Let’s get ready to rumble!
In a cross between entertaining theatrics and a true test of athleticism, WWE has been wowing its loyal fans for decades.
Like any successful entertainment brand, WWE explores a huge number of characters and intertwining, engaging storylines. It allows fans to follow their own heroes and villains through epic battles that they can watch live in-person.
That’s where the “sports” aspect of WWE comes in; Forbes has named WWE’s Wrestlemania event one of the world’s top 10 most valuable sports event brands for the past four years. WWE has been a publicly traded company since 1999, with a current market cap of $7.5 billion.
“At our core, WWE tells stories of good versus evil, which is something everyone can relate to,” says Sarah Cummins, WWE’s senior vice president of consumer products. “As a company, WWE is always on, with live programming 52 weeks a year, allowing our fans to continually engage with their favorite WWE Superstars and the stories that unfold around them.”
And the company makes sure that its content is suitable for kids and adults alike. WWE’s popular Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live — which were named the No. 1 and 2 shows on the USA Network, as well as being responsible for making USA the No. 1 cable network for more than a decade — are rated TV-PG, meaning that adult fans can share the experience with their own kids.
EVERYONE CAN JUMP INTO THE RING
WWE works to deliver characters, storylines, events, a full consumer products line, and content that not only deliver across a multi-generational fan base, but also exceed fans’ high expectations. The products range from kids’ brands, such as Fisher-Price, to adult-focused brands, such as New Era Cap.
“We partnered with Mattel on this unique opportunity to integrate our Superstars into the longstanding Little People line,” Cummins says. “We see this as a way to broaden engagement and collectibility in a fun, new way that lends itself nicely to our multi-generational audience.”
In fact, a lot of WWE’s supposed “toy” partners make products that appeal to the entirety of the audience the company reaches. That, combined with WWE’s inherent theatricality, allows for fun partnerships that entice fans across the board, such as with Alpha Group, who signed WWE as its first partner for its AirNormous line of inflatable wearables and props.
“WWE AirNormous oversized inflatables deliver supersized fun for kids and kids at heart. Becoming your favorite WWE superstar appeals to fans of all ages,” says Matthew Sherman, director of global brand marketing at Alpha Group. “From its size to its inherent play patterns, the sports entertainment brand perfectly complements [the line].”
APPAREL FIT FOR AN ENTRANCE
As for fans looking for a little bit of nostalgia, WWE partnered with Garbage Pail Kids (GPK), the brand full of gross-out humor founded by the Topps Co. in 1985. The original brand featured trading cards, T-shirts, collectibles, sticker albums, and other novelty items that featured their characters with subversive attitudes. GPK is seeing its own resurgence in popularity currently, as all things ‘80s are becoming retro and trendy.
WWE worked with GPK and Spencers to launch its collaboration, using Wrestlemania as leverage for the launch. The collection, which is available at Spencers, features graphic T-shirts and headwear featuring GPK versions of WWE Superstars for fans to obsess over. To add to the excitement, there are also exclusive WWE and GPK collaboration items available at wweshop.com.
New Era also launched a line of headwear this spring that features embroidered logos, names, catchphrases, and more from the current WWE Superstars and past Legends. To show that you’re a true fan, New Era will also include a collection of pay-per-view specific headwear in its offerings for major WWE events, including “WrestleMania,” “SummerSlam,” and “Royal Rumble.”
THE FACTS ON FIGURES
It’s probably no surprise that with a lineup of interesting characters and a huge fans, WWE dominates the action figure category. Mattel is the brand’s global partner for action figures, and last year, it secured both the No. 1 and No. 3 spots for action figure items in the U.S., according to the NPD Group. Its line features just about as much variety as WWE’s fan base.
Mattel’s figure line centers around its Core Figure Assortment, consisting of 6-inch WWE action figures that feature articulation, True FX-enhanced facial detailing for authenticity, and ring gear. The Elite Figure Assortment also includes 6-inch figures with all the same features, but adds on even more articulation and accessories. There are even more options for adult collectors, including the Collector Ultimate Edition Assortment and the WWE Championship Title Assortment, which features a variety of WWE Championship Belts.
Mattel’s Wrekkin’ line adds “action” into the mix. The 6-inch Wrekkin’ Figure Assortment features collectibles with three moves —slamming, punching, and kicking — and they can even hold “wrekkable” accessories, such as a ladder, a table, and more. There’s also a Wrekkin’ Ring, which is a play set with a backstage gym area and collapsible scaffolding. Whether fans are displaying their figures in a collection or re-enacting their favorite wrestling moments with their friends, they’ll be able to bring the best — or their own — WWE storylines to life.
And WWE is not content with just topping action figure markets. Thanks to new deals with companies such as Mars, Hyundai, Coca-Cola, EA Games, Paramount, Universal, Disney, and more, WWE’s global sponsorship revenue increased by 17% last year, showing that nearly everyone is willing to bet on the company — and that its success is only trending upward.
With more than 300 licensees with products in more than 85 countries, WWE fans would be hard-pressed to be unable to find something that doesn’t match their personal taste or style.
“Fans are extremely passionate about our brand, so we create opportunities for them to express their fandom through a variety of products,” Cummins says. “From action figures to apparel and [replicas of] championship titles, there is something for everyone. Authenticity and relevancy are critical to our success.”
MORE THAN MERCH
And sure, it may be hard to shop without seeing any WWE-branded products, but it’s also becoming just as difficult to flip through the channels or scroll through social media without seeing the WWE Superstars.
The E! Network’s second-longest-running reality TV show — right behind the empire that is Keeping Up with the Kardashians — is Total Divas, which gives fans an inside look into the lives of female WWE wrestlers, including their work within WWE and behind-the-scenes footage that provides insight into their personal lives.
Additionally, last year, the Miz & Mrs. docuseries premiered on USA, chronicling the lives of Superstars — and married couple — The Miz and Maryse. These shows, in addition to WWE’s other programming, are available in more than 800 million households worldwide in more than 180 countries and 27 languages. Not many sports brands — or even entertainment brands for that matter — pack that kind of power.
One thing is for sure: WWE’s robust content, carefully curated storylines, characters overflowing with unique personalities, and ever-loyal fans turn their merchandising program into money in the bank.
This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Spring 2019 Issue No. 3, click here to read more!