WWE’s Royal Rumble and a Lesson in Marketing

From old friends to any kind of media that we consumed as children, there comes a certain feeling of nostalgia when we see or hear them. When it comes to the media from our childhoods, there are usually memories that are attached to them. A certain song can take you back to a great car ride or a movie can bring you back to an unforgettable sleepover. Typically, when a rush of nostalgia comes by, we tend to savor it for as long as we can. Marketing will sometimes to use nostalgia in order to sell a product. The nostalgia tool can be in the form of former music, tv, or movie stars and even former sports stars. Whatever shape the nostalgia takes place of, the hope is that these sights or sounds will then be connected to whatever the company using nostalgia is marketing to the consumer and therefore turn into a larger consumer base.

On Sunday, January 29, 2017 World Wrestling Entertainment will host the 30th annual Royal Rumble in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. This event kicks off what wrestling fans such as myself call “The Road to WrestleMania”. The winner of the actual Royal Rumble match will get the opportunity to main event WrestleMania-WWE’s Super Bowl. The January event creates a lot of buzz among both casual and hardcore wrestling fans because it marks the start of building the picture of what fans will be in store for when WrestleMania comes around between the end of March and beginning of April and most importantly it gives the fans an idea of who might become the new face of the company. However, despite the buzz and excitement that has been building up for the Royal Rumble due to stars like The Undertaker, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar participating in the main event some fans are irked over a tiny and practically non important issue: the Royal Rumble poster.

Spare me the eye rolls please because I’m right there with you. While I’m at it, spare me the side looks for being a wrestling fan. I know wrestling is fake or pre determined or whatever term you want to use for not as real as other sports. It’s not as fake as you think it is and it’s exciting to watch. Ok now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, back to the poster.

Poster for the 2017 Royal Rumble. Photo Credit: WWE

Above is said poster. It’s a typical poster that features the talent of WWE, the title of the Pay-Per-View, the time, and place of the event as well. Many hardcore wrestling fans have a problem with this poster for an incredibly tiny detail. At the very front of the poster are four men: John Cena, The Undertaker, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. In the background of the poster, on the near the upper right of the crowd of talent is current WWE Champion and therefore face of the WWE A.J. Styles. He’s the white guy that looks like a soccer mom. What irks fans about this poster is that the current champion is in the far back of the crowd while four non champions-three of which now wrestle part time-are in the front. However, these fans are missing a big point: WWE is not marketing the Royal Rumble towards them.

WWE is not and rarely if ever does market towards its hardcore audience. The exception here being the WWE Network-basically Netflix for WWE fans. WWE as a company know that their hardcore fans are already subscribed to the WWE Network and that they will either tune in to wath the Royal Rumble live or watch it sometime after the event has finished its original live airing. Instead, WWE is marketing to the casual fan which here means the fan that does not habitually watch WWE’s weekly programming. The Royal Rumble, as with other PPV’s like WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series are marketed more towards the casual fan. These four PPV’s are the biggest PPV’s on WWE’s calendar and because of that, they tend to run longer than a typical WWE PPV and rely on big names and matches in order to draw in a larger viewing audience. This is why WWE has called in guys like Brock Lesnar and Golderg and more importantly has put those two along with The Undertaker and John Cena at the front of the poster because these four faces are more than likely the most recognizable faces to the casual fan or even former fan.

That’s a big marketing strategy: pandering to those who either casually consume your product or don’t consume it at all. One way to catch the public’s eye is through using recognizable faces to push the product. American Express isn’t going to put out an ad explaining their card in terms that only bankers can understand. Instead, they show Tina Fey paying for some stranger’s in flight movie in exchange for a goat cheese salad.

Not many casual fans can name a majority of the talent on the Royal Rumble poster. They don’t know each and every member of WWE’s roster but they do know the big names. That’s why guys like John Cena, The Undertaker, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are in the front of the Royal Rumble poster while WWE Champion A.J. Styles is in the back. The casual fan is going to look at that poster and when they see some of the men in the front and WWE hopes they will be brought back to some childhood or young adulthood memories of the mid 90s to the early 2000s. It’s that recognizability and nostalgia that WWE is using in hopes to garner more PPV buys and more WWE Network subscribers.

That’s what the hardcore WWE fan or any hardcore fan of anything needs to learn: the thing or person that you’re a passionate fan of isn’t pandering to you because they have you as a loyal customer or fan. They know you’re already on board with what they’re putting out. They are aiming at the non or casual consumer in an effort to grow their consumer base.

So to those WWE fans who have gotten incredibly angry over A.J. Styles’ placement on the Royal Rumble poster: chill out. He’s the WWE Champion and for a man that debuted one year ago come the Royal Rumble that’s a pretty good year in my book at least. And to those WWE fans who, like me look forward to the end of January every year, it’s almost that time. It’s almost time to kickoff the Road to WrestleMania!

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