TORONTO – The Montreal Canadiens are the top sports brand in Canada, according to a new opinion survey.
The same poll put the Toronto Maple Leafs in second and the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team in third.
Saskatoon-based Insightrix Research Inc. polled more than 2,500 Canadians in nine cities that have professional sports teams.
“It’s not a popularity contest. We’re not asking people ‘who is your favourite team?’ What it means is the strength of the brand, how is it perceived,” said Mario Caceres, a senior research executive at the research firm.
Caceres said the survey was done to get a sense of how strong the Roughrider brand was nationally. He said sports fans were asked several questions including what is the most respected team in Canada and which team has the most fans.
In most of the categories, Montreal was on top. And that left a bitter feeling with some members of Leafs Nation.
“I don’t like Montreal. I disagree with this,” said Toronto resident Ethan Kopecky.
Montreal was perceived to have the most popular team and most loyal fans, according to the survey. When it came to the most respected team, the Habs, Roughriders and Toronto Blue Jays took top three.
The Leafs ranked somewhere in the top ten.
“I admire Montreal, what they do and how they play, but I think Toronto is the real Canadian hockey team,” said Leafs fan Moses Pappiste.
Some fans questioned the timing of the survey. The poll went out between May 8 and May 26, in the middle of the 2013/2014 NHL playoffs when the Montreal Canadiens were in and the Leafs were out.
Caceres said they recognize the timing but credit the Leafs for taking second place.
“The Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967. So that’s pretty amazing that they’re still in second place. That’s the power of the brand,” he said.
There is no doubt the Maple Leafs brand is strong; The team was the only NHL franchise to make the Forbes most valuable teams list.
“They spend a lot of time and effort, in my opinion, to build a very strong entity in sports,” said Ross Marin, President of Fantactics Sports Marketing.
Marin said the poll results didn’t surprise him because it’s about the fan experience more than the business.
“Montreal Canadiens are doing the same thing, but they have reached out to their fans. They see the power in that.” he said. Marin mentioned another poll several years ago.
“They had surveyed all the teams in regards to how the fan experience was and they (leafs) were last on the list of all the pro sports teams in North America” he said.