Out with the old, in with the new: CIS rebrands itself as “U Sports”

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Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) announced that they will be rebranding themselves as “U Sports” at a press conference held in Toronto on Oct. 20. CIS is the governing body for university sports in Canada and oversees 56 universities, including the University of Waterloo.

A large part of this rebrand was to have a single identity that can be interpreted in both English and French. Schools with French as their primary language would interpret “Canadian Interuniversity Sports” as “Sport Interuniversitaire Canadien,” or “SIC,” and often times they would be pushed together as “CIS-SIC,” but “U Sports” can be spelt out and pronounced the same way in English and French.

Of course, with any rebranding comes the inherent opportunity for new marketing campaigns, higher brand exposure, luring in sponsors, and an opportunity to increase revenue and viewership — two things the CIS/SIC has a difficult time accomplishing.

Back in 2014, Canadian sports television network Sportsnet stopped broadcasting regular season OUA football games because of “low ratings and high production costs,” reported The Toronto Star. This left the OUA to stream all games on their website. This year, CIS attempted to get some traction for the OUA football playoffs by nationally broadcasting four games on CityTV, but only 18,000 viewers tuned in to see the Sept. 17 bout between Western and Queen’s. Additionally, only football was broadcasted, leaving the other 11 sports untelevized.

“As a member institution I think all of our hope is that we do grow sponsorships and ultimately grow recognition of a great brand which is a great product of amateur sports in this country,” said Roly Webster, UW director of athletics and recreation. “The product on our campuses doesn’t get the exposure or recognition it deserves and at a league level our hope is that [U Sports] will help improve that.”

Outside of the branding itself, U Sports “aims to create a massive change in the way university sports are consumed in a fast-changing digital era,” said Graham Brown, the CEO of U Sports. Brown was named CEO of CIS a little over a year ago on Sept. 3, 2015.

“What we’re really here for is the future students, the kids in high school who are looking to play university sports,” said Brown. “To give them something that they can look to and be empowered by. I think that’s what a singular brand with a powerful face can really do for our organization.”

As for noticeable changes on the Waterloo campus, students will have to wait a bit. “I think it’s going to be an evolution for sure. Seeing the brand on what we do, it’s going to take time for us all,” said Webster. “[It’s] not in our venues or in our programs so how does that brand get strengthened by co-branding with each of the 56 institutions?”

As for now, U Sports has introduced a sleek new website that will eventually take over all the core functionality of the CIS site. They have also made the appropriate changes on Twitter and Instagram.

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