Disney Looking to Expand XFL Sponsor Roster as Season Kicks Off

The XFL is getting ready to play. (Image credit: XFL/ESPN)

With its season kicking off Saturday, the XFL and Disney Advertising Sales are still looking to fill their sponsorship roster.

The XFL and The Walt Disney Co., as the league’s exclusive broadcast partner, have been looking to enlist a handful of marketers as founding partners for the league. So far, only Progressive, the official auto insurance sponsor of the XFL, has been announced.

“We’re really trying to create truly 360-degree sponsors, offerings that including assets the XFL can provide like team affiliates and IP to premiere broadcast integrations and new technology that we’re bringing into the broadcast,”  Deidra Maddock, VP, sports brand solutions, told Broadcasting+Cable.

Selling those multifaceted partnerships can be complicated, and Maddock said there are conversations underway with a number of potential sponsors. 

“There's definitely a lot of interest,“ Maddock said. ”As with any 360 partnership, there’s just a lot of details to be worked out.” 

Right now the ad market is soft, which might be having some impact on sales, but “there’s just a wait-and-see mentality for new sports as they launch,“ Maddock said.

Individual spots for the season are about 80% sold out, she added.

Football has become America’s game, with NFL games dominating the list of most-watched programs in 2022.

The first XFL was a famous bust when it was launched to much fanfare in 2001 by WWE impresario Vince McMahon. The league was revived in 2020 and after a fast start its season was canceled by the pandemic

The bankrupt XFL was purchased by a consortium led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia for $15 million.

All of the league’s games will appear on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or FX and stream on ESPN Plus.

“We believe that football fans are always looking for more football. And now that the saddest day of the year for football fans — the day after the Super Bowl — has passed, hot on the heels of that we’re giving them the opportunity to have more football,” Maddock said.

Progressive clearly agrees.

“The XFL’s commitment to on-field innovation and fan engagement aligns with Progressive’s forward-thinking approach and dedication to delivering value to our customers,” Jay VanAntwerp, media business leader at Progressive, said. “We’re excited to continue our support of the XFL and look forward to seeing the league return to action in 2023.”

As part of its sponsorship, Progressive will have premium, on-field brand positions located on each side of the 50-yard line at each of the 43 XFL games, gaining national marketing exposure through the XFL’s exclusive broadcast partner, Disney and ESPN. 

Progressive will also benefit from digital signage displayed across each of the XFL’s eight stadiums. In addition, Progressive has secured brand placement on the ear cup and top headband of all XFL coaches’ headsets, which will result in additional TV exposure. Progressive has also been granted access to league imagery and video content for promotional use.

Lots of Ad Options

Disney is looking to be flexible and innovative as it looks to bring in more partners, whether they want a 360-degree package like Progressive or just to explore television.

One opportunity would be sponsoring the XFL’s replay center for live game reviews of on-field calls by the official. The XFL is planning a transparent process, enabling fans to be able to see what the referees are looking at as they decide whether or not to overrule a call. 

A sponsor could say, “this fast review is brought to you by,” or a sponsor's technology could actually be used in the replay and review process.

Disney’s data and targeting capabilities are also available for XFL advertisers.

“One of the strengths that the Disney ad platform has to offer is the flexibility to do all of that,” Maddock said. “We have a lot of data solutions that really equip us to be able to work with brands who are looking for specific audience segments. But we also have the great reach and frequency for the broad reach here of the general sports fans.”

Maddock said it’s not clear how the USFL, another football league whose games will be on Fox and NBC later in the spring, is affecting the market. “The seasons are not concurrent,“ she said. “It is definitely a different proposition.

“Would we like to see more advertisers activating? We would,“ Maddock said. “We think it's a really great opportunity and a unique one.” Advertisers are often looking for a chance to get in on the ground floor with a property, she said.

“It’s the launch of a league where there’s a close partnership between the broadcaster and the league themselves, so I’m hopeful that would unlock some opportunities.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.