What Google Trends can tell us about interest in the XFL
Greg Parks hammers out the popularity of the XFL by examining “Google Trends.”
The success of the XFL in 2020 and beyond is tied to the interest the league can drum up both locally and nationally for the teams, the players, and the product in general. Unfortunately, four months out from the first game, there’s no metric we can use to gain insight into how the league has taken hold thus far.
Merchandise sale numbers are unavailable to the media and general public; the same goes for season ticket deposits. There are no television ratings or game-day attendance numbers to analyze. One data point we can look at to see where interest in the league lies is with Google Trends.
Google Trends measures Google searches, where those searches emanate from, and what similar keyword searches are made. I’ve dug into the data of searches related to the XFL as well as all eight teams over a 365 day period (though the previous two months are the only ones relevant to the specific teams given the recency of the name reveals). The conclusions we can reach are limited at this point – but this information will be helpful to track as the season nears, as well as once it gets underway.
You can see that the highest interest level over the last 365 days occurred when the team names were revealed. That beat out a number of the other peak search periods, including the small bump you see in May during the time period of the LA head coach reveal, coinciding with the announcement of the league’s television deals. The earliest spike in the data is back in December of 2018 when the cities were officially announced. Then, over a longer time period of two weeks in February, the increase could be attributed to the announcements of Bob Stoops and Pep Hamilton as the league’s first two head coaches.
The next image shows searches by region over the same time period. For those concerned about the viability of St. Louis as a founding member, the fact that the most searches for the XFL have come from Missouri has to be a good sign. The only state represented on the top five that doesn’t have a team is Oklahoma, which comes in at number two. One would have to assume that is largely the result of Stoops being named coach. Even so, ranking second on the list is high and represents the value Stoops brings to the league.
Finally, it’s topics searched related to the XFL. This is another example of the power of Stoops, as he’s first in related topics as well as first AND second in related queries (while his team, XFL Dallas, comes in third there). Obviously the rumors of Antonio Brown’s status in football have linked him to the XFL despite league denials. That is a second-place related topic. The Seattle Dragons are the only full team name to register here alongside the XFL, as they’re fifth in related queries. Perhaps that nickname is the one that is really taking hold among the fanbase at large.
I won’t go through each individual team’s Google search results, because so many of them look similar: A huge spike at the time the name was announced, then very low ebbs and flows since then. But some of the teams have interesting regional splits and/or related searches. Take Dallas, for example:
The term “Dallas Renegades” has the highest search results from Texas, no surprise, and while it’s also no surprise that Oklahoma is second given the Stoops connection, it is somewhat surprising to see how close Oklahoma is to first place. Hopefully the Renegades can take advantage of the obvious interest from that state in making it a part of their market. There does seem to be a broad interest in this team in the northeast and southeast as well. Missouri even shows up once again in the top five.
While the DC area, Virginia, and Maryland should be the obvious top three searches, the Defenders apparently also have some fans in Pennsylvania and New York, which could mean the Guardians have some competition for fandom to deal with in the northeast.
Texas is a strong first-place for the Roughnecks. Louisiana is the state that comes in number two, but it’s not in the same ballpark as the number of Texas searches. Missouri once again shows up in the top five, as do other XFL states like Florida, Washington, New York, and California. You have to wonder if the fans in states with XFL teams may be searching to learn more about other teams in the league. It could also be a case of the larger states (Texas, California, Florida, New York) just naturally producing more of the results.
Los Angeles Wildcats
There doesn’t appear to be much interest in the Wildcats outside of California – it’s the only state that showed up in the regional results.
New York Guardians
The northeast states, plus the usual other areas like California, Florida, and Texas are the most interested in the Guardians. Interestingly enough, West Virginia makes the top ten. Also interesting: New Jersey tops New York in the state with the most searches, perhaps because MetLife Stadium, home of the Guardians, is in New Jersey rather than New York.
St. Louis BattleHawks
Missouri and Illinois are the two states that show up in searches for the BattleHawks. Battlehawks 1942, a video game from 1988, is among the related searches.
Nearly the entire west coast shows up as prominent in searches for the Seattle Dragons, though Washington is far and away the number one location. There’s a pretty wide spread of where interest in the Dragons come from, which could be a good sign for merchandising purposes.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Unlike other teams, Tampa has its second-and-third-most searches coming from states that aren’t bordered by its own. Behind Florida comes Massachusetts and Indiana, with a significant chunk of search results coming out of the Midwestern or central states. It will be interesting to see how that translates going forward.
As of right now, this data is more of something to store in the back of the mind. If results procured during training camp or the season mirror some of the results seen here, then I think we can begin to make more sweeping proclamations. If nothing else, it could be a worthwhile guide for teams and the league to see where the most interest is coming from, and attempt to monetize that.