One of the more intriguing elements of the CFL is the numbers of fans from coast to coast are diehard supporters who will go to great lengths to show their devotion to their team. From west coast tailgates to watermelon bras, the Banjo Bowl, Southern Ontario rivalry games, Atlantic Canada celebrations and Grey Cup parties, there are plenty of unique experiences in this league, and most are firmly centred around fans (like the Roughriders' partisan pictured above at the 2010 Grey Cup). This year, TSN's planning to showcase how integral fans are to the league's success; they're going to be shooting and airing a series of CFL on TSN commercials featuring some of each team's top fans, like the Alouettes' supporter seen at right.
I spoke to TSN creative director Kieron Mullarkey Friday about the campaign, and he said the goal was to showcase the very real passion many fans have for the CFL. That passion's something he sees as a defining characteristic of the league.
"The CFL's really a grassroots league," Mullarkey said. "They have such a connection with the fans."
Mullarkey said he's hoping the commercials, which will feature fans dressed in team apparel and carrying their own paraphernalia to make them stand out, will come across as an accurate representation of how deeply fans care about the league.
"We wanted to be as authentic as possible, and what's more authentic than the fans?"
Mullarkey said TSN drew inspiration from the burgeoning world of social media, which has seen many passionate CFL fans take to Twitter and Facebook to express their thoughts on the league and their teams.
"Social media is literally blowing up in front of our eyes," he said. "Why not take advantage of it?"
TSN's done some smaller-scale promotions along these lines on their NHL coverage before, but Mullarkey said their plans to do shoots with fans in each CFL city is a new step for them.
"Our marketing department really kind of pushes us," he said. "It's going to be fun."
If this campaign goes well, future ads involving fans (perhaps even creative ones like the turkey-attired Bombers' supporter at a Thanksgiving game last year) could eventually be in the offing.
"It really depends on the creative we develop," Mullarkey said. "I suspect you will see fans in our Grey Cup creative."
People interested in taking part in the commercials should read the conditions on TSN's release, and then e-mail their full name, age and a photo of themselves to TSN.Casting@BellMedia.ca. The commercials will be shot across Canada starting May 30 and ending June 22. Jerseys are required, and creative props are encouraged; no word on if that will extend to those who take it as far as the Riders' fan who wore a Chewbacca costume to the Grey Cup (at right), though. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, May 24, however, and Mullarkey said they're already receiving plenty of inquiries.
"We're getting lots of responses," he said.
Mullarkey said he's looking forward to the campaign, which he thinks will be a positive for both TSN and the CFL.
"It's really having a lot of fun and connecting the whole country."