Prior to the team’s home Betfred Championship final match on October 5, we look at the what a great job marketing the Toronto Wolfpack did to grow their brand
Developing a franchise from the ground up, the Toronto Wolfpack engaged their fans through several initiatives; including introducing themselves through YouTube and publicizing local rugby players in North America. Now continuing success on the field has only reinforced the club’s brand.
It all comes down to initial brand awareness and promoting the name. This was done to raise awareness of rugby league in Canada before the Wolfpack played a game in rugby league. Ever since the players ran onto the field, has only supported the vision of the trans-Atlantic franchise.
The Wolfpack also market their players as experiencing the Canadian way of life. Being a part of the community, with open trials engaging the sports culture and exposing athletes to rugby league.
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) April 28, 2016
As much as the team played extremely well in their early matches, the organization created amazing live event experiences at Lamport Stadium. Furthermore, finishing first in each of their three seasons of existence has helped the Wolfpack gain fame with their North American fanbase, who are now parochial and enjoy any opportunity to ‘fly the flag’.
Toronto Wolfpack introduce themselves via YouTube
A lot of Wolfpack players introduced themselves as Toronto Wolfpack players on their YouTube channels. Some of them are still on the team roster now; like Blake Wallace and Liam Kay. Other notable players include Craig Hall, former Wolfpack captain and current Hull KR player in the Betfred Super League.
Here is what several of these players said about playing for the Toronto Wolfpack:
“I’m Liam Kay; as of 2017 I will be officially a Toronto Wolfpack player. when the opportunity became present I didn’t hesitate and grabbed it with both hands.”
“I feel very excited and very privileged to be a part of this great journey and expanding our great game into Canada, see you next year,” (Liam Kay Speaks on Joining the Toronto Wolfpack).
That media-friendly approach featured future teammate Rhys Jacks, who also ventured onto social media to broadcast his joining the club, in August 2016.
Liam Kay and Rhys Jacks settle into Toronto community
Both Liam Kay and Rhys Jacks talked about the different opportunities of growing the game in Toronto. Kay, one of the few players remaining from the start of the 2017 season, said that he was looking forward to playing in Toronto and experiencing Lamport Stadium nicknamed ‘the Den.’
Jacks was a Canadian Wolverine player (nickname for Canada’s national rugby league men’s team) when he signed for the Toronto Wolfpack. According to a National Post, Jacks had qualified via his grandfather, who spent the first seven years of his life in Canada before emigrating to Australia. This allowed Rhys Jacks to play for the Canadian Wolverines.
Both men settled into the Toronto community, with the club reaching out to locals and ex-pat rugby league fans [and non-league fans too].
The Wolfpack also tried to sign other players from North America, with their open trials.
Wolfpack’s open trials aim for potential playing roster
The Toronto Wolfpack showed on YouTube two preview videos on their channel Last Tackle TV two open trials in Toronto and in Philadelphia. They were also other cities in North America with open trials, like in Montreal and Vancouver.
These trials meant a lot to these Canadians. They only had the Wolfpack as a way to play professionally in both codes of rugby. There was no other way a Canadian rugby player could play professionally other than the Toronto Wolfpack. This can be seen in the following quote:
“I’m currently playing on the national team and I mean there’s been a lot of talk about this team so as soon as I heard of it, I thought definitely jump on it and give it my all and see where it can go,” (Last Tackle TV, October 2016).
The Wolfpack also attempted to sign other Canadians to the Wolfpack organization. For example, Chad Bain got a call from Brian Noble, Director of Rugby to play for the Toronto Wolfpack, which he replied, “I’m definitely down for sure. Thanks, I appreciate this so much.”
Those efforts to develop a local roster was a popular strategy.
— CBC Sports (@cbcsports) June 2, 2017
Unfortunately, any continuing trials for the Wolfpack and the marketing behind North American players playing for the Wolfpack have faded [for now]. True, there are no players from Canada currently playing for the Wolfpack. Still, the open trials tried gave needed awareness of the newly formed pro rugby league outfit.
This would be just the first of many examples the Wolfpack would market themselves to the public. To draw crowds to the home fixtures. And it is here, where the planning, promotion and internal and external marketing truly have evolved into a successful model.
Wolfpack truly entertain fans at Lamport Stadium
They also entertain fans with events the Wolfpack employees put on at Lamport Stadium. Ben Simmons, Rugby AM presenter from England went on to say this:
“It’s an amazing experience to be In, there is a proper event you cannot honestly the sun shining, the Stetsons on can you beat this.”
Then Simmons talked about the effort the Wolfpack put into the event. “Any Rugby League team in England needs to just they put effort into the event that that’s the biggest thing I’m learning is like we’ve got to be better at the events and these guys are without a doubt a lot better at an event. It’s that simple.”
An example of this would be the half-time entertainments the Wolfpack do in Canada. The Canadian military made the Wolfpack game eventful as helicopters were flying all over ‘the Den’ and Liberty Village at halftime.
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) August 31, 2019
There was also an entertaining half-time show where notable Wolfpack fans and mascots played games together with the military. These and other innovative and engaging promotions have made home games ‘the place to be’.
And considering the competition that the Toronto Wolfpack have – the NBA championship-winning Toronto Raptors, baseball, football and other contact sports like Wrestling and MMA, gaining a fan following is critical.
Gladly for the Wolfpack, they have been able to ‘back up’ what they do in the community, with results on the field.
Wolfpack’s success backed by first-rate Marketing Strategy
The Wolfpack has finished first in each of their first three seasons in the English Rugby League system. The franchise is undoubted, the hottest and most popular rugby league property in Canada.
On October 5, they may be one step closer to authenticity; and a place within the Super League (proper).
Their ongoing success is a big reason why Ottawa and New York City will likely get professional rugby league teams, as the sport aims to grow.
By marketing, by educating people about the game in Canada, and also by making it an event enjoyable for fans at Lamport Stadium, the Wolfpack can be seen as a stellar success.
Most importantly, they made professional rugby league viable in Canada and in North America.
The Toronto Wolfpack play in the Grand Final of the Betfred Championship, on October 5.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images