Why WWE SummerSlam Became a Brand Bonanza

Cricket Wireless, KFC and Jolly Rancher are jumping into the wrestling ring

Headshot of Christine Birkner

WWE, which broadcasts to nearly 13 million U.S. wrestling fans a week and has 670 million fans on social media, is an entertainment powerhouse, and it's no surprise that several brands are getting in on the action.

WWE SummerSlam, which airs on Sunday on the WWE Network, will be co-presented by Cricket Wireless and KFC, and other brands including Jolly Rancher, DiGiorno and Mountain Dew also are sponsors.

"We have more than 500 live events per year and had more than 11 billion views on YouTube last year. That massive reach is a huge opportunity for brands," said John Brody, WWE's evp of global sales and partnerships.

Cricket Wireless has a 15-second co-branded WWE spot for SummerSlam, as well as signage at the arena, 500 branded ringside chairs and a custom Snapchat filter. Cricket also held a sweepstakes in July, with one winner and a guest getting tickets to SummerSlam.

Brands are finding fun ways to incorporate WWE superstars in their activations as well. KFC, for instance, filmed a stunt in Austin this week with WWE stars Dolph Ziggler and The Miz. Ziggler, dressed as the Colonel, took down The Miz, who was wearing a chicken costume.

In June, Cricket Wireless released a video with WWE star John Cena, a frequent pitchman who's currently showing off his dancing pecs in ads for Hefty. In the video, which had more than 15 million views on YouTube, Cena surprised fans by bursting through a fake wall in a Cricket Wireless store for unexpected meet and greets.

"We were thrilled with that video," Brody said. "We broke through because it was a good idea and John Cena is a recognizable talent. It worked with our fans and Cricket's consumers, and we look forward to doing more things like that with John and Cricket."

WWE's fan base is 60 percent male and 40 percent female, which opens up more opportunities for sponsors, Brody said. "It's a really strong position when you're approaching leading brands. People can connect with WWE on TV, through NBCUniversal or USA, or through a live event, or online on YouTube. There's so many different ways to access WWE that it gives brands a great palate to paint on."

@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.