XFL’s lack of marketing in home cities a concern less than four months from kickoff

“We have plans to be very active in our communities and be a very active member of the community…Whether we come in early, we stay late in the off season, we’ll be fully embedded in each market that we’re in.” – Russ Brandon, President of the XFL, on the league’s relationship with its home cities (7/25/22)

One of the major advantages the XFL has over its main competitor, the USFL, is that games will be played in home markets rather than a central hub. But that advantage is lost if the league is not marketed in those home cities to make fans and potential fans aware of its return in 2023. With kickoff now just under four months away, the XFL’s strategy of silence in those cities is stunning.

I wanted to take the temperature of citizens in those locales to see just how (or if) the XFL or the city has locally marketed the league and teams up to this point. I posted the question both on Twitter and our XFLBoard.com forum. The responses I received were not encouraging.

“Nothing in Orlando…”

“In DC I’ve yet to see any real marketing effort.”

“I haven’t seen an ounce of marketing in Seattle…”

“Nothing at all in San Antonio.”

“Other than local news sportscasters talking about it, there has been nothing in STL.”

“Maybe the Arlington XFL team has promoted to Arlington only, I don’t know, but there has been nothing at all in regards to the XFL anywhere in Dallas/Fort Worth.”

A few XFL head coaches have at least attempted to create some buzz in these cities. Anthony Becht toured St. Louis and conducted numerous interviews there. DC’s Reggie Barlow has done the same in the nation’s capital. Ditto Hines Ward, who garnered press for attending a UTSA Roadrunners game and has also worked the press junket. Rod Woodson was recently interviewed by the Las Vegas Sun, but has otherwise laid low. They’ve been the most visible head coaches out there, while others have seemingly made little effort yet to connect with their home audience.

The XFL had planned local happy hours and similar events for season ticket holders across its eight cities in late September, expected by some to coincide with brand idenity announcements. However, those were canceled, and the reveals delayed purportedly because of Hurricane Ian. As we’ve come to expect, the league itself has been silent on the matter. Only recently, three weeks removed from those initial dates, have rescheduled invitations been sent out.

Fairly or unfairly, Dany Garcia set expectations high by declaring early on in her term as XFL owner that she wanted the XFL to “live in a 365-day way” for the fans. That led some to believe there would be an all-access view of the league, that we’d get to see how the sausage was made. Instead, this ownership group has been more tight-lipped than its predecessor.

This version of the XFL will not have as many boots on the ground in home cities, by design. Arlington will be the in-season home of the teams themselves; each will then fly out from there for the weekend games. In an interview with The Markcast, former Houston Roughnecks team president Brian Michael Cooper noted that it took 11 months to hire a 30-person team to work in that city. Houston was announced as an XFL 2020 city in December 2018, more than a year ahead of the kickoff (for comparison purposes, XFL cities were announced seven months before kickoff for 2023).

It’s unlikely XFL teams will have that many people employed to work in home cities in 2023, but even so, hires appear to still be ongoing. For example, they’ve just hired a director of ticket sales for XFL Orlando. Again, there are less than four months remaining before kickoff. The position of team president has been eliminated for 2023, leaving a void of leadership in these cities. For whatever reason, whether it was the flirtation with the CFL that led nowhere or the back-and-forth about whether or not to actually move forward with the league, the XFL is getting dangerously close to building the plane while flying it.

Under Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck, by October 2019, XFL teams were making their presence felt in their local markets. Many had tents at high school football games, and were involved in other proceedings in an effort to put down roots in the community. As of October 2022, there’s been very little done in the local markets to make the public at-large aware of the XFL planting its flag in those cities.

The new XFL ownership has now had a longer lead-in to kickoff than McMahon did when he announced its return. McMahon resuscitated the XFL in February 2018 to kick off in 2020; Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital officially became carekaters of the league in early August 2020. Ownership has preached patience in the building of the league, arguing that its long-term sustainability depends on a slow, steady process. “We wanted to take our time, do it right,” Johnson said in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in speaking about the long runway the third version of the XFL has experienced. But time is running short, and at least publicly, the league has little to show for that time spent.

While at one time it may have been unfair to compare XFL 2020’s lead-up to kickoff to XFL 2023’s, at this point it seems more than fair to compare the two. August 2019 was the timeframe team nicknames and logos were announced for XFL 2020. We’re now two months past that date, and nothing from XFL 2023. For as compressed as many felt the USFL’s offseason leading up to kickoff was, their team names and logos were announced in November for a mid-April kickoff, almost five months ahead of time.

The XFL has not set up team Twitter accounts, despite announcing the cities three months ago. There was an initial push for season tickets upon the city announcements, but hardly anything since then. The team accounts would’ve been a great way to continue to drive those season ticket sales. The last time the XFL’s main Twitter accounted sent a tweet about season tickets was more than two months ago.

It’s not just the lack of social media presence – it’s team nicknames, logos, and uniforms that are absent. No rulebook has been announced. The draft is set for next month, but no information on the format or broadcast details has been pushed out. The XFL hasn’t released the names of anyone in the draft pool. We don’t have a television schedule, or a game-by-game schedule. Heck, Las Vegas still doesn’t officially have a stadium.

XFLBoard reached out to the XFL for comment on the topics raised in this article. We were told that Chief Marketing Officer was not taking interviews at this time, but we were encouraged to send the questions and they’d take a look. A list of questions was sent last Wednesday, October 19, and as of today we haven’t received a response.

At best, the lack of marketing smacks of hubris, while at worst it’s unpreparedness. Regardless of the reasons, planned or not, it doesn’t foster confidence in ownership’s ability to navigate the challenges that come with running a professional football league. If the XFL plans on recreating attendance successes from 2020 in places like Seattle and St. Louis, and establishing a fan base for decades to come in its new markets, the league better get off the sidelines and into the game.

4 thoughts on “XFL’s lack of marketing in home cities a concern less than four months from kickoff”

  1. As 2020 Dragons season ticket holders, we were more than pumped for the XFL’s resurrection. We received a request for the 2023 season ticket deposit but were not told how much the season tickets would be; suffice to say we not not jump blindly into it. To say that we are more than discouraged and disillusioned would be a gross understatement. Given all of the initial hype and promise we were fed and the continually irritating Easter eggs dropped; we have become rather blase about the whole thing. Let me put it this way, we are buying season tix to our local indoor football team Nuff Sed!

    Reply
  2. You are 100% correct, there has zero marketing in St. Louis. At this point most people I talk to about the XFL are having doubts that it will actually kick off.

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  3. Wow. Thanks GP for summarizing and providing timeline vs XFL2.0.

    Let me also add that USFL was getting ad time on FOX during NFL games etc… in Dec.

    Also let’s not forget that they were VERY quietly looking for an outside investor to buy 35-45% of the league for $125mm as Sportico reported in August. Was that money needed for 2022 after all? With so little details on the ownership structure, league funding, Disney broadcast deal and undercover of night funding request, delayed hiring and announcements … it’s starting to sound like a money issue.

    Are they buying time negotiating a deal for…. money? USFL? Deciding what’s best to do?

    Let’s also recall that the economy is not looking great, we are already in a technical recession and the stock market is down 25% YTD. Is ownership having second thoughts?

    Keep digging GP. With so little from the league itself we need you and other like minded outlets to do what they can.

    Reply

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