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The XFL was on the 1-yard line…

Feb 26, 2021

This year was supposed to be the XFL’s comeback, but unfortunately the anticipation was cut short. With the current COVID-19 crisis, there have been waves of cancellations and the XFL could not punch it into the end zone.

In early 2018, XFL announced it was going to return to our screens in 2020 for its inaugural season. If the previous sentence sounds like a contradiction, bear with us. The XFL was originally introduced to us back in 2001, but its debut was met with some challenges if we want to put it lightly. It folded, but like a phoenix, its demise was only temporary.

This time around, the XFL was going to be revamped to be more like the traditional NFL focusing more on the game than gimmicks. After all, their new slogan was: “For the love of football”! Despite a strong start, however, COVID-19 crisis made the XFL stop all operations and lay off their employees. Most recently, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

When we first heard about the XFL coming back, we were curious to see whether people would watch it and what their overall thoughts were towards the reboot. Now that it is officially dead (again) we turned our quick consumer study of 150+ respondents into a post-mortem.

Back in February, many were excited for the XFL’s comeback.

In order to get a better taste of the XFL’s true audiences’ opinions, we wanted to reach out to those who had some familiarity with it. Most of the respondents (77%) have previously watched an XFL game within the last two weeks (82%). This means that people were giving us feedback based on recent experiences and should reflect the viewers that the XFL was targeting.

When we asked what respondents’ initial reaction to the concept was, we found that overall, there was a positive sentiment towards the XFL. Many found it to be “something new” (81% support strength) and “enjoyable” (79% support strength). Some other interesting points made included that “its edgy, has potential, looks professional…” (69% support strength) and that the reboot is “better than the 1st time” (63% support strength) — a sentiment that the XFL would be surely glad to hear. Clearly, they had something going for them. Although the season is cancelled, it’s nice for the XFL to know that at least people were intrigued by their comeback.

Question: What words, phrases, or feelings describe your initial reaction to watching an XFL game this season?

IdeaCloud about reaction towards the XFL

To watch or not to watch…

Not only were we interested in whether people found the concept appealing, but we really wanted to know what would make them watch XFL games (or not). Just because someone likes the concept doesn’t mean they will for sure tune in to the games! Of those who reported they would watch their games, many stated that they simply enjoy watching football, they are curious about the concept, and that it is a good way to pass time until the NFL season starts. Additionally, viewers need their “football fix somehow” (57% support strength). So essentially the XFL was making the right decision in wanting to make the game more like the traditional NFL.

Question: What are some specific reasons why you are likely to continue watching XFL games?

IdeaCloud about why people will continue to watch XFL

Surely these positive responses would be a great feeling for any company. But as any good marketer would know, word of mouth is one of the most effective tools. While many would be very likely to continue watching XFL games (for reasons shared above), they weren’t as likely to recommend the XFL to others. Perhaps with more time, these numbers would have been better. It is possible that the XFL needed a few more weeks to make it into the hearts of their football fans.

recommend xfl graphs

We also can’t ignore those who were against watching XFL games. Their reasons included the fact that it wasn’t the same as the NFL, they have no team loyalties, and they don’t believe that the players are that great. But not to worry! They did provide ideas that the XFL can implement to potentially motivate them to watch their games.

Question: What are some specific reasons why you are not likely to continue watching XFL games?

IdeaCloud about why people would not watch XFL

A glimmer of hope for the future of the XFL?

We can’t ignore that the XFL is likely not in a great position in terms of operations and finances pull off another phoenix rebirth. Yet it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look at our respondents’ recommendations, as they may provide some helpful insights for the future.

Some ideas that our respondents shared indicate that with the right marketing and promotion strategy, they would be motivated to watch an XFL game again. Focusing their promotion on the sport of football and finding parallels in what works in the NFL may be the right direction if the XFL tries to make another comeback.

Question: What can the XFL do to motivate you to watch an XFL game this season?

IdeaCloud motivations to watch XFL

So close.

The XFL had one yard left to go. We can only imagine how heart-breaking it must have been when the ref called the game early because of COVID-19. It is clear from our study that there were things that were working for the fans during its incomplete maiden season. Sure, there were flaws in terms of marketing and not all viewers were ready to give it all thumbs up yet. However, these findings are evidence that they had something going for them and that football fans would be open to XFL’s third time’s charm.

Do you have a customer insight question you would like solved? #FridayInSight has your answer! We’ll design a study, collect data on the GroupSolver® platform, and share with you a free report with our findings. Contact us at

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