The Crew host Toronto FC tomorrow in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, and some fans "have been critical of the front office’s marketing efforts" amid the team's possible relocation to Austin, according to Andrew Erickson of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Some fans have indicated that the marketing push is "not what it would be in a normal playoff run, one without the threat of relocation looming." The team, supporters and local businesses have "each explored marketing the match in their own ways," with the result being a "standing-room-only crowd." For fans, daily social media reminders to purchase tickets "served as a way to challenge the idea" that the Crew lack "broad-based community support in Columbus" amid talks to move the team to Austin. Crew President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane said that the club’s marketing plan "has been a blend of radio, television and digital, along with social media and some outdoor advertising." He added that the front office "has spent twice as much marketing Tuesday’s game as it would for a regular-season match." Local businesses have also "done their part to draw eyes to the Crew’s playoff run." Outdoor advertising company Lamar's Columbus office "donated five digital billboards at the start of the team’s playoff push with the same design it used" for the '15 playoffs. Lamar Columbus GM Chris Avondet said that the billboards' locations "vary depending on availability but will remain up throughout the playoffs" and that the donation "spurred an outdoor advertising purchase from the Crew’s front office" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/19).
BITTERSWEET SITUATION: In Toronto, Laura Armstrong noted about 1,000 Toronto FC fans will travel to Columbus for the game, and some will be "standing in solidarity" with the Crew fans amid the relocation threat. Members of TFC supporter group Kings in the North have been "wearing yellow and black ribbons on their scarves for weeks and have lent their support to a 'Save The Crew' movement." Kings in the North leader David Pinto said, "If they’re already moving the teams that founded them, that a few down years in a row and somebody might not be looking to move TFC" (TORONTO STAR, 11/19). In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote to Crew Chair Anthony Precourt, "Please, don’t show your face at Mapfre Stadium on Tuesday. night. ... You can move your team to Austin, Texas, but don’t set another foot on our state fairgrounds, not this month. Show some respect for your kill. ... Celebrate in Austin with MLS commissioner Don Garber, the 'Soccer Don.' You are his Fredo. You two are this close to pulling off a heist that should have been inconceivable" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/19). The AP's Paul Newberry wrote in the end, MLS "will be as big a loser in this affair as the good people of Columbus." For the league’s growing fan base, who "chant and sing and tell themselves that MLS is different than those other American leagues, this should be a clear sign that it’s not" (AP, 11/18).
The Toronto Argonauts drew 24,929 fans to BMO Field yesterday for its CFL East Division Final win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, marking the "biggest crowd they have drawn to their new home" after moving there prior to the '16 season, according to Sean Fitz-Gerald of THE ATHLETIC. Temporary stands in the north end zone were "built for the Toronto FC playoff run," and the Argonauts "figured they would have about 26,000 tickets available to sell" for yesterday's game. The Argos averaged a CFL-low 13,919 fans per game during the regular season, and it was "never suggested publicly that the team would sell all available tickets," though it "came close" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's Rachel Brady notes the team "had special permission to open the tailgate party" at 9:00am ET. The Argos will play in their first Grey Cup in five years when they take on the Calgary Stampeders next Sunday at TD Place in Ottawa (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/20). The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson notes the stands were "mostly full" at the start of the game, a "most unusual site" for Argos games at BMO Field. It was a "convincingly Argo crowd, but there's little doubt the announced attendance ... would have been smaller without Saskatchewan participating in the affair." There were "large chunks of fans wearing Roughrider colours" (NATIONAL POST, 11/20).
TURNING THE CORNER? SPORTSNET.ca's Donnovan Bennett wrote the "entire atmosphere around the game was remarkably different than any other football game played at BMO Field over the last 24 months." This was "different than the first ever Argos game at BMO Field," as it was "more about communion than curiosity." Despite the Raptors playing at home yesterday, the "vibe across the downtown core was decidedly blue." There also were "considerable lines to get into BMO an hour before kickoff" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/19).
In Ft. Lauderdale, Tim Healey reports it is "not clear yet" how involved Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is "in baseball decision-making, but actual baseball decisions in the coming weeks and months should provide clarity." Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill said Jeter is in the office every day “unless he has something else scheduled.” Hill: "It’s been a pretty quick pace since he’s come aboard. He’s excited and engaged and a part of it. Looking forward to what comes next." Healey notes Jeter also has already "spent time putting his face and name, among the Marlins’ greatest marketing assets, to good use for the Marlins’ brand" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/20).
SENDING A MESSAGE: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey notes 50,490 fans "showed up at Soldier Field" yesterday for the Bears' 27-24 loss to the Lions, which means there were "10,145 no-shows." The Bears are 3-7 and in last in the NFC North, and "at least the no-shows can say they sent a message to Bears ownership that another losing season is not acceptable and that a coaching change needs to be made." Morrissey: "Think about it: The Bears are starting a rookie quarterback who was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, and interest in the team is either tepid or withheld as punishment" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/20).
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: In Las Vegas, Alan Snel noted the Golden Knights' business and video teams are using humor to "get some marketing attention." The Golden Knights' video production team this season has "already created at least three funny videos that have been well received." The team used Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” skit to "respond to fans who expressed mixed reviews to the rollout of the team’s mascot called, 'Chance,' a gila monster played by mascot character performer Clint McComb." The team also purchased a "powerful new goal horn that cost in the high five figures" (LVSPORTSBIZ.com, 11/19).