When the new football league XFL launches in February 2020, St. John’s University students will contribute to their social media strategy. Since 2015, St. John’s Sport Management students have participated in FOX Sports University, a national competition in which participants use digital and social media tools to develop brand awareness. However, this year the FOX Sports Brand Activation team chose St. John’s as the only school to work on this project, rather than opening it to competing universities.
“We tailor our projects to fit the class and curriculum,” explained Micaela Asercion, Associate Manager, Strategic Partnerships, FOX Sports. “Since a focus of the project is social media strategy, this course was a natural fit. It is also a plus that the XFL offices are in the greater New York area (Stamford, CT), making them readily available to St. John’s students.”
Participating St. John’s students come from the Social Media in Sport course taught by Robert J. Romano, J.D., LL.M., Assistant Professor, Division of Sport Management, in The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies on both the Queens and Staten Island, NY, campuses.
The XFL begins its inaugural season in eight cities, including New York, and promises a somewhat different game experience than the National Football League (NFL). For example, there are a number of rule changes intended to make the game brisker and faster paced. To that end, St. John’s students are tasked with promoting the league’s more unique aspects, while helping build a fan base from the ground up.
Divided into teams of three or four, students develop strategic social media plans using tools such as apps, digital videos, and simulators. Along the way, they receive guidance and mentorship from the FOX Sports Brand Activation team, who meet with students both in person and remotely throughout the semester. In December, the team returns to St. John’s to judge the 10–12-minute student presentations.
Representatives from FOX Sports and the XFL visited Prof. Romano’s class last month to kick off the project. Fred Harner, XFL Senior Vice President, Content and Media, told students he is excited to collaborate with them and stressed that his ultimate goal is to put the fans first, providing “unprecedented access that makes them feel closer to the game.”
“We are here to inform the audience about who we are,” he explained. “And, once we start playing football, to cover it in a way that fans want and that distinguishes us from other things out there.”
“It is an excellent opportunity to help lay the groundwork for a new league and contribute to its success,” observed Sport Management major Collin Horl. “The FOX team members are great collaborators and give us valuable feedback that we can incorporate into our final presentations.” He added that this project sends an important message to young people that their voices are heard and contributions valued.
Journalism major Forest Gaines is thrilled to gain real-world experience.
“Prof. Romano tells us to treat every classroom experience like a job interview. This is a tremendous opportunity—and we have to make it count.”
“By diving into social media, the XFL really tries to attract our generation,” noted Sport Management major James Lodato. “That is what interests me: working on something that can realistically compete with the NFL.”
Kalovna Edmond, also a Sport Management major, said she is grateful to attend a school like St. John’s where opportunities like FOX Sports University exist. “At other schools we may have to seek out projects like this on our own.”
“I think it is great that the XFL wants to hear our ideas,” she continued. “We are consumers and have many opinions, and we are a Division I school and part of the BIG EAST. This will open doors and new opportunities for us.”