If you’re looking for case studies for great branding and marketing, look no further than the WWE.
Right now you’re saying, “You’re kidding, right?”
Let me break it down for you:
For over 50 years the WWE has figured out how to introduce new products (wrestlers), fill stadiums for live events, reach international audiences, and make tons of money. They have reinvented themselves time and again to meet demand, trends and societal sensibilities. They have created a merchandising empire that has spanned apparel, toys, video games, popular music and movies. They have embraced new technologies and media outlets more effectively than their sports counterparts. They create an unparalleled amount of dynamic content for both television and online outlets.
Now, let me admit, I love professional wrestling. I have since I was a kid watching NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) on Saturday mornings. I know people will snicker a bit at this (and yes, I know it’s scripted). I also know that the WWE’s flagship show, RAW, has been airing consistently since 1993. That’s 24 years. So that makes it the second longest “scripted” show on TV, just behind The Simpsons at 28 years. That is serious brand loyalty generated through amazing storytelling and even more amazing marketing.
And I’m not the only one who loves it. The WWE now averages around 11 million cable viewers per week between its RAW and Smackdown Live shows on the USA Network. That’s 104 original episodes a year, no hiatus. According to financial reports, their online only WWE Network has 1.49 million paid subscribers. And it’s not just guys who watch – their audience is 36% female and 17% are under 18. They hit practically every demographic possible. They have partnerships with the USO, Make-a-Wish, and the Special Olympics.
Want a real shocker? Look to social media. The NFL’s 32 teams have a combined 141 million followers on social media across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The WWE has over 750 million. And that’s just the organization. Their athletes have pretty hefty numbers, too. In fact, they have more athletes in the social media top 20 than the MLB, the NBA and the NFL combined – Superstar John Cena is the 6th highest athlete in terms of social media followers, the Undertaker and Roman Reigns are also in the top 20. And honorary Superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is number 4. Their pay-per-views regularly top Twitter trends and engagement.
How do they do it? Quite simply, they listen and pay attention. They engage with their target audience. They create archetypes. They tell short and long-term stories and understand that trends come and go but human nature changes very little. They both infuriate and appease, compelling their fans to stay involved week in and week out. They create lifelong fans, who then pass that along to the next generation.
Need more proof of the marketing powerhouse the WWE has become? Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, along with star John Cena were invited to speak at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Their subject? How to keep fans engaged for over 50 years. Did the brand guru at your agency get invited to speak at Cannes? Didn’t think so.
So snicker all you want, because WWE is laughing all the way to the bank.
Bonus: Here’s a link to AdWeek’s interview of the aforementioned WWE CBO at Cannes.