CFL trades in helmets for Jenga and Battleship

The football league is producing new YouTube series to reach younger audiences.

The CFL is shrugging off the pads and helmets with two new YouTube series intended to show off the personalities of its players, connect with new audiences and create new opportunities for advertisers.

One new series, called “GameTime,” stars Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence and other players in the football league playing popular pastime games like Battle Ship and Jenga and debating fun topics.

Another, to debut next week, is called “Bootcamp” and will feature a seven-year-old girl taking players through her version of a training session – in a play centre – while asking them tough questions, like who their favourite character is from the movie Frozen.

The new short video series are created by CFL Media with digital agency One Method and target viewers 35 and younger. Christina Litz, VP of broadcast and media assets, says the series are primarily intended to engage the league’s current fan base and reach some new ones with shareable, social content beyond the game highlights. Advertising opportunities are currently limited to pre-roll but in the long-term, she says the league would like to integrate brands into the video content.

However she says that “simply going to a sponsor and saying that we’ll build a spot” is not the right approach for digital. Rather, the CFL aims to build content that is authentic, feels good for the brand and its audiences and is shareable before looking for external partners.

The league’s current sponsors for game broadcasts and TSN Sportscentre segments include Wendy’s, Nissan, General Motors, Purolator, Safeway and Moores.

“Going forward into 2015 we would be looking at incorporating brand messaging and experiences right within the video itself and work with the brands to make sure it’s authentic to what we’re both trying to do and primarily that it’s there to engage and entertain our audiences,” Litz says. She adds that with these initial videos, “the goal is actually the learnings that we get from this and understanding how our fans are watching and engaging with this content.”

The social videos are being promoted via the league’s and the participating players’ social channels, while it is paying to boost posts about the content on Facebook.

GameTime runs until Nov. 25, the week of the 102nd Grey Cup. Litz says the league will continue to develop original content ahead of the 2015 season.