Leveraging Damage Prevention Awareness with the Grey Cup

Demographics are a promotional campaign’s key ingredient, and identifying and reaching your target audience is critical. When done correctly, it can be the tipping point between meeting your objective and missing it altogether.

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) has a solid
history of leveraging sports, such as NASCAR, hunting, fishing, horse racing and baseball to  promote damage prevention awareness. In Canada,
our greatest pastimes are hockey and football. Although the timing of the hockey season doesn’t align with the digging season, the Canadian Football League’s season does.

A few years ago, Mr. Steve Loney, a TransCanada Pipelines employee in Manitoba with unique ties to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, presented the Canadian Common Ground Alliance (CCGA) with an exclusive opportunity to become the Hall of Fame’s
Safety Sponsor. It provided the CCGA with numerous appearances of the Grey Cup throughout Canada and tickets to the Grey Cup Championship game, allowing us to leverage awareness in a way we had never done before.

The Grey Cup is awarded to the victorious “East vs. West” team competing for the Cup in one of Canadian television’s largest annual sporting events. The trophy was commissioned in 1909 by Earl Grey, then Canada’s governor general, who originally intended to donate it for the country’s senior amateur hockey championship. The Grey Cup has tremendous character. It has been broken on several occasions, stolen twice and even held for ransom. It also miraculously survived a 1947 fire that destroyed numerous artifacts housed in the same building.

Mr. Jeff McWhinney is one of the official Keepers of the Grey Cup. For Jeff, his role as Keeper of the Cup has deep meaning. His father, Glenn “The Keeper” McWhinney, played professional football for the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and instilled a deep respect within Jeff for the sport, its players and the Cup. After a few hours spent with Jeff as he tirelessly showcases the “people’s Cup” to any person who wants to
see it, you’ve been converted – you also become a custodian of the Cup.

The CCGA’s relationship with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Grey Cup created excitement and a general “buzz” everywhere it went. It has opened doors, produced interest, initiated discussion, bridged relationships and leveraged ClickBeforeYouDig and DigSafe awareness.  while the CCGA learned about the history of the Grey Cup and the players’ names engraved on it, Jeff McWhinney was learning about the CCGA and the critical importance of preventing damage to Canada’s critical underground infrastructure. While we became custodians of the Grey Cup, he became a damage prevention ambassador.

The CCGA has been working on securing national damage prevention legislation for the past three years and in September 2017, the CCGA’s annual Damage Prevention Symposium strategically took place in Ottawa, Ontario, our country’s capitol. While there, the CCGA scheduled meetings with federal departments, Ministries and Members of Parliament. We also were fortunate enough to hold a reception for Members of Parliament
on Parliament Hill to promote awareness of the legislation that was recently adopted in the Senate and about to be tabled in the House of Commons. With Jeff and the Grey Cup in appearance, the reception was at capacity. While our government leaders waited their turn to have their photograph taken with the Cup and Jeff, a team of CCGA representatives mingled with them, delivering key legislation messages and answering questions on the imperative need to secure national damage prevention legislation. The event was a tremendous success and wouldn’t have been possible without the presence of the Grey Cup and its dedicated Keeper, Jeff McWhinney.

The CCGA was proud to be the 2016-17 Safety Sponsor for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The Grey Cup symbolizes the vision, journey, passion and teamwork it takes to achieve our goal of zero damages and we were humbled to borrow equity, determination and pride from those whose names appear on the Cup and in the Hall of Fame.


Mike Sullivan is Executive Director for CCGA. He can be reached at msullivan@canadiancga.com.

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