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JONES: One month in, new Elks president Victor Cui already making impact – Toronto Sun

‘You have 10 home games and you want them to be the focus. You don’t do that just with the traditional marketing’

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi (left) receives an Edmonton Elks jersey from new club president and CEO Victor Cui at City Hall on Jan. 25, 2022.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi (left) receives an Edmonton Elks jersey from new club president and CEO Victor Cui at City Hall on Jan. 25, 2022. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia, file

It’s the one-month anniversary of Victor Cui returning home from building a billion-dollar sports entertainment business in Asia to become the president and CEO of the community-owned Edmonton Elks.

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Cui, who co-founded, became CEO and remains a significant shareholder of the ONE Championship mixed martial arts entity based out of Singapore, could probably afford to buy the EE franchise if it were for sale, moved into his office Feb. 1.

Thursday, he’ll reveal a new (old?) EE helmet design and then really roll up his sleeves ready to attack the job.

After a month looking out his office window at the 56,302 snow-covered empty seats in Commonwealth Stadium and engaging everybody who was interested in conversing with him, Cui believes he can deliver, big time.

He’d returned to his hometown to go to the last few games with fewer than 10,000 fans in the stands — a complete contrast to the combined near 100,000 that sat in the same stadium to watch snow banks-on-the-sidelines Canada-Costa Rica and Canada-Mexico in mid-November FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

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A mere month into the job, he believes it will be possible for the Ex-imos to return to filling Commonwealth Stadium again, perhaps even for the June 18 home opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“You know what a ridiculous proposition is? ‘Lets put soccer in the middle of winter in an outdoor open stadium and go and try to sell tickets.’ That sounds stupid. But it was done. So, it doesn’t scare me.

“My goal is not to sell 40,000 tickets to a game again. My goal is to fill the stadium. I believe in aiming for the stars and if I miss, we’ll hit the moon. My goal is to fill the stadium for every single game that we have. And I believe we can do it.

“I think the mood of the people in the city is that they are ready to get back together and gather together to help make Edmonton become Edmonton again.

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“You have 10 home games and you want them to be the focus. You don’t do that just with the traditional marketing, spend a few days before the home game. It’s not about bringing a music act at half time. That doesn’t build a loyal fan.”

Cui had his biggest successes in Asia using social media and digital to embrace the younger generation and that plan is being built.

“You have to ask yourself what you are doing digitally to make you relevant in their life? We’re building out a strategy that is going to be the best in this entire league. I’ll be taking all of my experience from what I’ve done in the past and creating the kind of visual strategy for our younger demographic audience that is going to be the best, bar none.

“From now until our opening day, we are building a very specific strategy not just around the season ticket sales and casual sales but on creating a buzz around the community. Our plan going forward is to have a different engagement every week to help create that buzz.”

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You should know that Cui’s employers are already raving about the job he’s done.

“His knowledge and positive energy has already created significant momentum and has already led to real improvements and progress. As well, his engagement with the community is being well received,” said board chair Ian Murray.

Cui says his first month on the job has been a blast.

“It has been a whirlwind of passion-filled excitement.

“I’ve been surprised at how surprised fans are that I talk to them directly. So, that part has been great as an eye-opener. They want to see the organization get better and have passed on dozens of ways they would recommend to make the relationship with season-ticket holders better from access to ticketing to concessions. They’re really well thought out and really helpful.

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“I’ve been getting 350 messages a day on social media. If I was to hire a consulting firm to tell us what our fan base thinks, we’d have to pay them tens of thousands of dollars to come back with research from a thousand fans. I’ve been talking to a thousand fans, directly, in three days.

“On the practical business side, I’ve really tried to create a momentum-building thing that touches different parts of our business and community.

“We launched the $99 per season ticket family pack and that was our most successful pre-season ticket day in the history of the company,” he said of bringing 4,000 new season ticket subscribers during the 72-hour sale.

Next up is a Thursday photo op introducing the new helmet that they’ve been teasing on Twitter that would make most believe it’ll be a return to the old ‘EE’ from the antler look of last season.

“It’s because of this feedback that we’re announcing the change with the helmets,” he said. “As a fan growing up in Edmonton, I loved the Double-E. But more importantly it was more than being about putting a sticker on the helmet.

“To me, it was an opportunity to interact with our alumni and our fans and talk about something that we are deeply connected to. It’s not just the EE letters as a brand but what they symbolize.”

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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