The top four sports brands in Canada

A new survey shows which teams are the most respected in Canada, with implications for companies looking to reach sports fans.

The teams with the most fans aren’t always the most revered in Canada. A survey conducted by Insightrix measured how the country as a whole saw teams based on respect, loyalty and live atmosphere to figure out which one had the strongest overall brand in the country.

Insightrix surveyed 300 sports fans in each of Canada’s nine largest cities and weighted the results to be representative of the country’s population as a whole. Instead of asking which teams the respondents were themselves fans of, the survey instead aimed to gauge perception of teams among sports fans as a whole. For each league, the survey asked fans which team first came to mind, which team they respected the most, which team they thought was most popular, which team had the most loyal fans and which team had the best atmosphere in the stadium.

“For fans, you just have to count population or attendance, it’s a no brainer,” Mario Caceres, senior research executive at Insightrix, tells MiC. “We wanted to measure brand strength, across the nation. That’s what we think is more important and more interesting.”

By weighing and combining the results from each category – placing heavier emphasis on factors like respect and top-of-mind recall – the survey determined that the strongest sports brands in Canada are:

1. Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens were the top team in every category of the survey but one. Twenty-three percent of respondents said that they respected the Habs more than any other hockey team, 23% said they had the most loyal fans, 24% said they had the best arena atmosphere and 21% said they believed they were the most popular team. The polling period may have had an impact on the results, coming on the heels of the Canadiens’ run to the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs came in second due to its strong rating in the important top-of-mind recall category (15%). It also ranked third for most loyal fans (20%), best stadium atmosphere (11%) and perception of popularity (15%). Caceres says that he was surprised at the Leaf’s high position, given the team’s notorious lack of success on the ice. The regular sell-out crowds at the Air Canada Centre contributed to its stadium atmosphere and loyalty results, although that changed the farther the survey got from the GTA.

“The Leafs are very strong in the eastern regions of Canada, but once you go west, the Canadiens have the stronger brand,” he says.

3. Saskatchewan Roughriders

While they didn’t place for top-of-mind recall, at 12%, the Roughriders were the second-most respected team. That was good enough for third on the overall list when combined with second place rankings in the lower-weighted categories of most loyal fans (22%), best stadium atmosphere (16%) and perception of popularity (17%).

“The Roughriders were a bit surprising, given the low population weight of Saskatchewan compared to the national population,” Caceras says. The report also says that CFL teams in general, while having a strong regional presence, have a greater affinity outside of their home markets than NHL teams.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Even though the Jays only appeared in top four in two of the categories, doing so in the most important ones allowed them to grab the final spot on the list. The only team to top the Canadiens in any category, the Jays were the first team to come to mind for 19% of sports fans, beating the Habs by a margin of 0.7%. The Blue Jays also came in third in the ever-important most respected team category (9%).

In the NBA, the league’s only Canadian team, the Toronto Raptors, came in fourth for most loyal fans (7%), recall (12%) and tied for fourth with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes for best stadium atmosphere (7%).

For potential sponsors, Caceres says that the best bet for those looking at a broad audience is still to do something that covers an entire league or targets whichever city they are looking to operate in. However, for brands that want to target sports fans but don’t have the budget for a national sponsorship, or are looking to reach a regional audience, this information can go a long way to developing an efficient strategy.

“If you’re looking at your media buy, you should buy at games where those teams play to get most exposure,” he says. “If Vancouver is important for your campaign, games that feature them playing the Canadiens or Maple Leafs are going to have a bigger return.”

The survey also found that 59% of Canadians consider themselves fans of the NHL, with 42% being fans of the CFL, 29% for major league baseball, 20% for NBA and 16% for MLS.

Image courtesy meunierd/Shutterstock