Each year as a dutiful Canadian boy I watch the Grey Cup. I've even attended a few. It's a Canadian football tradition, dating back a gazillion years, and will probably be here a gazillion more.
There is something interesting with the Grey Cup, and football north of the 48th. It's unique.
Football late in the year can be played in several cities that we can describe as smaller, in terrible weather. The Grey Cup could very well be staged each year devoid of weather (Toronto has a 6 million plus population to draw from and has a dome, for example, and Montreal played in a dome for years), and was for some time. But what it did was hurt the brand. The Grey Cup in Toronto was one of fifty or so events going on in the Big Smoke, and it did not stand out. And it was not played outside, in the possible wind and cold.
The CFL fixed that, and started to give the game more and more to western cities, including last year in Regina, Saskatchewan.
In these smaller cities the game is big. Everyone is there to watch the game. Everyone knows football. The game is presented in a manner which is exactly what the league is - different. This is infectious to everyone else in the country - rural, urban, football fans, or non-fans - and has helped the brand grow. TV ratings have been through the roof, and attendance has been huge.
In an exclusive scoop, Greg Hall reported today that the 2015 Breeders Cup will be held at Keeneland, in Lexington, Kentucky. This is great news for the Breeders Cup brand, and great news for horse racing.
Keeneland is horse breeding. It's rolling hills, horse sales and a hotbed of the sport, just like a Regina Saskatchewan is for CFL football. Where better to hold a Breeders Cup and showcase the event to the world than where the sport is lived, breathed and is in the fabric of every resident, patron, old and young? I don't think you'd find anywhere better.
Sure there aren't myriad high class shops in downtown Lexington like LA. Sure there aren't hundreds of movie stars living nearby. No, a dozen bands won't be playing a coliseum that weekend, nor will there be 1,000 restaurants to try. But why should we care? If you go to Keeneland, you go to watch horse racing. If you go to Regina Saskatchewan for the Grey Cup, you go to watch football. Who needs the rest?
Jack Trout, Seth Godin and many other marketers say that a business or venture can not survive when they do not embrace who they are. CFL football and other niche sports have done exactly that, and have survived, grown and sometimes thrived. At Keeneland, the Breeders Cup is saying "here is what we are, come join us." And that, I think, is a recipe for success.
Bravo to the Breeders Cup.
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