The CFL has become famous for its franchises' innovative food-based marketing ventures over the years, and that trend's continuing. The Saskatchewan Roughriders' barbecue pictured up top (spotted by Yahoo!'s Jim Morris) might be the most ambitious leap forward yet, though; it's hard to think of many other CFL products with a price tag of $599.99. There's no word on the quality of the grill in question, but it certainly would seem pretty appealing for Riders' fans to be able to bring an official team barbecue to a tailgate party. Saskatchewan's consistently led the way on team-branded products, and that reflects the passion of their fans; there's clearly a market for Riders' merchandise, which helps convince team officials to take leaps like this. However, other franchises are starting to catch on and doing their own impressive merchandising tie-ins; the CFL's not quite at Yogourt levels yet (I'd like a CFL-branded flamethrower!), but it's getting there.. Here are some of the most interesting products available from each of the league's teams, going East to West.
Montreal: The Alouettes have coffee mugs and shot glasses, plus golf bags perfect for hitting the links. They offer hard hats as well, and what looks like a vuvuzela; let's not encourage too many Als' fans to buy that last one, though, as most of us don't want to repeat the bee-swarming auditory experience of the 2010 World Cup.
Hamilton: The Tiger-Cats may not have barbecues, but they have a team-branded set of barbecue tools! There's also a dog bowl (curiously, given the team involved, you'd think they'd market it as a cat bowl), a screwdriver and a set of beer stein, coffee mug and shot glass, perfect for all your imbibing needs. For those Ticats' fans eager to show their loyalty on their vehicles, how about mud flaps or fuzzy dice?
Toronto: This franchise appears to be big on the barbecue, with covers, gloves and tools all for sale. They also have hats with a bottle opener hidden under the brim, perfect for tailgating. Hot? Try a freezer mug. Cold? Denim booties. They also offer a "sublimated lanyard" (what, it turns into a gas without going through a liquid phase?) and golf tees.
Winnipeg:There's plenty of fun stuff on offer in the Bombers' store, including "Danny And Buck's BBQ Sauce", a beer bottle coin bank, a Fossil watch, a set of license plate screw covers and a folding light-up pen. Also, you can never go wrong with a little more cowbell. They're not available in the team store, but Manitoba fans might also be able to snag a bag of "Buck's BBQ Chips."
Saskatchewan: How about some salt-and-pepper shakers? A "Roughriders Chicks Only" parking sign? Green-and-white garden gnomes? Don't keep your fandom in the dark; buy a Riders' light switch cover! If you're looking for something for her, may we suggest some Riders' earrings, or perhaps a necklace? There are also always license plates, dog collars, helmhats and the ever-popular melon hats, plus a Roughrider cribbage board! Unfortunately, the store does not appear to carry Rider-branded banjos, but that must only be a matter of time. There's also this year's cereal, the Getzlaf Waggle Triple Berry, and Weston Dressler's "Undressed Dressler Chips". Now, if we could only get some Batman and Robin merchandise...
Edmonton: There's some cool stuff in the Eskimos' store, including pint glasses, a grill topper that will engrave "Go Eskimos" on your hot dogs and a metal license plate frame, but the clubhouse leader is clearly the team-branded red and white wines they're releasing at liquor stores across Alberta this summer. Fruity, with notes of past championships.
Calgary: Admit it, you want a Stamps' stamp dispenser. Or maybe a barbecue apron? Mini-helmets, smartphone cases and plush monkeys are all available as well. They could use more food, though; perhaps "Cornish's Corn Dogs" or "Tate's Taters"?
B.C.: The famed barbecue sauce is still available, plus framed prints of the championship team, pet toys and foam claws. There's even a BC-branded miniature Grey Cup! For the full championship experience, take your mini Grey Cup down to Jon Hameister-Ries' Mean Poutine restaurant and follow in the footsteps of Hameister-Ries, Andrew Harris and Angus Reid, who ate poutine out of the trophy earlier this year.
Some of this merchandise might appear weird to many, but there's surely a market out there for all of it. It's good to see CFL teams being creative; while not everyone wants team mudflaps, pet collars or cribbage boards, some surely do, and creative logo-emblazoned products are a great way for teams to pull in some revenue while also drawing attention. Now, we just need every team to come out with some form of food or drink so we can throw a CFL-wide banquet...