June 30, 2010

Bates: Have to love that Rider Pride

Kelly Bates

I have never seen anything like it.  It’s absolutely everywhere.  Literally, you can’t turn a corner and not see some declaration of it.  IT is everywhere!

What is “IT” you may ask?  It is Rider Pride.

This year marks the centennial celebration of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  If I were just a casual observer I wouldn’t be able to help but notice the Rider-mania that continues to grip this province and dare I say, country?  However, as a member of the Riders I am not a casual observer.

Having lived through the re-emergence of the BC Lion fan base in the early 2000’s via the late, great, Bob Ackles, I have seen what strong leadership can bring to an organization.

Having now completed training camp and forging into our first week of preparation in Saskatchewan I have now had a glimpse of what it is like to become a member of an already outstanding organization – and a provincial obsession.

I draw parallels from my previous CFL experiences. What I witnessed in BC was the re-established connection to a fan base via marketing campaigns directed at the business community. It was immensely successful (the average game attendance almost doubled when comparing late 1990’s stats to late 2000’s).

The Riders have held telethons and fundraisers during times of financial despair but regardless, through the good times and the bad in this great province of Saskatchewan, football has been the thread that has woven, held together, and made tighter the fabric of what being a Saskatchewanean is all about. To me, the Roughriders marketing plan is so simple it is genius. Pride in ourselves and pride in our province…and that is Rider Pride!

With the team marking their centennial anniversary this season, the Riders have really pulled out all stops to ensure every man, woman and child is included in the celebration.  I reference just a few of the amazing instances, both big and small, that I’ve witnessed since returning home. 

Let’s start big.  In the downtown core of Regina, if you happen to be looking in a slightly upward direction, you can’t miss the Roughriders centennial logo covering the 20-plus story slopes of BOTH the Hill Centre Towers.  And that’s just the start.

The Riders are also in the midst of “Where is Riderville,” a contest to find where in the province the best Rider fans live.  If that weren’t enough to include small-town Saskatchewan, the team is also sending gift baskets to roughly 80 communities around the province that are also celebrating their centennials.

Rider licence plates and flags are on every car, the banners in every other window; I’ve even seen all natural, spf 20, Saskatchewan Roughrider lip gloss. 

And just for good measure. On my last trip up the number 11 to Saskatoon, my better half was proud to point out the signage at the A&W in Davidson (and for all of you wondering why we noticed the answer is yes…I stopped for a milkshake). It proclaimed, simply, the message “GO RIDERS”.

Have to love that Rider pride!