets at the NFL. Some of the CFL’s greatest critics are Canadians.

The truth of the matter is that, given the right set of circumstances, a lot of the players in Canada could be playing south of the border.

If you don’t believe me, click on this link and hear what former NFL receiver Chad Ochocinco had to say about his experience in the CFL and the level of talent in this country.

Yet the CFL has been swallowed up by the monster known as the NFL in the last couple of decades. A generation of fans was lost because the CFL got complacent in its marketing.

As a kid, when I went into The Bay or Woodwards my jersey choices were limited. You had your choice of the Canucks, Canadiens, Maple Leafs or the Lions.

The media coverage? It was pretty much local with a sprinkling of NFL. You’d have one CFL game on TV during the course of the weekend and one or two NFL contests.

There wasn’t much competition for the CFL.

Then came cable TV, the internet, Madden and fantasy football.

The younger generation gravitated to the NFL because of those influences while the CFL did little or nothing to try and attract and/or educate those fans.

Sundays became full of the Red Zone and watching any NFL game you want. Then you’d spend time on the internet reading about what was going on with your favorite team.

Kids grew up playing Madden and then morphed into fantasy football freaks who could tell you the back-up running back of the New Orleans Saints but would be hard-pressed to name the starting quarterback for the Grey Cup champions.

The younger generation invested its time in the NFL while ignoring the CFL.

The CFL – for the most part – just watched.

The league may have lost that generation but Doman is committed to winning over this one. One of his pet peeves is watching youngsters walking around in NFL jerseys rather than Lions gear – something that he saw first hand with his own two boys.

The Lions have done a tremendous job of reaching out into the community and engaging with younger fans and getting them to games. Whether it’s running out onto the field with the team during introductions or flag football games at half-time, the Lions are doing their best to introduce these youngsters to the CFL brand.

Doman and the Lions have also gone to great efforts to engage fans throughout the province - not just in the Lower Mainland. Whether it’s off-season player appearances in Kamloops, Prince George or Vancouver Island, the Lions have made their presence felt. The team also has a program in which fans from Vancouver Island, Kelowna and Kamloops can purchase a package that includes tickets and bus transportation to a game.

Getting fans into BC Place is one thing. Making sure they want to come back is another.

Doman realizes that it is so much more than football.

His desire is for the game to be an event.

He’s told us on numerous occasions that he wants people coming to BC Place to have a great experience. It’s not only about the game but enjoying the entire game day experience whether it be the in-game production or a tailgate party.

The key to all of this is that Amar Doman has a vision and he has the resources to act upon that vision.

This past Saturday was evidence of that.

And it’s great that football fans in this province are noticing.


* Saturday’s contest was a tough game but one in which the Lions found a way to win. Head Coach Rick Campell stressed that his team had to limit the negative plays and they responded. The Lions had six sacks and five turnovers in their season-opening 35-27 loss in Toronto last week. They had no turnovers or sacks against Calgary although the eight penalties for 103 yards is something Campbell would like to clean up.

* The Lions went into the game with a revamped offensive line that saw Chris Schleuger take over from David Knevel at left guard (coach’s decision) while Tyler Packer started at center for the injured Michael Couture (back). The Stampeders blitzed early and often – and outnumbered the Lions on several occasions - but the unit didn’t allow a sack throughout the day.

* Next up for the Lions is a trip to Winnipeg to play the Blue Bombers on Friday night. Winnipeg has ten new starters compared to the group that started in last year’s Grey Cup game and it has shown with losses to Montreal and Ottawa. The pre-game show begins at 3pm with kickoff at 4pm on CKNW 980.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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