Toronto, ON – There's nothing more Canadian in sports than the Canadian Football League (CFL). You can talk about hockey or lacrosse, but everything about the CFL is Canadian. Compared to American football, CFL fields are larger and wider, while goalposts are stationed in the front of the end zone (ridiculous, if you ask me, but that's the way it's always been). There's even a term called a 'rouge' known as a single point in the CFL, and unheard of in any other league.
A cornerstone of Nissan's current sponsorship plan has to do with sports, and for the points above, that is exactly why Nissan Canada got involved with the CFL back in 2007. A 10-year relationship has grown beyond giveaways, posters, or simply being the 'official vehicle of the CFL,' and into one that is focused on creating a grassroots football movement throughout the nation.
For the past three years, Nissan Canada, the Nissan dealership network, and the CFL have worked together to form the Nissan Kickoff Project – a project that involves aiding football school programs in need across the country, whether than means jerseys, cleats, helmets, etc. Through the program, the Nissan Kickoff Project has been able to assist more than 75 schools to the tune of $435,000.
For 2016, Nissan Canada wanted to add to its CFL partnership and created an inaugural event called, 'the Rally of the Titans.' To understand more on this, they invited a select group of automotive journalists to not only learn about it, but be involved as well.
The Rally of the Titans kicked off on Nov 12 with 10 Nissan Titan half-ton trucks representing each CFL team (well really nine and one that represents the Grey Cup), and they would visit every mainland province in Canada, totaling more than 9,000 kms. The task was for the West and East regions to group off in teams of two (BC, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg versus Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal and Grey Cup), and compete in challenges daily in different cities for points. The winning team would be announced on Saturday, November 26 ahead of 104th Grey Cup in Toronto.
My challenge on the second last leg was simple: drive the Titan half-ton from Nissan Canada's head office in Mississauga to the University of Toronto's Varsity Stadium. I was provided the keys to the Edmonton Eskimos Titan truck and paired up with Kaitlyn, the Edmonton brand ambassador. We chatted about her rally thus far and certain challenges along the way. She took a liking to the camaraderie felt within the team and exceptional memories that involved food bank deliveries, meeting CFL alumni and one cold polar bear dip.
Upon arrival at Varsity Stadium. It was the journalists turn to compete over a number of skill competitions: 40-yard dash, side-shuffle sprints, kicking and catching. We were all paired up with a CFL coach, mine was Hamilton Ti-Cats receiver and all-around high energy guy Chad Owens.
Yours truly fared well in most of the activities save for a one-handed catch attempt from Owens. But somehow, this competition would come down to a CFL trivia contest, where I was no match for a CFL-guru in attendance.
Win-or-lose, it's all about the journey and the fun times along the way. Those stories derived from the brand ambassadors that piloted these Titans from the furthest west and east regions of Canada. The pride in the CFL and their respective cities/provinces were shown, and I was simply happy to be a part of that.
Nissan Canada will be continuing its efforts in promoting the CFL, the Grey Cup and its Titan pickup throughout the week with kickoff parties at BMO field, concerts at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and a Nissan Titan Tailgate from 12-5pm on Sunday before the game begins.