XFL: The Building Blocks of a Fan-First League


With any startup company or new idea that comes around, there’s bound to be skeptics and unknowns going into it. There’s also bound to be bumps in the road along the way. Take it from someone who’s lived in the startup world for the last four years; it ain’t all sunshine and daisies. However, the startups who look past the skeptics and overcome those bumps by learning from them tend to feel more warmth from that sunshine.

So what are the secret ingredients to pull this off? Startups that can look past the skeptics and unknowns have a mission in mind and they stay true to the values of that mission. They listen to their customers for feedback, and more importantly they use that feedback to better serve their customers.

Taking a look at the XFL’s approach thus far, I’d say they have a good thing cooking. Their mission? To reimagine America’s favorite game and offer fans an opportunity to experience more action, access, and entertainment, all “For the Love of Football”. They’ve stayed true to that mission and included the fans in the process every step of the way.

A Fan-First League

From its inception, the XFL aimed to create a league built-by and centered around the fans. They even created a Fan Advisory Network (F.A.N.), which provides an open forum for feedback and help in designing the fan experience. This feedback not only helped build the foundation of the league, but it continues to help it evolve, and the XFL directly asks for more of it.



While feedback is crucial to the success of any business, showing recognition of support is equally important. Whether it’s through their own social channels or at the game on the videoboard, each team has put an emphasis on recognizing their fans, and it seems to be paying off.

Take the Vipers for example where a simple thank you can go a long way…


Or in the Dragon’s case, some fans garner a full fledged feature story…


Within each venue, the fans drive the show, and recognition of their support is on full display. Across the league, XFL teams have prioritized their fans and made them an integral part of the experience.


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All-Access Pass

One of the pillars of the XFL as a fan-first league, is the unprecedented access they provide to the team and players. Before the inaugural season kicked off, we had a chance to sit down with Seattle Dragons Senior Director of Marketing & Events, Michelle Delancey, and she provided a preview of what this access might look like.

“Access is the biggest thing that the XFL also wants to talk about. So when you’re watching the game, you see video, cameras in the locker rooms. You may see players taking selfies or high-fiving people in the crowds. You may see the players arrive through a tailgate opportunity. So, the XFL is really big on access in the entertainment piece. So, that is something that players will get used to and fans will really enjoy as well. “

Now three weeks into the season, the emphasis on this all-access pass experience is very apparent. Viewers tuning into the broadcast from home have the opportunity to listen in on play-calls, hear directly from the players and coaches during the game, and tap into the replay official’s viewpoint. Giving fans this type of access not only provides a more holistic 360° view of the game of football, but it keeps the audience engaged between every play.

On the broadcast, on social media, in the community and within the stadium, fans have the utmost access to the players on the field, and the players leverage that to connect with fans. Tre McBride, of the Los Angeles Wildcats, embraced this opportunity to hype up the crowd.


Inside access can come in a variety of forms across each of these platforms, but it’s even more powerful when those platforms overlap into one cohesive story. In D.C, the Defenders brought social content posted by the players to life on screen, and it made for an impactful moment when they displayed KeShun Freeman’s message for all to see.


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KeShun Freeman inspirational message about playing for children without families displayed at Audi Field

Though continuing to master their cookbook, the XFL has all the recipes for success dialed in. As a fan of both football and of startups, I’m excited to see how they continue to evolve and grow the love of football, and how other teams and leagues will incorporate similar ideas.