Wrestlemania could harness larger advertiser network after Endeavor acquisition

WWE is trying to get creative to win over advertisers.

WWE CEO Nick Khan said on the Q4 2022 investor call that the wrestling promotion will begin monetizing parts of its ring and barricades with ad placements, digital displays, and product placements. The move is akin to what former wrestling promotion company WCW (World Championship Wrestling) did in the 1990s with sponsors placed on the ring mat and entrance stage as well as UFC’s mixed martial arts promotion.

WWE’s biggest show of the year, WrestleMania, which took place earlier this month had digital ads and product placements from brands including General Mills, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Intuit. The financial agreements were not made available. They serve as proof of concept to advertisers, now that the advertiser pool has potentially widened with WWE’s acquisition by Endeavor for $21 billion dollars. WWE joins Endeavor’s portfolio of brands, including UFC and IMG. Endeavor did not respond to a request for comment.

Endeavor’s acquisition of UFC helped broker “very lucrative deals,” including with Modelo beer and blockchain firm Vechain, said Jason Solomon, host of the award-winning podcast Solomonster Sounds Off, recapping the professional wrestling landscape since 2007. With WWE, he added, “the marketing possibilities are endless.”

The acquisition could also lead to UFC and WWE partnering to grow their audiences in viewership and among merchandising, said Audie Attar, Founder and CEO at the sports management agency, Paradigm Sports.

To interest the WWE fan base at Wrestlemania before the acquisition, General Mills’ Cinnamon Toast Crunch brand debuted masked versions of its cereal characters as masked wrestlers in ads that appeared during the Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio match in the arena on digital screens, banners, and the ring’s apron digital displays.

The collaboration was a year in the making, said Dayna Needham, associate brand experience manager at General Mills.

“WrestleMania is a great place for brands to activate,” said Needham. “It’s not only a huge moment in culture, but it allowed us to engage with a new fiercely loyal and highly devoted fan base and WrestleMania allowed us to surprise fans in an entertaining way.” Needham did not provide figures that could speak to the success of this campaign.

Sports drink brand Prime, Mountain Dew, and Snickers also advertised around WrestleMania and declined Digiday’s request for comment.

Endeavor with WWE blurs the lines between modern sports leagues and associations, said David Novak, senior partner and co-head of marketing and sales at Prophet, a growth strategy consulting firm. And combining theatrical, staged sports products with regulated, sanctioned sports could raise brand safety questions.

“There is little doubt that the content is quite synergistic and that the streaming content opportunities are very interesting across these two properties and the ad sponsors each brand already attracts are in similar categories of beverage, alcohol, and sport nutrition,” said Novak.

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