Over the past 30 years, WWE has transferred a territorial promotion into a global enterprise. Over WrestleMania 34 Week, Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon spoke at the yearly Business Partner Summit to discuss the evolution of WWE from then to now. McMahon commented on how the company is able to touch every part of the world via digital and social media, and how the company has become a media powerhouse.
Stephanie explained how her father, Vince McMahon, started with a brand, and took that vision to transform shows inside a smoke-filled armory into a stadium with smoke from the pyrotechnic display at WrestleMania.
Although eight out of 10 adults recognize the term "WrestleMania" and nine out of 10 adults recognize the term "WWE," it was not as popular in the 1980s. As a result, Vince McMahon made the decision to rebrand the company to a more expansive term than "pro wrestling."
"Advertisers either had an adverse reaction to the words 'professional wrestling,' or they simply didn't understand what it was," said Stephanie. "So, how could we create a term or a label that potential partners could understand? How could we describe the WWE was based on larger-than-life characters enthralled in relatable storylines? That was when we coined the term 'sports entertainment'."
Now, television audiences can see the ripple effect when viewing other companies such as ESPN, as well as performances at the Super Bowl, World Cup, and news sites coining the term "infotainment." Stephanie adds that the greatest asset of the WWE is the company's "ability to reimagine storytelling... whether it was capturing the all-American fervor of the 80s, the spirit of the antihero in the 90s, or the rise of the underdog in the 2000s." WWE's storytelling, according to Thom Loverro of The Washington Times, birthed the "entire reality television industry – scripted dramatic conflict posing as reality."
Stephanie went on to explain the advent of the PG era, which started in 2008.
"10 years ago, WWE once again reimagined our content and made the strategic decision to become more family-friendly, to grow our multi-generational audience and attract more blue-chip partners," said Stephanie. "Looking around the room here today, it's easy to see that this strategy worked."
Now, according to Stephanie, WWE's goal is to position the company alongside fortune 500 companies, be a part of pop culture, and enhance and expand their partnerships.
If any portion of these quotes are used, please credit the WWE Business Partner Summit with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.