Ti­cats are trend­ing younger

Team is com­bin­ing a younger de­mo­graphic with tra­di­tional hard­core fans

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

In the midst of what Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell calls a pe­riod of “great sta­bil­ity” within the or­ga­ni­za­tion, there is still one more chal­lenge for the team — and the league — to con­quer: chang­ing the de­mo­graph­ics of the fan base.

The Ti­cats held their an­nual sea­son-pre­view con­fer­ence call Wed­nes­day, and Mitchell painted a rosy pic­ture of the team’s fan sup­port. They ex­pect to con­tinue their string of sell­outs, cur­rently at 27, through the 2017 sea­son. Cor­po­rate spon­sor­ships around Tim Hor­tons Field are also com­pletely sold out.

But the CFL has tra­di­tion­ally strug­gled in at­tract­ing younger fans. A 2015 study from the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge found that the league’s top de­mo­graphic was men 55 and over, with 47 per cent of re­spon­dents say­ing they fol­lowed the league. That dropped to 39 per cent for males those be­tween the ages of 35 and 54, and to 26 per cent for those at 18 to 34.

How­ever, the team and the CFL has made a strong push to at­tract a younger au­di­ence over the past cou­ple of years, and Mitchell says that’s start­ing to pay div­i­dends.

“We’re very ex­cited in the trends we’re see­ing in new sea­son seat hold­ers and our re­newals of our first- and sec­ond-year sea­son seat hold­ers,” he said. “It’s al­lowed us to change the de­mo­graph­ics within our fan base, com­bin­ing that younger de­mo­graphic with our hard­core fans.”

Ac­cord­ing to Matt Afinec, the ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent busi­ness op­er­a­tions, the team has added a num­ber of new sea­son ticket hold-

ers since mov­ing into Tim Hor­tons Field mid-way through 2014. Many are young fam­i­lies and mil­len­ni­als at­tracted to af­ford­able ticket pack­ages and “out of seat” view­ing ar­eas like end zones and con­courses, as well as the branded spa­ces like Coors Light Pa­tio and the Pioneer En­ergy Zone. “Keep­ing this seg­ment en­gaged in the brand via pur­chas­ing sea­son seats is cru­cial to our busi­ness,” Afinec said, adding, “the pre­mium in­ven­tory at Tim Hor­tons Field such as the club level and suites has been a trans­for­ma­tional part of our busi­ness.”

After strug­gling fi­nan­cially for years, Mitchell says the Ti­cats have achieved eco­nomic sta­bil­ity since mov­ing into the new fa­cil­ity. While the sta­dium is still mired in le­gal dis­putes that are pre­vent­ing the team from host­ing a Grey Cup — Mitchell had lit­tle to of­fer by way of an up­date on that front — Mitchell said the fo­cus is now clearly on the on-field prod­uct.

“We’ve ac­com­plished every­thing we wanted to ac­com­plish. With the sole ex­cep­tion of win­ning a Grey Cup.”

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