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Wrestling Mania and Marketing

To the uninformed, professional wrestling conjures up visions of competitive athletes tumbling and grappling opponents on a padded mat, each skilled competitor attempting to “pin” the other’s shoulders against the floor, incapacitated, and gaining victory. To some, it is akin to scholastic sports of football and basketball only at the professional level, much like the NBA or NFL. Imagine the dismay of such spectators. tuning in to the first professional wrestling match and experiencing the antics of the professional wrestling mania.

For decades, the pro side of the sport denied criticism of chicanery and sleight-of-hand antiques and insisted that what was going on in the roped, elevated ring was real competition where the winner was declared by an opponent’s demonstration of a set of talents akin to throwing a pass, rushing a defense, or dunking a ball through a basket mounted nine feet in the air. Despite the claims of authenticity, real fans, you know those screaming, foul-language, often hysterical beings that could honestly be called “rabid,” it was all real and authentic enough to be entertaining. The truth is out in the open now and has been for decades. Pro wrestling is a popular form of authentic theater. The “sport” has become one of the most watched displays of embellished martial arts where performers act out a predetermined script of body slams, punches and breaking of furniture, usually over the head of the opposing actor.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is the leading league of professional performers, not to be confused with the NFL, NBA or MLB, that is enjoying significant audiences of resolute and animated fans from around the world. A 2022 survey found that 89.9 million Americans age 12 and older consider professional wrestling their favorite entertainment. With that kind of following it is not surprising that the theater has become a mega-marketing machine.

WWE’s “Countdown to WrestleMania XL”, a two-day event held in “The City of Brotherly Love” this past April, drew thousands of guests to watch celebrity wrestlers “The Rock” and “Rhodes” exchange insults and physical slaps. The show drew 15.7 million views across all of WWE’s social media platforms in less than 12 hours. Cricket Wireless was on hand to release its version of the steel chair phone advertisement, based on a well-known wrestling prop often utilized to break over an opponent’s head. The customized 5G chair phone can perform many functions like texting, making calls, taking pictures, playing music or displaying videos.

Not to be up-staged, Prime had its iconic logo etched into the theater’s arena floor. Popular performers like Roman Reigns and L.A. Knight have secured branded sponsors just like other professional golfers, quarterbacks, and hoopsters. While some traditional marketing experts are warning some brands about being careful when associating a logo with the sport, Jason Cielsak, president, Pacific Rim, says, “It is a master class in marketing steeped heavily in storytelling and drama that many of the major sports leagues and even television writers could learn from. The benefits to WWE are numerous and help position the organization as a credible entertainment entity, luring “future Rocks” seeking global stardom.”

Creating past iconic characters like The Undertaker, John Cena, Nikki Bella, and dozens of other colorful performers, WWE has demonstrated the ability to master the art and science of storytelling and successfully connect with fans across all channels. WWE WrestleMania 39 became one of the most successful WWE events in history, showing eight hundred branded ads over eight hundred million times to fans. The event garnered a 35 percent increase in Twitter followers, a 15 percent increase in online sales and a 35 percent improvement on pay-per-view purchases.

Engaging consistently with its fans is a top priority for the WWE. Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer says, “We have five hours of live content on USA Network every single week, 52 weeks a year. No off-season, no re-runs. It is an opportunity to keep our fans engaged and never let them off the hook because our storylines continue all year long.”

For brands looking to solidify a connection with unique and dedicated professional wrestling enthusiasts, the WWE is a medium well worth exploring to tell a brand story.