On Friday, new commissioner Jeffrey Orridge unveiled Shaw Communications Inc. as the first-ever presenting sponsor of the Grey Cup.
"I think it's about elevating and strengthening the Grey Cup," said Orridge. "We're building a modern CFL and one that respects tradition but it's also reaching out to new audiences in new ways. We think it's a perfect partnership in terms of taking the CFL into the digital age and gives us an opportunity to showcase and tell more stories around the athletes."
The multi-year partnership will also see Shaw Communications Inc. serving as the title partner of the CFL player awards and the league's weekly and monthly player achievement programs. After Labour Day, Shaw will partner with league broadcaster TSN on a series called Shaw Road to the Grey Cup, which will also be prevalent on TSN and CFL digital properties.
"This partnership will allow us to create original dynamic content to engage our customers and CFL fans from coast to coast," said Jim Little, the senior vice-president and chief marketing officer for Shaw Communications Inc.
Financial details of the partnership weren't divulged. But in 2007, the CFL's board of governors approved selling the naming rights to the Grey Cup, which at the time some league officials figured could generate as much as $10 million annually.
Corporate sponsorship is common in the sports landscape, with companies featured prominently in sponsoring pro golf and tennis events and U.S. college football bowl games. But many top pro sports championship trophies, notably the Stanley Cup and Super Bowl, continue to stand on their own.
The presenting sponsorship of the Grey Cup will likely upset some CFL traditionalists but Orridge said the partnership with Shaw will bring the Grey Cup — consistently one the most-watched TV events in Canada — to more people.
"This allows us an opportunity to enhance and elevate the Grey Cup and bring it and the CFL with Shaw to more people and access them in more and better ways," he said.
CFL training camps open later this month, with the regular season slated to kick off June 25. The 2015 Grey Cup game will be held in Winnipeg on Nov. 29.