The Grey Cup is the biggest CFL event of the year, but how big can vary depending on the host city. This year, Toronto hosts for the first time since 2012, and there are always questions on how a big city will embrace the event – unlike in Regina (2013) or Winnipeg last, where the Grey Cup took over the town, some big-city versions like Vancouver in 2014 haven’t always made a huge impact on the city.
There’s a further challenge for Toronto in that this 104th Grey Cup lacks the extra pomp and pageantry that accompanied the 100th Grey Cup in 2012. We already know that unlike 2012, the hometown Argonauts (who went 5-13 this year and missed the playoffs) won’t make it, and ticket demand wasn’t great to begin. It seems to have picked up in the wake of the organizing committee reducing some prices, and there does seem to be some excitement building for the big game as the playoffs unfold. The CFL’s hoping to further bolster that with a new ad; here’s an exclusive first look at that.
We don’t yet know the matchup, but we do know the location – at BMO Field, it will be the 48th Grey Cup in Toronto, but the first outdoor national championship in the city since Warren Moon and the Eskimos beat Condredge Holloway and the Argonauts in the 1982 Grey Cup, famously known as the “Rain Bowl.” This ad’s a good look at how the unique, first-time venue will be featured. The usage of fans from across the league is smart, too; the Grey Cup should be important to all CFL fans, not just fans of the participating teams, and drawing those neutral fans in will be key to any TV success. This ad also helps sell the halftime show; the song, “NbHD,” is from halftime performer OneRepublic, and is from their Oh My My Album (on Universal).
As per the TV side, the Grey Cup has always been the CFL’s biggest draw of the year, to varying degrees. The highest combined total average viewership came in 2009 for the close game between Saskatchewan-Montreal, with an average of 6.1 million viewers across TSN and RDS, while the close 100th Grey Cup between Toronto and Calgary in 2012 drew an English-broadcast record average of 5.5 million to TSN. The Saskatchewan-Hamilton blowout in 2013 averaged 4.5 million on TSN, and 2014 (a close Calgary-Hamilton game) only drew 3.8 million to TSN (over 4 million with RDS factored in), but 2015 (a close Edmonton-Ottawa game) bounced back nicely with 4.1 million on TSN and 4.3 million with RDS included.
This edition has the potential to do even better than last year, in Canada’s biggest TV market. Good matchup possibilities remain, with Edmonton facing Ottawa in the East final and Calgary hosting B.C. in the West. We’ll see how it plays out, but it’s smart of the CFL to start trying to hype up the big game this early. There’s still a week of playoff action to go, but raising awareness of the Grey Cup and getting people to start thinking about it feels like the right move.