Canadian Football League’s social media presence spikes during talks with XFL

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The Canadian Football League’s social media presence exploded last month.

From March 10-12, league posts related to the formalization of talks with XFL ownership garnered more than 2.8 million impressions and 150,000 engagements; a staggering year-over-year increase of 1,000%.

During a 24-hour period from March 10-11, there were more than 650 traditional media pieces published in 22 countries, for an estimated ad value of $10.6 million, according to figures from Meltwater provided to Postmedia by the CFL. And almost 20 per cent of visitors to cfl.ca during that time were U.S.-based.

The attention was massive, warranted and ongoing. This is potentially huge news, though it was soft-pedalled by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie as little more than “talking about talking.” The two sides are clearly talking about a potential business relationship that could grow their brands and the game of football, and radically change the CFL on and off the field, for better or worse.

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But something else is driving social media interest at the same time. The XFL ownership group includes former defensive lineman and pro wrestler and current Hollywood icon, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. A CFL Instagram post featuring a 2018 video of Johnson talking about his brief stint with the Calgary Stampeders and his passion for the game has more than 50,000 views, significantly more than normal for a league post on that platform.

Such a boost in attention points to the corporate value of celebrity, a potent elixir that majority owners of professional basketball, baseball and soccer teams have sought out more and more often.

“Individuals have owned professional sports teams for 150 years,” said Daniel Cohen, senior vice-president of global media rights consulting for sports and entertainment marketing company Octagon. “Why is it that in only the last five to seven years has there been this massive shift in GPs, general partners, the majority shareholders, seeking out celebrity LPs, limited partners, for stakes in their teams?

“Josh Harris and David Blitzer, they don’t need Will Smith to own a piece of the (Philadelphia) 76ers. … But you see the power that celebrity wields and influences, and if you can use that to your advantage to drive attention and awareness and ultimately fans and sponsors and media dollars, why not?”

It’s a question the CFL leadership has asked itself and answered by way of continuing talks with XFL ownership. A pre-season game in Toronto featuring the Argos and Montreal Alouettes has limited appeal. A…


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