I Was Infatuated With the XFL’s Branding
ESPN’s This Was The XFL premiered 3 days before Super Bowl LI. That’s 16 years to the day of the inaugural kickoff. In 2001, cherubic 10-year old Chase Cambria was JACKED UP for the arrival of a new, edgier counterpart to the NFL. Although The NFL Shield would endure as a classic icon of Americana, the XFL’s almost-anarchist red & black geometric logo resonated with me on a spiritual level. I was a fan from Day 1, and that was before I even saw the logos and uniforms for the individual teams.
Ripped from This Was The XFL, Dick Edersol of NBC and Vince McMahon of WWF fame promoted the absolute hell out of the XFL. Its debut in a Saturday night primetime slot shattered decades-held records. They sold the absolute loving $#!% out of the sizzle. Most of this, Edersol believed, was due to the nature of their commercials, which promised an animalistic bloodbath on the gridiron.
The reality, as history isn’t quick to forget, was atrociously sloppy football. Between third- or even fourth-rate players, a lack of practice time, and football’s inherent rigidity and reluctance to truly innovate, the product sucked. After the mercurial debut, the XFL’s ratings fell to Earth and kept burrowing until they found bedrock. Even as the XFL was relegated to the very back column of the Sports Page, I remained a fan.
There was no place for conservative branding in the XFL. Everything was brash, loud, confident. You had your token 90s teal team in the Memphis Maniax. The (geographically) inoffensive NY/NJ Hitmen. And the off-brand San Diego Chargers, the Birmingham Bolts with their gorgeous thunderstruck helmets. The Orlando Rage’s wordmark was nearly illegible, worse than my own handwriting. I consumed it voraciously, and I began drawing. If these logos and wordmarks and crazy color combinations could suffice, then surely fantasies of my own doing could one day find their way to be worn on TV. Thank you, XFL, for inspiring a lifelong love in this fan for pushing the boundaries of what makes a sporting brand.