The 50th CIS Vanier Cup – Captivating an Audience

The CIS, as the national organization of university sport in Canada, is faced with many challenges in uniting member conferences and institutions and delivering quality national championships. This past year, the organization used the lead up to the 50th Telus Vanier Cup as a means to provoking a renewed interest in CIS properties. In the subsequent paragraphs I will look at some of the strategies the CIS used to draw the attention of Canadian sports fans.

Fast Facts

  • The Vanier Cup is the national championship game for football in Canadian Interuniversity Sport

  • 50 years since the first Vanier Cup was held in 1965

  • Université de Montréal 20 – McMaster University 19 final score of this year’s Telus Vanier Cup

  • 22,650 fans in attendance at McGill University’s Percival Molson Stadium in Montréal

  • 320,000 average TV viewership on Sportsnet and Sportsnet360 (and not including viewers on Radio-Canada) during the national live-broadcast

Awareness through Engagement

In the lead up to the Vanier Cup, the CIS employed several strategies aimed at generating awareness by engaging Canadian sports fans across the nation.

Host City and Logo Reveal – in April 2014, the CIS hosted a press conference at Montréal’s city hall in the presence of mayor Denis Coderre to announce that Montreal would be the host city and to reveal the logo for the 2014 Telus Vanier Cup.

Trophy Tour – during the 2014 CIS regular season, the Vanier Cup visited 11 rivalry games across the country. This tour provided spectators across the country with the opportunity to interact with the Vanier Cup and the CIS brand.

History of the Vanier Cup’ – the CIS dedicated a page on their website to the history of the Vanier Cup including: game recaps, game statistics, and a ’50th Vanier Cup Interview Series’ where the CIS interviewed participants from each of the 49 preceding Vanier Cups.

Strategic Social Media – the CIS adopted a relationship-marketing approach to social media by focusing on engaging users throughout the lead up to the Vanier Cup. Specifically, the CIS used Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to: share exclusive image and video content (crowd shots, trophy presentation, press conferences), to interact with fans who were discussing CIS football throughout the season and playoffs, and to build relationships with partners like Tourisme Montréal and #MTLMoments. The CIS realized the strengths of this approach as the official Vanier Cup hashtag #Vanier50 was trending on Twitter during the game; a feat that speaks to the amount of social media awareness generated.

Game-Day Experience

It was as if the storyline was scripted, Université de Montréal knocking off perennial powerhouse Université Laval in the Dunsmore Cup and winning the national championship game at home. Sportsnet’s CIS reporter Donovan Bennett described it as the best sporting event atmosphere, start to finish he had ever experienced. From the pre-game tailgating, to the packed stadium, to the game itself, all aspects of the game-day experience were on point.

National Interest?

After observing the strategies that the CIS used to generate awareness and their delivery of an exceptional game-day experience, I used Google Trends to analyze the relative search frequency of the term ‘Vanier Cup’ across Canada in the year 2014. It should be noted that because the search term is in English, relative frequency of Quebec is not accurate (as it would not include ‘Coupe Vanier’ searches).

From the diagram we see that relevant search frequency is restricted to Ontario (home province of participating McMaster Marauders) and Quebec (host province of the game and home of the participating Montréal Carabins). The most important conclusion to be drawn from this chart is that the game, despite best efforts by the CIS, only generated interest in participating provinces. This was a recurring trend in my Google Trends research of the past ten Vanier Cups. When the data from the past ten years is combined, we see a much different picture of national interest.

In the image above we see a much more even distribution of interest in the Vanier Cup across Canada, demonstrating that regional interest in the Vanier Cup is currently dependent on participating teams and host city. Finally, I compared my findings to the search frequencies of two comparable Canadian sports properties, the CHL’s Memorial Cup and the CFL’s Grey Cup in 2014.

From these images, we see that the CHL and CFL have been able to generate national interest in their marquee events regardless of participating teams and host cities. The next step for the CIS will be building on the momentum and buzz generated from the 50th Vanier Cup, to foster consistent, national interest in CIS championship properties in the years to come!

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