TMR Q&A: Janet Duch, XFL New York Guardians

Breaking Through in Gotham with New York Guardians Team President, Janet Duch

The XFL launches this weekend with eight teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

TMR caught up Janet Duch, the president of New York’s franchise, the Guardians, to check in on how the ramp-up is going.

Duch joined the upstart league in Apr 2019 from On Location Experiences, where she was SVP, Marketing & Communications. Prior to that, she held various roles within Madison Square Garden Company over 18 years, including stints with the NHL Rangers, NBA Knicks and WNBA Liberty, rising to SVP, Marketing, before her departure.

Over the past six months, Duch and the entire front office staff have headed out and done their best to be everywhere in the “city that never sleeps.” That includes holding fan meet & greets…hosting season ticket holder breakfasts…countless media appearances…speaking with college classes…and assisting street teams out sharing team messaging with swag giveaways and even free tickets.

The Guardians, who will call MetLife Stadium home, host the Tampa Bay Vipers in their inaugural game this Sun, Feb 9. Click here to view the Guardians’ profile in the SportsSponsor FactBook™.

Portions have been edited for clarity.

Team Marketing Report: NYC is a hyper-competitive market for the sports dollar (and the larger entertainment dollar bucket as well of course). When TMR spoke with Oliver Luck at the St. Louis Showcase several months back, he talked about focusing on the fan as the XFL works to innovate the game of football. What’s been your focus/mantra around capturing fan attention?

Duch

Janet Duch: As an organization, we are really focused on ensuring that both the football product on the field is up-tempo and action packed, and our gameday experience is unmatched. We want our fan experience to be known for bringing fans closer to the game with special on-field moments that connect them to our players. Our affordability is a factor in bringing fans into our game in a big way.  Imagine a family of four bringing their kids to a game for the first time and sitting in the lower level for under $100 – we will have new fans coming to see a football game for the first time together!

TMR: And then how are you going to keep fans engaged?

On Aug 22, 2019, N.Y. Guardians Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride and President Janet Duch went on a media tour that included taking in a MLS NYFC game — and some Yankee Stadium video board love @XFLGuardians

JD: We understand that fans will want to know what we are all about before they make commitments with their time and money. We are ready for that journey and we have enough gas in the tank. We are realistic that we need to earn our stripes.

Fandom is earned, not given and that’s important for us to convey.

TMR: How does that sync with Luck’s “Access” and “Voice” buckets he focused on?

JD: The most important form of access is being able to afford a ticket. Our ticket prices are affordable and family-friendly to bring new fans inside the game.

A family of four can sit in the lower bowl for a hundred dollars or less in every market — season ticket packages start at approximately $125 a seat for five games. And someone can walk up to our home opener and pay just $30 to watch terrific football. And, again, that’s in the lower bowl of MetLife Stadium.

 

TMR: Outside of football, will the Guardians be an active community member?

JD: First off, you can expect our team to be active in the community — without any agenda other than to make a positive difference.

We will establish a community youth football program that will bring football clinics to youth all over the tri-state area. Program elements include the importance of proper coaching, health, safety and wellness, and learning the fundamentals of football.

Also, we’re establishing a platform to give back to first responders, acknowledging the impact our “Guardians” have made and continue to make on our region. Through in-game experiences, storytelling, recognition programs and community events, we will highlight our “every day heroes” and make them a part of our story and identity.

TMR: We touched on football fans and the larger tri-state “community,” how about relationship building with partners and sponsors?

JD: For partners, we want to establish a bond with them that extends past a business transaction, creating an “irrational loyalty.”

We would like our organizational values to align properly with the partners’ values. Our values are based around our passion, integrity, accessibility and investment in community.

TMR: One more — with season kick-off hurtling towards us, what’s the biggest challenge getting a team off the ground?

JD: To lead a “startup” organization in a brand new league in the most competitive sports & entertainment marketplace on the planet is a bear of a challenge.

Operationally, we’ve had to secure facilities — office space/housing and practice facilities for football operations — hire a staff, launch a brand, go on sale, etc. There are so many milestones that we had to achieve before a football game can be played.

In the end, we have to remember: Why are doing it?

It’s for the love of football. We want to craft relationships with fans, business, and communities that go beyond just a business transaction…we want that irrational loyalty.

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Chris brings deep sports business experience to his role as publisher of TMR. He first put his sales, experiential marketing, PR, sales and valuation skills to work in sporting goods retail in 1986. He has since worked for brands and agencies across all major league sports, plus golf, college athletics, marathons and motorsports. Chris is also the proud founder of Painless Networking.