For the past few years wrestling has been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. Once I discovered that it was basically a soap opera with live stunts and acrobatics, I was sold pretty quickly.
One major thing that’s kept me interested is what happens behind the scenes. The WWE spends a ton of time and energy on marketing and it really shows. It’s generated so much fan loyalty that no matter how many times Roman Reigns wins, we just keep coming back for more.
Global Brand Recognition
The WWE is absolutely amazing not just at overall branding, but also building smaller brands within – like they do with their various superstars. My guess is even if you don’t follow the WWE you still know guys like The Rock, John Cena or The Undertaker.
The WWE has built up these huge, recognizable names through repeat exposure, seizing cross-promotion opportunities and occasionally-excessive merchandising. Now they’re in the comfortable and enviable position where some of their stars have as much power to drive viewers as the WWE brand does alone.
Constantly Producing New Content
Thanks to the surplus of performers, the WWE is able to branch out and create a ton of content directed to a variety of different audiences. Not only are there the classic weekly episodic shows, but there are also reality shows that feature the stars outside of the ring, tournaments that showcase talent from around the world (both those featured regularly on other WWE programming and not), animated movies and shorts, video games, mobile gaming apps and so much more.
Major Changes Feel Natural and Modernize the Brand
Last year, instead of using both weekly episodic shows to progress the same stories and develop characters, the rosters and feuds were split. From a business perspective it makes total sense – now instead of getting away with watching just one of the weekly shows, viewers will have to watch both if they want to keep up with all of the action and story.
Women’s wrestling has also taken a much more progressive turn even in just the last few years. During the 2014 WrestleMania - a show that aired for more than four hours - 14 women performers (nearly the entirety of the female roster) were confined to one match that lasted for less than seven minutes. Alternatively, on an episode of Smackdown Live last month, half of that amount (seven women) filled 34% of the show’s total airtime.
These are large changes, but they make sense and keep things from becoming outdated or stale.
Extensive Social Media Presence
Fan engagement is absolutely amazing as nearly everything the WWE does is done with social media marketing in mind. Live and taped shows are promoted in real-time on channels like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Recaps and clips are posted on YouTube within hours of airtime. Fans use forums like Reddit to discuss everything about the WWE universe, from what’s happening on the shows with the staged stories and characters to the very real corporate leaders.
What Can Marketers Learn from the WWE?
While not perfect, the WWE does get a lot right:
Its ability to develop and manage dozens of recognizable brands under a single umbrella provides something for everyone. The constant engagement on social media and modernizations of the brand keep interest peaked and viewers tuning in for sometimes multiple hours per week.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan, haven’t watched in a few years or have never seen a single match (how did you make it this far into the article?) I strongly recommend you to do your homework and see what the fuss is all about. With WrestleMania just days away (Sunday, April 2, 2017), this is the time when the content is arguably at its best. Sure it’s silly. Sure it’s “fake.” But it is savvy marketing.
Want to chat more about:
- Improving your digital presence?
- Creating targeted content for your audiences?
- Breathing new life into your company through branding?
- Whether or not Bray Wyatt will retain the WWE Championship this Sunday?
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