WWE kicks, punches, slams marketing efforts into high gear ahead of WrestleMania, its big event

FILE - Actor and former WWE Superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson participates in a news conference on Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 in New York. As WWE gears up for its biggest annual premium live event in April 2024, the company continues to harness the power of its social media presence to reach its fans. A key component of that strategy is YouTube, where WWE has hit an important milestone: reaching 100 million subscribers. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

FILE – Actor and former WWE Superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson participates in a news conference on Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 in New York. As WWE gears up for its biggest annual premium live event in April 2024, the company continues to harness the power of its social media presence to reach its fans. A key component of that strategy is YouTube, where WWE has hit an important milestone: reaching 100 million subscribers. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

This year’s WrestleMania is just days away, but the WWE’s marketing campaign for its biggest premium live event of the year was kicked into overdrive months ago.

In February, three days before the Super Bowl, with all eyes on Las Vegas, WWE tried to snatch some of the NFL’s spotlight for itself.

The sports entertainment company held a press conference in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena, just down the road from the stadium where the Super Bowl was being played, to promote WrestleMania XL, a two day event in Philadelphia that begins Saturday. It plugged appearances by top stars including Cody Rhodes and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recently became a board member for WWE’s parent company, TKO Group. The free event, which was live streamed on Peacock, was a bid to grab the attention of the thousands of football fans in town, and potential viewers nationwide.

Thousands showed up for the event which didn’t include any wrestling, but The Rock did slap Rhodes across the face, garnering 15.7 million views across all of WWE’s social media platforms in less than 12 hours. More than 4.7 million people watched the event live, making it the most-viewed outside the ring event in WWE history, according to the company. The press conference had more than 100 million views in less than 12 hours.

WWE released its WrestleMania XL video on the day of the Super Bowl. That video has amassed more than 5 million views and counting on WWE’s account on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Jason Cielsak, president, Pacific Rim, at brand experience firm Siegel+Gale, says that the way the WWE crafts its WrestleMania messaging makes fans eager for an event where many of the storylines that have been evolving over the year are resolved in the ring.

“It is a master class in marketing steeped heavily in storytelling and drama that many of the major sports leagues and even television writers could learn from,” Cielsak said.

The Rock’s participation in WrestleMania XL, given his longstanding ties to WWE and his movie star status, is a considerable asset.

“The benefits to WWE are numerous and help position the organization as a credible entertainment entity, luring “future Rocks” seeking global stardom,” Cielsak said.

WWE has also been using its professional relationship with two of the company’s biggest social media personalities, Logan Paul and Pat McAfee, to promote WrestleMania XL. Paul, WWE’s current United States champion, a co-founder of Prime beverage company, podcaster and YouTuber, uploaded a video on X with his reaction to the WrestleMania XL press conference. Paul currently has 23.5 million subscribers on YouTube and 6.8 million followers on X.

McAfee, who rejoined WWE’s Raw commentary team and co-hosted the WrestleMania XL press conference, recently interviewed The Rock on his self-titled television show on ESPN. A clip of the video posted to McAfee’s X account has more than 3 million views.

The promotional buildup to WrestleMania benefits not only the company, but also localities where the event is being held. Last year, WrestleMania 39, which was held at SoFi Stadium, generated $215 million for the Los Angeles region, according to a study done by Applied Analysis. WWE said that broke its prior record from a year earlier, when WrestleMania 38 had a $206.5 million economic impact for the Dallas/Arlington region.

WWE says that since 2016, WrestleMania has generated more than $1.2 billion in cumulative economic impact for the cities that have hosted the event.

Shares of TKO Group Holdings, Inc., based in based in Stamford, Connecticut, are up almost 7% this year.

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