XFL Attendance Strong Out of the Gate

JohnWallStreet

The demand for tickets to XFL games on the league’s opening weekend surpassed expectations (at least for those of us on the outside). The ‘get-in’ price to attend the D.C. Defenders inaugural contest reached $130 on the secondary market, sales of Houston Roughnecks tickets were so strong that the club decided to open up two additional sections in the second deck of TDECU Stadium (six in total) to accommodate walkups and both New York and Dallas posted official attendance figures north of 17,000. On Saturday, Darren Rovell reported that the upstart league had “already surpassed ticket sales revenue for the entire season of the AAF.”

Howie Long-Short: The XFL managed to outsell the AAF before its season even got started because the league wisely went to market early. The league office took a couple thousand deposits on season tickets following news of the league's return, but it was their May '19 decision to partner with Elevate Sports Ventures that really accelerated the sales process. Elevate helped the league quickly build out each team’s sales staff (hiring +/- 70 employees) and by August the XFL had trained boots on the ground selling in each of the eight markets. While Vince McMahon's league was fully prepared to sell six months before its season started, the AAF was working on a much shorter timeline. Patrick Ryan (Co-Founder, Eventellect) tweeted that “some [AAF] teams didn’t [even] have heads of sales [in place] until weeks before kickoff.”

One can assume that Elevate leaned heavily on a digital and mobile strategy - based on their relationship with Ticketmaster, an equity partner in the agency – to mirror today’s marketplace and sell seats. Talking to buyers via mobile, reaching out to them on their commutes and developing digital content that converts on the fly were all part of the effort. One source familiar with the league sales effort indicated that organic video-oriented player-driven mobile content, published at the team or league level, has performed best (in terms of converting into tickets purchased). Creative that incorporates what makes the XFL different (think: rules, affordability) has also sparked interest in potential buyers.

As well as XFL ticket sales are tracking, the league does not expect to meet the impressive numbers it posted in 2001 (23,410 fans/game). It's simply a different consumer audience and marketplace than it was 19 years ago. Technology (think: secondary markets) has given the fan the ability to shop seat location and pricing and to wait on purchasing tickets. The at-home experience has also improved dramatically.

Fan Marino: While the number of fans in attendance may have surprised the sporting public, the response was in line with the modest expectations the league set for itself. The XFL anticipated the mean would be somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 fans/game and believes there will be a couple of markets where the number of fans surpasses the high-end of that range. Expect Seattle and St. Louis to top the league in attendance. The Dragons and BattleHawks have sold the most season ticket plans to date (+/- 10,000/each).

It’s important to note that while there was heavy demand for tickets in DC - the team issued a statement that there were no primary market tickets available for sale on game day - the Defenders did not ‘sell-out’ the 20,000 seat venue; there were a significant number of tickets ‘comped’ (as reflected in the show rate). That was by design. There are a number of community organizations within each market that the XFL intends on supporting and the league believes a comp. ticketing strategy will help it develop a loyal following and at the same time create a better atmosphere within the venue.

One shouldn’t be surprised that the Guardians had the cheapest resale price on the secondary market of the four clubs that played home games this past weekend. Selling is about creating the perception of scarcity and demand in the marketplace and needless to say, it’s far more challenging to do when a team is playing in an 82,500 seat venue than one that seats between 20,000 and 40,000. New York also has the coldest February weather of any XFL city. The team should be playing at Red Bull Arena.

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