Sports Marketing’s Future w/Fan Controlled Football’s Jasmine McGee
The image of someone working in sports frequently involves a role within one of the major American professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL), or perhaps in college athletics at a major athletics program -- but there are opportunities beyond that.
An area of sports many organizations have tried (and failed) to fulfill is satisfying America’s hunger for football outside of the NFL and NCAA with a product that fans will actually watch. One of the earliest attempts happened in 2001 when WWE Chairman Vince McMahon created the XFL.
The concept was essentially the NFL blended with pro-wrestling hype and a machismo dialed up to 11. No fair catches, no extra-point kicks, and a “scramble” instead of a coin toss to determine who got the opening kickoff. It was a different time.
Individually, players could put nicknames on their jerseys, so you had uniforms whose backs read “Samurai,” “E-rupt,” “The Truth,” and “He Hate Me,” just to name a few. The XFL also featured some truly revolutionary production techniques, such as a SkyCam that the NFL ended up incorporating into its broadcasts.
McMahon’s WWE hype machine background made that first XFL game a can’t-miss event. The NBC broadcast of the inaugural XFL game drew a 9.5 rating, an 86% improvement over the network’s Saturday night average to that point, and the highest-rated Saturday night rating on record for the men’s 18–34 demographic.
The problem was that the quality of the game itself, for lack of a better word, stunk. While a handful of players rose from the league to the NFL, the substandard product literally turned fans off once their curiosity was sated. That massive opening night rating of 9.5 dropped by more than half to a 4.6 in week 2, 1.5 in week 10, and just 2.1 in the league’s championship, the Million Dollar Game to close its first season. The XFL would not get a second season.
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Since that ill-fated season, the XFL tried its hand again in 2020 and won’t return until (maybe) 2023 to see if the third time is the charm. Likewise, the Alliance of American Football failed spectacularly without even finishing its 2019 season. Some indoor arena football leagues pop up and even run for multiple seasons here and there, but the effort to further satisfy American’s football craving is littered with failure.
Enter Fan Controlled Football (FCF) and today’s WorkInSports Podcast guest, FCF’s Senior Director of Marketing Partnerships Jasmine McGee. She runs the marketing and sponsorship efforts for a new league that considers itself football for the modern world. The games are an hour-long, streamed on Twitch, don’t include kickers or punters, and played 7-on-7 on a 50-yard field. The hook is that fans call the plays as part of the interactive Twitch experience, and anyone can be a part-owner of a team.
To get traction, a business needs financial backing, and FCF has that covered with sponsorships from Wendy’s, Verizon, and Progressive, to name a few. In addition, current and former NFL players such as Austin Ekeler, Richard Sherman, Dalvin Cook, and Marshawn Lynch have hopped aboard the train as owners to lay a strong foundation.
McGee’s sports marketing efforts have paid dividends. The FCF went from 735,000 viewers on Twitch in its first week to 2.1 million in the playoffs. It also received something the XFL and AAF did not: a second season. “FCF Season v.2.0” will begin in spring 2022 after the Super Bowl. The four-team league is expanding to eight, and it announced a deal with NBCUniversal’s NBCLX and Peacock to broadcast every game of the season.
Check out the WorkInSports Podcast episode with an open mind and learn from McGee as she lays the groundwork for thriving with an unestablished product in the sports marketing realm.
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