Connect with us


Will the XFL-USFL help avoid previous pitfalls

Football minor leagues have an unusual history in American sports. Once you zoom out and look at the broader sporting culture in Europe, for instance, where many minor soccer leagues are still huge businesses and participate in well-designed competitions, you have more questions than answers about why minor leagues in the US haven’t managed to get the traction they have in other countries and sports.

Football is an American sporting legacy; it has been our number one sport for over 100 years and continues to eclipse everything else. Therefore, you’d think there’d be more of a market, or – at the very least – more clarity from those in charge, leading to a profitable minor league that works for the fans.

The XFL-USFL is the latest idea to try to attract some of the huge NFL audiences. By fusing both brands, the new dawn of the United Football League (UFL) has emerged – headed by none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as league ambassador.

Betting on American football

The NFL is the most popular sports betting market in the US, and it highlights just how big the market is for sports in general. Gambling markets are often a great indicator of the true underlying popularity of any sport. While the minor leagues see a lot less action, they’re starting to get more as additional states begin to warm to the idea of digital sports betting.

College football holds the distinction of being the unofficial minor league in American football. In fact, it’s more popular than some of the major leagues of the other Big Four sports. College football is enormous, as it identifies the superstars of tomorrow and lets people see what they’re all about; there’s also an expansive betting market for college football. In this overview, we take a closer look at how gambling markets and payment methods are impacting the UFL and NFL.

Under this new digital gambling landscape, there’s hope that the UFL will be able to ride the wave that has helped the NFL – especially with international audiences. Over the years, many US sports, such as soccer or cricket, have been accused of being too US-centric and failing to bring in a significant international audience.

However, the NFL has played several games to sellout crowds in other countries. With a growing demand for betting markets, the UFL might be able to grab some of that market for itself, and appeal to football fans overseas who might be looking for a different version of entertainment than the NFL.

Previous issues with minor league football

Unlike the NFL’s slick juggernaut that delivers brand marketing masterclasses every season, minor league football organizations have been plagued with mismanagement, both on and off the pitch. Financial issues have also prematurely ended many of the promising minor leagues that organizations have tried to get off the ground in the past.

Unlike other sports, where there’s a big TV audience and interest in leagues aside from the top flight, minor league football struggles to attract anywhere near the same attendance or TV viewing figures, which is one of the sport’s main stumbling blocks.

Ultimately, this is the foundation of the issue. Like any professional sport, there needs to be an audience, and there needs to be solid, regular streams of revenue from advertising companies. They’re not interested in paying to plug their brand to an empty stadium or a TV audience that is sometimes 70% less than the NFL – with that disparity continuing to grow.

Marketing has been a big issue for minor league teams, often with a disjointed approach or an outdated model, which results in fewer people hearing about the games. There’s also the elephant in the room: is there a strong enough audience for it to be a commercially viable sports league in the US?

Many people seem to think so, including celebrities who have been happy to invest in the UFL to develop a truly different but engaging version of America’s most beloved sport.

 What makes the UFL different?

TV audiences and social media interest have been promising thus far in the inaugural season. It has definitely helped that it has the might of global superstar Dwayne Johnson helping to promote the league’s launch and the ongoing competition as it heads into an exciting round of playoff games.

Big-name ambassadors bring interest, which bolsters the viewing figures. In an ideal world, this is what brings in both the ad revenue and the rich owners looking to pump money into the league. In today’s market, it can be a challenge getting any league off the ground, but when you’re up against the might of the NFL, it makes the task a lot more challenging.

Minor leagues in the past have advertised themselves as alternatives to the NFL, or as offering something different. However, it appears that the UFL has learned from these branding errors and is now looking to publicize the league as something that works alongside the NFL from a viable commercial angle, rather than something to watch instead. You only need to look on YouTube to see how much traction the league is beginning to gain. It’s generating a lot of positivity from football fans in the US and abroad.

It’s a slow burn – no sports league is going to become the next big thing overnight. These things take time. However, the UFL has been doing all of the early things right. They have a strong, consistent approach to marketing, they’ve brought in big names to help bolster the visibility of the minor leagues across the landscape of American sports, and have put together a strong set of teams.

As with any sport, it needs to bring in a consistent audience that helps bring in money and interest. Minor leagues have shown in the past that when this begins to dwindle, numbers can start to deteriorate, sponsors can begin moving sideways, and the result is a subpar product that inevitably ends up in a quagmire.

The XFL and USFL merger is a solid step, bringing all the prominent minor league teams under one roof with a strong commercial campaign. Still, the real acid test will be how viable the league is over a more extended period, and if it can capture more interest among the American sporting public when compared to some of the minor leagues of yesteryear.

Subscribe to our USFL News Hub YouTube Channel. Get breaking news and the latest USFL news. Plus the USFL Week In Review Podcast.
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Extra

USFL News Hub