I spoke with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix yesterday regarding Pepsi's Cheer Nation. I previously wrote about Cheer Nation in an entry entitled Cheer Nation? I'm Not Chanting "Eh! O' Canada Go!" For Pepsi.
It must be a slow news day in Saskatoon. The article in which I'm quoted is currently the lead story.
Here's the article in which I do my very best Neil Young impersonation.
Give a cheer
Professional fan teaches 'Eh! O' Canada Go'
By Wendy Gillis, For The StarPhoenix
Having thousands of cheering sports fans watch his every exuberant move is just another day at the office for Cameron Hughes. But one excited woman gave the professional sports entertainer a career first on Saturday during Team Canada's premier game of the 2010 IIHF world junior hockey championship.
"She just grabbed me, took my head firmly between her hands and planted a kiss right on my lips," said Hughes. "I knew people in Saskatchewan were friendly, but not that friendly."
For 13 years, the Ottawa native has travelled throughout Canada and the United States living every sports fan's dream. At games, he yells at the top of his lungs, leads cheers, throws T-shirts into the crowd and dances up and down the stairs -- and gets paid to do it.
His flair for fanaticism has him perform at dozens of professional baseball, hockey, basketball and football games, including last year's Grey Cup game in Montreal. Now, Hughes brings his infectious energy and self-described awkward dance moves to Saskatchewan for his first gig at the world junior tournament.
"This is a dream come true," said Hughes, who always watched the tournament as a boy.
Though the job title of professional fan may sound cushy, Hughes has to suit up and prepare like any athlete he cheers on. He does vocal exercises and drinks special tea to protect his voice, and non-stop moving forces him to tape his ankles prior to each performance.
Despite his preparation, Hughes still has battle scars: Constant clapping has left him with chapped and cut hands, and he has been sent to the hospital eight times during the course of his career.
Hired to cheer by PepsiCo Beverages Canada, Hughes' task at the world juniors is to promote the company's national hockey program Cheer Nation. According to Pepsi, the goal of Cheer Nation is to give Canadian hockey fans their own cheer for Team Canada.
The company ran a contest for a national hockey cheer, and the result was debuted during Team Canada's game against Latvia Saturday. Penned by Ontario high school teacher Joan Buma, the simple "Eh! O' Canada Go!" was the contest winner, beating out 1,000 other submissions.
"I'm an encourager by nature, and I'm a die-hard hockey fan," Buma said Sunday from her home in Grimsby.
Buma wrote the cheer a mere two days before the contest closed, and got her students to participate in the video submission at the last minute. She receives a four-day trip to Saskatoon for the championship, and a vacation to Germany for the 2010 IIHF World Championship in May.
Hughes said hockey fans embraced the cheer when he taught it to the 12,469 people at Credit Union Centre on Saturday. He said fans were singing along with him and then chanting it on their own.
But Cheer Nation has come under fire from those who think Pepsi is turning Canada's love affair with hockey into a marketing gimmick.
On the Internet, some blogs and comment boards are questioning Pepsi's motives, with one blogger saying cheers must be "organically spread."
"Such cheers can't be forced upon us by a multinational corporation," Mike Boon, a Toronto-based blogger at torontomike.com, said in an e-mail.
But Dale Hooper, vice-president of marketing at PepsiCo, says the cheer is only meant create a "legacy for Canadian hockey."
"We've been partners with Hockey Canada for 10 years, and we look to build on that partnership," Hooper said. "This is not a marketing ploy as much as a chance for (Buma) to share this with Canadians."
Hughes will be in Saskatchewan for the duration of the tournament or, as he says, "until Canada wins gold."
This article is like a big ad for Pepsi, with the two men on PepsiCo's payroll getting 95% of the ink. I suppose my quote was in there to give it a little "balance". They could have used a few of my other points against the campaign.
When I read the vice-president of marketing at PepsiCo saying "this is not a marketing ploy" I choked on my Shreddies.