Inside WWE’s 37 new advertisers – what worked & did not work

By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor


Back in March, WWE and NBC Universal announced a “multi-platform” co-marketing campaign attempting to bring in new advertisers to WWE programming.

The campaign has paid off in some respects, but there is still resistance toward associating with wrestling.

WWE noted in their Third Quarter earnings release that 37 new advertisers were secured for WWE programming following NBCUniversal’s Upfront presentation. reports that the first automobile marketers signed on, plus other brands that bought the message of WWE being “family-friendly” programming that appeals to a wider demographic.

“In the past, WWE wasn’t associated with being family-friendly,” said NBC Universal advertising executive Dan Lovinger. “We had to re-define what it is to both advertisers and consumers.”

Other advertisers did not buy the message and are staying away from USA Network because of how much prime time real estate will be consumed by WWE in 2016 when Smackdown moves over from Syfy.

“We ran into issues with supply in prime time on USA because of wrestling’s presence,” said media salesman Neil Vendetti. “There are still a number of advertisers that won’t be in it because of legacy, so it blocks out some advertisers from buying USA in prime time.”

From an outside perspective, analysts question USA being “bullish” about their wrestling-centric programming line-up, especially when Raw and Smackdown ratings are down double-digit percentages in 2015.

“The problem with how bullish they were on it in the upfront is that its ratings are down, which just continues to add to USA’s ratings issues and total capacity,” said David Campanelli of Horizon Media.

To counter, USA Network is pushing a similar refrain that wrestling will hopefully draw viewers to other shows on USA, like packaging Smackdown with new shows on Thursday nights.

There is also the digital element of trying to incorporate ads into online delivery of content. AdAge reports that WWE and NBCU are meeting with marketers to come up with “bigger integrations that can live across WWE, NBCU, and brand’s TV, social, and digital assets,” according to WWE’s chief marketing executive Michelle Wilson.

Not every potential customer is going to buy the message. However, WWE and NBCU hope that pulling their resources will generate enough ad revenue to make five hours of prime time wrestling programming per week a success.

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