Event Management

ESPN 30 for 30: This Was the XFL

The Markham Group was engaged by ESPN (The Walt Disney Company) to design and produce a pop up hall of fame commemorating the XFL, it’s players and cheerleaders, and the premiere of the 30 for 30 documentary on the former football league, “This Was the XFL.” We were charged with bringing together a comprehensive event where guests could enjoy the hall of fame experience, gain an understanding about the XFL and its history, and see the documentary, all in one space in New York City.

Planning

We began the planning process by choosing a space.  We identified venues in New York City that had an active movie theater in addition to raw space where we could create the pop up museum.  Ultimately, the historic Cooper Union was chosen to host the event.  We contacted the XFL directly, now owned by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.  We met with their in-house historian and visited their warehouse to identify the artifacts we would use for the museum.  We also contact former coaches, players, cheerleaders, designers, and fans from around the country who lent unique camera equipment, outfits, trophies, and other memorabilia to the pop up museum.

The layout of the space provided unique challenges.  The lobby overlooked the large gallery below and we wanted the guests to have a fully immersive experience beginning before they even walked through the door.  We were able to design large scale branding and advertising that we put on the outside of the Cooper Union that served as the entrance to the experience as well as advertising for the event.  In the lobby and stairwell, we used lighted projected images (gobos) to highlight ESPN, 30 for 30, and the XFL.  We incorporated helmets from the teams that lined the stairs as well as logos from each of the teams that were affixed to large glass panels along the staircase.  From the lobby, you could see the first generation “Skycam” we procured hanging above a mock football field we installed with mannequins fully dressed in player uniforms with pads.  The “skycam” was originally created for the XFL and is now used widely in the NFL and other field team sports.

The hall of fame was filled with mannequins dressed a cheerleads, a full mockup of the on-field “bubba cam,” the famous “He Hate Me” jersey sets, along with numerous pieces of memorabilia from programs to hats and other swag for the fans.

For the premier, we produced a panel discussion with 30 for 30 Director Eric Ebersol, XFL Co-creator Dick Ebersol, and Vice President of ESPN Films John Dahl.  After the screening, guests were entertained with concessions that you’d find at the ballpark; hotdogs, soft pretzels, cotton candy, and of course, ice cold beer.

Results

Over three days, the pop up hall of fame was open to the public and screenings of the film played at pre-set times. Each screening was nearly full and there was a constant line for the hall of fame. Many players made appearances, signed autographs, and took pictures. There were fans that traveled across country just to get a glimpse. ESPN and the 30 for 30 series enjoyed a strong amount of earned media and hype ahead of the global premier of the film several weeks later on ESPN.