WWE Goes Big Time

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Marketers for World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. hope to smash past the 1 million buy mark for WrestleMania 22 this year, with a “big time” multilevel promotion package.

New campaign elements include a longform promotional video for operators to place in their free video-on-demand platform; a cross-platform promotion with NBC Universal tied to a DVD release of the film Doom, starring former grappler The Rock; and an affiliate contest where systems that expand their historic WrestleMania sales can win local appearance commitments by WWE personalities.

The promotion is being tied under the “Big Time” title, with the producers licensing Peter Gabriel’s 1986 hit of the same name. Part of the added promotional push is no doubt to let consumers know about a new price threshold: Past events have sold for $34.95, but April 2’s WrestleMania 22 will retail for $49.95.

'COMMERCIALS’ ON UPN, USA

Dan Levi, WWE senior vice president, marketing, said the company’s two series on UPN and USA Network have become “two-hour weekly commercials” for the PPV event. Each series — UPN’s Friday Night SmackDown! and USA’s Monday Night Raw —will include “Countdown to WrestleMania” clocks, as well as packages of highlights from past editions.

Local systems will be provided with a variety of marketing tools, from 10 different versions of on-air spots and on-hold messages recorded by wrestling personalities, to sticky strips with upsell suggestions for call-center workers to place on their computer monitors, Levi said.

Affiliates who commit to raising their PPV buy-rates — and do so — may participate in WrestleMania’s first incentive program. Those affiliates must agree to report their buy-rates directly to WWE.

The prize for systems with the greatest growth, and the most creative marketing initiatives, is the guarantee of a local appearance by wrestlers at an event in the local market for a charity supported by the cable operator, Levi said.

For consumers, there’s an instant win contest at WWE’s Web site. The names and e-mail addresses of fans who register are captured for affiliates to use to market pay-per-view purchases locally. Sweepstakes entrants can win trips to the event.

Since WrestleMania is in Chicago this year, WWE has partnered with dominant local operator Comcast Corp. to create ad opportunities — an element that had previously not been included in the PPV event. Comcast has promoted the event locally, and its sales division brought in retailer Chicago Cycles as a local sponsor. The retailer is mentioned in the on-air spots and event signage.

“This is a fantastic precedent-setter for us. It demonstrates that you don’t need a linear network [for local ad sales opportunities],” said Levi.

For the DVD co-promotion, consumers who buy a copy of Doom and purchase WrestleMania can mail in a copy of their receipt, plus their cable bill, to receive two exclusive posters of The Rock, picturing him in the movie and in his wrestling days.

DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network will offer a programming deal not available to cable customers. Satellite subscribers can buy a package of three WrestleMania events at a discounted rate.

Levi said it is easier for the satellite providers, working on a national platform, to adapt their billing for the offer than for cable operators.

One promotional activity kicked off in January: the “WWE Fan Axxess” tour, visiting 20 major markets. At the 4,000 sq. ft. interactive experience, fans can “call” a wrestling bout and take their performance home on tape, or suit up in front of a green screen as a wrestler. Local affiliates participate in the tour visits and use the event to sell in digital service or market high-speed data connections, for instance.

NEW AFFILIATE TEAM

The day after WrestleMania concludes, the wrestling organization will unify all of its cable, satellite and telcom affiliate activities under a new in-house WWE Distribution and Affiliate Marketing Group, headed by vice president of distribution and affiliate marketing Peter Clifford.

In addition to driving distribution of WWE’s subscription video on demand service — WWE 24/7 On Demand — and other products, the new affiliate group will assume the activities of long-time marketing agency Team Services, which has handled the majority of WWE’s affiliate relations through its promotion of the company’s pay-per-view business.

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