XFL teams are taking a multi-pronged approach to grow individual fan bases by relying on organized events, local media partnerships, and the delivery of team-related content.
Across the league, XFL teams averaged 17,409 fans per game during week one. The Houston Roughnecks led the way, drawing 17,815 for its first game.
The fledgling league has worked to involve fans as much as possible in brand decisions. In October, the XFL launched its Fan Advisory Network, which allows supporters to weigh in on changes made by the league around game rules and in-stadium experience.
The strategy also aims to give fans watching at home an abundance of behind-the-scenes content on game day. But ticket affordability is expected to be the driving force to get families into stadiums: single-game seats start at $30.
“We’ve provided a cost-effective quality product that will build fan bases and turn them into brand ambassadors,” Brian Cooper, president of the Houston Roughnecks, said. “We want to be the answer to what a family of four is going to do on a weekend.”
The Roughnecks have held fan events going back to the summer of 2019 to raise team awareness in Houston, each time drawing bigger crowds. Cooper would not disclose season ticket sales, but said demand is meeting expectations.
“We wanted to manage expectations heading into the season, but I think that ticket sales are strong,” he said. We will only seat fans at the lower bowl of TDECU Stadium. I think we are going to have a strong crowd all season.”
As the only XFL team without a direct competitor in-market, the St. Louis BattleHawks have benefited from the University of Missouri being the closest antidote for fans with football withdrawal, according to Kurt Hunzeker, the team’s president.
The BattleHawks have hosted 25 happy hour events in the last year and attended 51 high school football games to build a rapport with the community.
“We have a real grass-roots campaign. What makes us different than the last two football teams to call St.Louis home [Rams and Cardinals] is that we are the only homegrown team,” Hunzeker said. “Those teams moved into this city before leaving. Kids will grow up only knowing the BattleHawks.”
The BattleHawks have found early success in converting branded product giveaways at team events into ticket purchases for this season, Hunzeker said. Roughly 73% of ticket buyers so far have children under the age of 13.
The BattleHawks expect to sell out the lower bowl at The Dome at America’s Center for the team’s first home game later this month. Total stadium capacity for BattleHawks games this season is 27,500.
“I think our teams are doing a great job in starting to establish themselves in their communities,” said Jeffrey Pollack, COO and president of the XFL. “In a very short period of time, we’ve gone from having no team identities, no uniforms, no brands in these markets a half year ago to now having local identities.”
The Seattle Dragons have relied on local media partners to get the word out ahead of the team’s first home game on February 15, where it expects to welcome 20,000 fans to CenturyLink Field, also home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
In addition to Fox and ESPN running national promos ahead of XFL kickoff weekend, local network affiliates have also followed suit. The Dragons also have a partnership with ESPN 710 Seattle that includes a weekly insider show, podcast, and Monday radio spot featuring Head Coach Jim Zorn.
“Through our own channels on social media, we also have a weekly segment where I answer fan questions,” Ryan Gustafson, Seattle Dragons team president, said. “We are excited about the crowd we will have at the first game, the first year, and for many years to come.”
The XFL has preached patience for teams in growing fandom – believing that the XFL product will look different in the long-term than it does today.
While the Dallas Renegades had the lowest announced attendance across the XFL in week one with 17,026 fans, the organization said it expects attendance to grow throughout the season.
“It starts with social media, a great content team putting things together all day that is embedded with the team and provides a player and coach perspective,” said Grady Raskin, president of the Dallas Renegades.
He added that advertisements on behalf of the XFL and its national TV partners have helped grow the league.
“The league turned up the advertising spends with the ads during the Super Bowl,” he said. “The last two or three weeks we’ve seen a spike in interest. We had an open house where 1200 fans came out, and it was overwhelming. Football is king in north Texas, and when they see that quality and the wrinkles in the rules, we know they’ll enjoy it.”