CIS teams enjoying unusual exposure in 2013

Andy Watson
The Eh Game
Official CIS Logo
Official CIS Logo

OK, let the judging begin. I've been watching Big Brother 15... I guess I just like any healthy form of competition.

Tonight, the University of Regina Cougars may have lost some of their best free branding when contestant Elissa Slater was voted off the show in a double eviction.

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You see, Slater (whose husband Brent is from White City, Sask.) was sporting a U of R Cougars hoody for several of the episodes, providing exposure for the athletic brand to a huge North American audience.

In recent weeks, another contestant McRae Olsen has been wearing a St. Thomas Tommies sweatshirt. Either way, the CIS is well represented on Big Brother 15. And it's becoming less surprising to see CIS brands in day-to-day life.

Here's a few other places the CIS has received some decent exposure as of late:

1. CIS TV Deal with Sportsnet: This past May, under the leadership of new CIS CEO Pierre Lafontaine, the CIS announced a six-year TV deal with Sportsnet to provide expanded national coverage of both men’s and women’s CIS sport.

Sportsnet (primarily on their 360 channel) will broadcast 13 events over the course of the 2013-14 collegiate calendar. In a ratings-based incentive program, by the final year of the partnership in 2018-19, as many as 27 CIS events could air on Sportsnet. This is thanks in large part to Lafontaine's connections and those of Richard Peddie, a CIS board member at large with ties to the Windsor Lancers program and former president and CEO with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who still has major TV ties and was a major player in negotiating the deal.

The coverage will begin on Saturday with the battle between two nationally ranked football teams in Hamilton, the 2013 edition of the Western-McMaster rivalry, and includes the Vanier Cup in November and men's and women's hockey and basketball national championships.

And rather than paying for the broadcast rights as they have in the past, the CIS will actually receive royalty revenues for their product, with increases by the third year of the deal (by comparison, the NCAA makes millions from networks just for the right to broadcast their product).

2. Sportsnet 360 Web Coverage: Starting with the addition of video links to their web site from their Sportsnet Connected broadcasts, now the folks at Sportsnet have launched an interactive poll to gauge the best football team in the CIS.

3. Investment in free, live streaming: Over the past five years, almost every major CIS school now offers free live video streaming of its games which helps to spread brand awareness, build fan loyalty (especially with the ability to follow teams on the road) and provides consistent coverage at national championships.

4. Partnerships with community teams: Across the country, many CIS teams in various sports are forming community partnerships with local teams. One of the best fits is the University of Manitoba Bisons partnership with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In the Bombers' store at Investors Group field, there's a great offering of Bisons gear in the store, co-branding throughout the endzone and along the sidelines and just a general sense of partnership. This trends needs to continue with examples like this across the country for CIS sports to continue to grow and improve their presence.

5. Brand Power: OK, sorry if I conjured up images of those annoying commercials... Back in my sports information days in Ontario, Chill (the Beer Store magazine) incorrectly published the Western Mustangs 'W' logo as the official university logo in a frosh preview. The power of a strong athletic brand and tradition is now coming full circle with many of these programs realizing the power of a consistent brand and recognition.

There are many other factors - increased representation of CIS student-athletes in international competition (in particular at the FISU World University Games and international basketball, swimming and rugby competition) and semi-pro leagues (the CFL, ECHL, PDL and many others) - we will explore throughout the year. For now, enjoy any CIS streaming you can or watch live on Sportsnet 360 beginning this weekend.

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