Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is one of eight venues that will welcome XFL teams when the football league begins play next spring. (Getty Images)

New founding partner will sell XFL season tickets and premium

The XFL has hired Elevate Sports Ventures to sell season tickets and premium seats for the league’s reboot. The two-year deal extends to Elevate signing a founding partnership in the business solutions category, said Jeffrey Pollack, the XFL’s president and chief operating officer.

World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon owns the minor league football organization through Alpha Entertainment, a separate entity. The XFL, which played one season in 2001 before folding, is scheduled to relaunch in the spring of 2020 in eight markets: Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; St. Louis; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Elevate is owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the San Francisco 49ers, Ticketmaster/Live Nation and Oak View Group, parent company of VenuesNow.

Elevate does not have an equity stake in the XFL, Pollack said. He would not disclose the value of the sponsorship but said the league plans to sign other business solutions partners.

The agency won the business through a “rigorous proposal” process in which the XFL met with multiple sports marketing outfits, according to Pollack. He would not say who else competed for the account.

Sources said Learfield, Legends and The Aspire Group were in the mix for the account. Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment did not pursue the account, company officials said.

Executives with the XFL and Elevate Sports Ventures had common ground in the sports and entertainment industry.

Al Guido, Elevate’s co-managing partner and CEO, is also the 49ers’ president and knows Pollack from his four-year tenure as the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers’ chief marketing and strategy officer and special adviser. In addition, Guido has a relationship with the WWE’s McMahon dating to when the Niners played host to WrestleMania at Levi’s Stadium in 2015.

“This was a competitive process; it wasn’t simply handing it over to Elevate,” Pollack said. “There were some previous relationships, but that’s not why this choice was made. We really felt for where we are and what we’re trying to do, Elevate is the right partner.”

Elevate plans to employ about 50 sales representatives, some of whom will be stationed at XFL headquarters in Stamford, Conn., which is also the home of WWE. Most will work in the respective team markets, Guido said.

Together, they will work closely with Derek Throneburg, freshly hired as the XFL’s senior vice president of team business operations. Throneburg was most recently vice president of customer insight and engagement at Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which runs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

Throneburg will oversee the ticketing operation at XFL headquarters in a concept similar to the NBA’s Team Marketing and Business Operations, a group at the league level that works closely with individual teams.

“Derek will take daily reports from our eight team presidents,” Pollack said. “In a sense, he’s almost the ninth team president, because it’s his job to make sure all of our teams have what they need to be successful. It’s very much about communication and collaboration, even though we’re a single entity and own all of the teams.”

Ticketmaster’s financial stake in Elevate Sports Ventures will be a key piece for selling XFL inventory through its vast customer database and analytics group.

“For the XFL, part of that opportunity is we’re going to help Elevate do profiling for potential season-ticket holders, help them with their pricing and take advantage of our data,” Ticketmaster President Jared Smith said.

Guido, without getting into details, said he looks forward to getting marketing support from NFL teams at MetLife Stadium outside New York City, CenturyLink Field in Seattle and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, which all have XFL teams starting play next year.

Other XFL teams will play at Major League Soccer’s Dignity Health Sports Park in the Los Angeles area and Audi Field in Washington; Globe Life Park, where Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers play; the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis; and TDECU Stadium, the University of Houston’s football venue.

“We have tremendous support on the ground from those teams and buildings,” Guido said. “They’ve shown interest in this product and the willingness to help us. We’re in a really good spot right now to leverage our internal assets via Ticketmaster and those at the venues.”

Over the next 90 days, the XFL expects to announce its ticket sales campaign, television partners, team names and logos and the league’s spring 2020 schedule.

The new version of the league, announced in January 2018, will differ vastly from the original XFL, Pollack said.

“We have the blessing and benefit of both time and resources from Vince McMahon, who is completely committed to the success of the league,” he said. “Those two ingredients allow us to plan intelligently and to make sure we are efficient in the use of those resources.”