Edmonton Journal

CFL catching on with Americans under 35

- DAN RALPH

As the CFL looks to gain a younger audience in Canada, the league is most popular with Americans under 35, a new survey suggests.

Dr. Reginald Bibby, a sociologis­t at the University of Lethbridge, conducted online surveys in Canada and the U.S. last February in partnershi­p with Vision Critical. The Canadian poll found the league’s top demographi­c domestical­ly was 55 and over, with 33 per cent of respondent­s saying they followed it closely.

In the U.S. survey, 22 per cent of respondent­s between 18 and 34 said they followed the CFL, compared to seven per cent in the 35-to-54 category and three per cent for those 55 and over.

“The thing that’s the eye- catcher is CFL interest among people in the U.S. under the age of 35,” Bibby said. “What I wanted to do initially was just look at the whole idea that Americans tend to be far more caught up in following sports than Canadians are.

“I obviously wanted to include the CFL but I did that with a lot of apprehensi­on simply because I thought this was going to be masochisti­c and the U.S. figures were going to be terrible for the CFL.”

Of the 4,022 Canadians surveyed, 26 per cent said they followed the CFL, second only to the NHL (46 per cent) and slightly ahead of the NFL (23 per cent) and Major League Baseball (22 per cent). That figure dropped to 10 per cent in the U.S., leaving the league tied with curling for last among 17 listed sports.

The U.S. survey suggests the CFL is most popular with those in the 18-to-34 demographi­c who also follow NCAA football, with 45 per cent saying they followed the league.

Not surprising­ly, the NFL rules in the U.S., ranking first among the 4,079 Americans surveyed at 53 per cent. Baseball was next at 40 per cent, followed by NCAA football (37), NBA (33) and NCAA basketball (32). The NHL was tied with NASCAR for sixth with 24 per cent or respondent­s saying they follow hockey. Bibby said a big reason for CFL interest in the U.S. is that fans can easily follow NCAA stars playing in Canada online.

“Before, people in the U.S. really wouldn’t have a clue about what happened to players in their area once their college careers were over,” he said. “The net has dramatical­ly changed all that ... I think it’s dramatic news to find there’s this opportunit­y and people seem to be taking advantage of it.

“These findings show the CFL continues to know considerab­le vitality. Given the Internet is giving it unpreceden­ted visibility, the league is now on the verge of an unexpected and extraordin­ary opportunit­y to increase its brand exposure beyond Canada — beginning with the U.S.”

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