With less than three weeks to go before opening day, officials of the XFL's Los Angeles Xtreme pro football team are getting nervous.
So far the team has sold just about 6,000 season tickets, far short of its 10,000-ticket goal. Complicating the attainment of that goal is that each of the league's eight teams has a marketing budget of approximately $500,000, which buys very little media exposure in Los Angeles.
Under the single-entity structure of the XFL, each team is given the same marketing budget. While this policy has helped keep down overall marketing expenses, it has put teams in high-cost markets such as Los Angeles at a decided disadvantage.
The Xtreme play in the nation's second-largest market, but season ticket sales, so far, are on par with the small-market Las Vegas Outlaws, which also have sold about 6,000 season tickets.
Yet Xtreme officials remain optimistic.
"We expect to reach our goal of 10,000 season tickets, if not more, by our first home game," insisted Joann Klonowski, vice president of marketing for the Xtreme. "We began our advertising campaign earlier this month and will have over 200 billboards throughout Southern California."
The Xtreme's first home game at the Los Angeles Coliseum takes place Feb. 10 against the Chicago Enforcers. The team begins its inaugural season on Feb. 4 in San Francisco against the Demons.
Klonowski said the team's advertising strategy is twofold. "First, get people to recognize that professional football has returned to Los Angeles. Second, that Xtreme football games are affordable for the whole family, with ticket prices at $20, $25 and $35."
The billboards along with limited radio, television and print advertising in both English and Spanish are expected to run through the middle of March.
"We have done a good job of stretching the (marketing) budget," Klonowski said. "We are reaching out to football fans in Palm Springs, up to Oxnard and down into Orange County."
The team also has talked with media outlets in San Diego about forming marketing agreements, and has signed a contract with KLSX-FM (97.1) to carry all 10 of the team's regular season games in the league's inaugural season.
XFL officials are hoping that single-game sales will push attendance to a league-wide average of 25,000 fans per game.
"We are very pleased with our ticket sales," said Jon Sandler, vice president of sales and marketing for the Outlaws. "We have already sold twice as many season tickets as any previous professional (sports) team in Las Vegas."
Sandler said that the buzz surrounding the league, which promises more contact and more fun for your buck than the NFL, and the fact that half of the teams are holding training camp in Las Vegas, have helped his organization sell tickets.
"With a city of more than 1 million residents, we are able to reach out to more people at less cost than in a fragmented city like Los Angeles," he said.
Klonowski said the fact that the Xtreme is holding training camp in Las Vegas, and not Los Angeles, hasn't hurt ticket sales.
"It's not that much different than spring training in baseball," she said. "We have been using the team's cheerleaders to attract attention."
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