XFL recruits executives with broad experience

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As the XFL drafted its pioneer players last week, a similar process occurred at its corporate level. The rough-and-tumble football upstart named Eric Schultz as VP-event marketing and Robert J. Riordan as VP-sales.

Both executives possess diverse experience: Mr. Schultz worked for companies such as Procter & Gamble Co., Coca-Cola Co., Walt Disney Co. and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Mr. Riordan, most recently VP-sales at Internet telecommunications company Microcast, has served clients including Major League Baseball, the Professional Golfers' Association and Acushnet Co.'s Titleist. In addition, Mr. Riordan managed syndicated properties at the "The Phil Donahue Show" and "Sally Jessy Raphael" when he was VP-sales at Multimedia Entertainment.

In the same title with the XFL, Mr. Riordan takes on a unique TV sales structure. The XFL, jointly owned by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and NBC, will air its games on NBC, TNN and UPN. The league itself -- not the TV outlets -- will sell the commercial time. TV ad inventory for other leagues, in contrast, is sold by individual outlets. In the XFL's case, the networks do get a percentage of ad sales.

With the unique sales setup, advertisers "have the ability to lock down a leaguewide exclusive across all platforms," said XFL President Basil DeVito.

While Mr. Riordan lures in advertisers, Mr. Schultz, most recently a marketing consultant, is charged with recruiting fans. His goal is "to get people to attend the games, watch them on TV -- make the games exciting."

The XFL, which began selling tickets Oct. 18, had already reached 12% of its goal to sell 1 million tickets its first season. That season runs from Feb. 3 until April 21, 2001.

Both executives will work closely with Mr. DeVito and XFL VP-Integrated Marketing Michelle Difilippantonio. Ms. Difilippantonio joined the league earlier this year from a marketing licensing post with the National Basketball Association.


"We don't fit into one neatly designed box. We're entertainment, sports, live events," Mr. DeVito said. When the company recruits talent, he said, it looks for candidates who have experience in all those arenas. "We're looking for people who think in a broad manner."

The new hires come as the XFL ramps up marketing. The league is already running ads, created in conjunction with an NBC in-house team, to brand itself. That advertising ran during NBC's airing of the Summer Olympics and MLB playoff games. The next step will be to promote the XFL with a tactical, localized approach.

"We're smart enough to understand that any ticket campaign has to be customized to [individual] regions," Mr. DeVito said. "Our job is to continue to educate the fans" about the new league.

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