By Barry Janoff
February 24, 2016: The 2016 calendar still reads February, but WWE already has filled its calendar with far more than two months' worth of workdays.
In January, 2K and WWE extended their partnership via a multi-year exclusive agreement, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America and WWE launched a multi-year, national partnership designed to further enhance youth development at local Clubs across the country.
This past week, WWE relaunched WWE.com, describing the global destination as the most "immersive and personalized experience the site has ever featured, (with) a functional design across devices that optimizes content for fans anytime and anywhere."
Also this week, WWE signed a deal with Snickers making the candy brand the exclusive presenting partner for WrestleMania 32, scheduled for April 3 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Snickers, a long-time partner with WWE, will have extensive brand presence during WrestleMania 32 and also during the weeks prior, including custom content integration within the live worldwide WWE Network telecast, promotional activity at WrestleMania Axxess (WWE’s four-day, interactive fan festival), integration on WWE’s flagship TV programs, presence at WWE live events leading up to WrestleMania, a "Hungry for Mania" sweeps using WWE talent and TV spots featuring WWE athletes and divas.
Earlier this month, Stamford, Conn.-based WWE reported record full-year 2015 financial results, including a revenue increase of 21% to $658.8 million and international revenue that increased by 46% to a record $169.8 million; as well as record levels of revenue from WWE’s Network, TV, live event, venue merchandise and WWE Shop businesses.
WWE said its content garnered more than eight billion views on YouTube and generated 790 million social media fan engagements in 2015, putting it alongside the likes of Disney, Time Warner and Google.
WWE world heavyweight champion Triple H alone has 2.6M followers on Twitter and 11.8 million likes on Facebook; and WWE legend John Cena has 7.76 million followers on Twitter, 40 million likes on Facebook.
Key to driving fan activation are such TV shows as Raw, SmackDown, Total Divas and NXT. But for in-person interaction, WWE's show-topper is WrestleMania.
WWE said that WrestleMania 31 held last March in Levi's Stadium (home for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers), was the highest-grossing live event in WWE history, at $12.6 million, and helped the WWE Network to surpass 1.3 million subscribers. It also set a record at Levi's Stadium, with attendance given as 76,976, and generated $139 million in economic impact for the Santa Clara/San Jose region, according to a study conducted for WWE by the Enigma Research Corporation, Toronto.
The all-time WrestleMania attendance figure is 93,173, set at WrestleMania 3 in the Silverdome, in Pontiac, Michigan, on March 29, 1987. That record could be broken at WrestleMania 32 in AT&T Stadium, home for the Dallas Cowboys, which can fit some 105,000 (including standing room).
NYSportsJournalism spoke with John Brody, a veteran sports executive whose resume includes MLB, the NFL, Wasserman Media Group and the Boston Celtics, who in December was named WWE's evp-global sales & partnerships, about WWE growth, the impact of WrestleMania, fan allegiance and the power of WWE Superstars and Divas.
NYSportsJournalism.com: Snickers has worked with WWE on different platforms, but what motivated the alliance to now include prime real estate at WrestleMania?
John Brody: It all starts with relationships and demonstrating value over time. Credit goes to our deep relationship with NBCU and USA Network, where Snickers has been a long-time advertiser with our two weekly shows, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown. When we started to talk with them about expanding and growing our relationship, one of the things we knew is that they were all about big events, which they feel makes a difference in the buying decisions of their customers and of consumers. In January and February they concentrate around a big event, the Super Bowl. And in March and April they now concentrate around another big event, WrestleMania. We are proud that they view us as a big event.
NYSJ: What do you feel were WWE's best selling points in this deal?
JB: We feel that the match between Snickers and WWE across our demographics is strong. And they can activate on many levels over an extended period. It's not a one-day event. It's an entire week, plus the weeks leading up to WrestleMania. Is it about WrestleMania 32 in AT&T Stadium and on WWE Network? Of course. But it goes to the strength of the property. Snickers will have significant presence at WWE Axxess, which is our fan event. They'll be running TV, promotions and a sweepstakes giving fans the opportunity to go to the event.
NYSJ: What does this alliance say about the power of WWE beyond the ring?
JB: Brands follow brands. Having partners such as Snickers, Pepsi, 2K and Mattel paints a strong picture about what we can do to help brands accomplish what they want, which is to sell more product and move themselves up in the eyes of consumers and on shelves where they are trying to get more share. WrestleMania is a big event. In each of the past four years, we've been able to deliver more than $100 million of economic impact to the respective region where WrestleMania was held. Which shows the breadth and scope of this being a week-long entertainment event.
NYSJ: What are you expecting from WrestleMania 32?
JB: We set the all-time Levi's Stadium attendance record last year, and this year we are hoping to set our all-time WrestleMania attendance record, which is 93,173. We want to break that mark in AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys have been a wonderful partner and we're excited about what we'll be able to do there. Bringing in a brand such as Snickers demonstrates the family-friendly and family-appeal of what WrestleMania and what WWE truly is. And that's part of the process.
NYSJ: Snickers has built a unique image among consumers with such recent off-beat humorous ads as 'The Brady Bunch' and 'Marilyn,' so has WWE embraced that?
JB: They are such a good brand. Yes, it's about being family-friendly. But the 'You're Not You When You're Hungry' campaign is such a nice fit for us. We are excited that they and (lead agency) BBDO have agreed to work with us. And take the Snickers' campaign, which already has its own voice, and combine it with a voice that is truly WWE. So you'll see that across digital, social, TV. That's an exciting thing for us. It also shows the respect that they have for our story-telling abilities. And how our brand fits so well with theirs.
NYSJ: They have been a WWE partner, so do you see other activations with Snickers moving forward?
JB: We expect that once we put on the show we know we will again be aiming to break our all-time WrestleMania attendance record. We think the opportunity for further expansion by Snickers and the Mars family is just out there to grow. The way we do it is by delivering against the assets that they secured from us. But even more than that, it is all about over-delivering. And doing things above and beyond to show Snickers that we are an event, we are a property that values partnerships as deeply or more so than any other property. We are about delivering for partners. Nothing gives us a stronger positioning than finding and building relationships with leading brands such as Snickers.
NYSJ: What do you differentiating WWE from MLB, NFL and other major sports properties for marketing partners?
JB: I've lived in the stick-and-ball world. What differentiates WWE is that it is truly a one-stop-shopping approach. Not to take anything away from other great properties out there, but look at what we deliver. There is no off-season. We deliver live TV programming. And as you know, in sports and entertainment, DVR-proof live entertainment is differentiating. We do that. And a critical part of what we deliver is that the athletes are part of the family. In most other relationships with sports properties you have the nationals rights plus the local rights plus the players' association. What we offer, and what Snickers is really excited about, is that we can integrate some of our top talent into this program. They will be integrated through social, digital, in TV creative.
NYSJ: How important are the Superstars and Divas to the overall impact of WWE?
JB: If you come to WWE, what makes us special is that we are live, we are 52 weeks a year. And we are one-stop-shopping for partners and for whatever needs will be created across all of our different screens. We deliver talent that is not only recognizable — you can look at the number of people on social media who follow the John Cena's of the world — they also understand that they are part of it. They know that they are an integral part of what we do. Roman Reigns, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Paige (see her Snickers spot here) are among those who are part of the Snickers WrestleMania campaign. And we are excited to be able to offer that to partners. People ask, Is this the way sponsorships are done? And we can say, It is here. If we get asked to use our talent in partnerships and activations, we can say We will do that. This is something different.
Why WWE Is Hungry For Snickers At WrestleMania 32
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