World Wrestling Entertainment brought some of its trademark swagger to a South by Southwest Interactive panel on Saturday, as the brand looked to crown itself the social media king of the sports and television worlds.

The WWE’s John Cena — who made a WWE-style entrance, complete with his theme music — was joined on the panel by WWE digital chief Perkins Miller and Stephanie McMahon, executive vice president of creative and daughter of Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.

In a conversation moderated by Khris Loux, CEO of Echo, the panel discussed how the WWE is finding success by looking to involve fans as much as possible across several social media platforms. Loux’s Echo provides the platform that corrals the various networks into a real-time interactive experience.

Making entertainment interactive

It was clear from the panel who the WWE sees as its competition — the NFL, the NBA and other major sports. And it was equally clear why they’d want to discuss social media, because from the WWE’s perspective, it’s winning the battle.

Perkins said the WWE reaches 145 million fans across social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to the lesser used Pinterest and Tout. On Facebook alone, they have 97 million likes across more than 100 accounts — more than the NBA or NFL have across their league and team accounts, Perkins added. Their status updates have been view more than 5 billion times in the past year.

Cena said the brand’s success comes from a commitment to giving its fans the most access among sports and entertainment properties.

Superstar following

Cena wasn’t a token guest — he’s the WWE’s biggest social media star.

Miller and McMahon said Cena’s following on Facebook and Twitter was the third-highest among athletes — only Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan rank ahead of him.

Cena told the story behind his sponsorship of Post’s Fruity Pebbles cereal. It started when The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, made fun of Cena’s colorful clothes and insulted him by calling him a “fruity pebble.” But Cena embraced the moniker, and his large following got the cereal trending on Twitter — for the first time, according to the wrestler.

That led to a conversation with Post marketers, and after some reassurances, a partnership that included Cena’s image taking the place of Fred Flintstone on the Fruity Pebbles box.

WWE Active

The most recent social superstar in the WWE universe isn’t a wrestler, it’s the brand’s second-screen mobile application. The WWE Active app has been downloaded more than 4.4 million times in just six months, and it has quickly become the top second-screen app in the U.S., the executives said.

It offers interactive elements that allow fans to influence the outcome of shows, and it also includes live streaming for a half-hour before the show, and during the commercial breaks. Cena said this “always on” atmosphere is another differentiating factor — with the NFL and other sports, commercial breaks take you away from the action. WWE Active allows fans to get the closest thing to the live experience other than actually being at a show, McMahon added.

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