I took mental notes while surfing the newest version of the XFL and probably like most people that tuned in, compared it to the NFL. Having recently been immersed in everything NFL during Super Bowl week in Miami, it wasn’t hard to get on board.
That, and it was snowing truckloads where I was this past weekend (what a difference a week makes).
I came away from the first weekend of XFL 2020 reminded that it isn’t the NFL. Not close. On the field, at least.
The XFL’s social media team during the week before the games was super. It sparked anticipation and teased its audiences with what they might see. I sensed that the league’s PR staffs coordinated messages and style to make a big splash for Week 1. The league’s and teams’ Twitter accounts reminded me of who played on what networks and even with competitive basketball on the slate and work screaming at me, I watched.
While no one wowed me on the field, the buzz off it did. As several people who monitor ratings have said, viewership during the coming weeks will tell whether the XFL continues to be a draw for fans.
If the XFL created buzz during its opening week, the NFL brought 17 weeks worth of honey to Miami days prior to Super Bowl LIV. Despite travel headaches and hungry media on Radio Row, the NFL staged another successful cap to arguably the most popular sport in the United States. Traditional and satellite radio ruled the week while sports television outlets set up shop at the Miami Convention Center and nearby beaches. Celebrities of the football and non-football kind roamed a massive area for five days, each day giving way to bigger and more popular names. The bigger the presence, the more people in his entourage. I spoke with a reporter who nailed one of the busiest days on the Row: sometimes there were so many handlers that we couldn’t figure out who was the celebrity.
It was all good fun, footsteps (I closed my AppleWatch rings three days straight without a trip to the gym) and for radio producers who booked guests, a smorgasbord of voices who talked football, pop culture and pitched products. There are few if any times each year that as a publicist linked to sports, you can get a client as much media attention in one place as you can on Radio Row. And I promise, connections to sports were stretched as far they could with “why did I just see that guy” coming from our mouths a few times.
The NFL added to its season-ending media bonanza with as competitive a football game as I can remember as the Kansas City Chiefs knocked off the San Francisco 49ers. A game like that always helps get people excited … for the NFL Draft.
Whether the new pop-up league(s) finds similar success is doubtful, at least anytime soon. It’s a different animal. And, after all, the NFL has years of history, as it continues to remind us with a 100-year celebration that will roll into the fall. Professional football leagues such as the XFL have tried and failed because of one reason or another, but like the others, this XFL has the potential to get the attention of the Big Guys’ rules committees, media crews and coaches. Will fans continue to watch? I’m sure many will tune in … at least until the NFL Combine.
©Gail Sideman; gpublicity.com 2020