Promomania: Guy brands leap into ring with WWF

If you see a big flashy dude in tights and shades enter your favourite sports bar this month, you may be tempted to think you've had one too many. However, it's probably just the newest character in the world of wrestling - The Molson EXterminator - performing a tag-team promotion between Molson and the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Canada (WWFE) to hype WrestleMania X8, coming to Toronto's SkyDome March 17.

If you see a big flashy dude in tights and shades enter your favourite sports bar this month, you may be tempted to think you’ve had one too many. However, it’s probably just the newest character in the world of wrestling – The Molson EXterminator – performing a tag-team promotion between Molson and the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Canada (WWFE) to hype WrestleMania X8, coming to Toronto’s SkyDome March 17.

In a promotion called ‘Belt your Bartender,’ the EXterminator will visit 15 Toronto bars and challenge the barkeep to some novel, but not-too-strenuous matches: thumb-wrestling (for opposable opponents), pose-downs (flex those pecs!) and (the sport’s favourite side show) trash-talking. Individual bars promote the event in-house, while Molson is supporting it with radio spots on MOJO.

‘It’s a tongue-in-cheek way to tie into WrestleMania,’ says Todd Lewin, channel marketing manager for Molson Export. Besides being a perfect tie-in with the brand name, it’s also perfect timing, following on the heels of the successful ‘Had Ex Today?’ advertising campaign.

‘The brand experienced some real growth and we wanted to keep the momentum going,’ says Lewin.

Besides frequency prizing, tickets to WrestleMania X8 will be given away when Molson’s fictitious wrestling star appears at such bars as the Sports Centre Café, Ye Olde Brunswick House and The Peel Pub. Participating bartenders receive a specially designed wrestling belt.

Molson is only one of many monied sponsors to RSVP to this premier event on the WWFE calendar. The male soap opera, WrestleMania is the culmination of scripted rivalries unveiled throughout the year in weekly installments via the programs RAW on TSN and Smackdown on The Score – complete with bad acting and a loyal following.

‘It’s the largest single-day indoor event in the history of Canada,’ boasts Gavin Roth, WWFE’s director of sales and integrated marketing. He forecasts an attendance of 70,000, hoping to break the record of 67,678 set by WrestleMania VI at SkyDome in 1990, the last time the event was held in Canada.

The WWFE also holds the world record in in-door attendance, he adds. That was WrestleMania III in 1987 at the Silver Dome in Michigan, which attracted 93,000 fans. ‘It’s bigger than Beatlemania, although that was a very different genre and fan base.’ The WWFE’s core fan base – the coveted demo of males 18 to 34 (in Molson Ex’s case, 19 to 34) – is the sponsor magnet. RAW is number one against young males, averaging 232,000 18-to-34 viewers (or a respectable 750,000 to one million of viewers aged 2+), reports Roth.

This popularity puts Roth in the enviable position of having potential sponsors knocking on his door. Last September’s press conference announcing that Toronto had won over Tampa Bay and Seattle for the rights to host WrestleMania X8 ‘opened the flood gates,’ he says.

‘However, we won’t partner with just anybody. It has to be a good fit…It’s no secret our fans enjoy drinking beer. They also love watching sports, playing video games and eating pizza,’ says Roth explaining his roster of sponsors.

On top of the list are Pizza Pizza and PlayStation, the ‘heavyweight’ sponsors. Throughout February and March, Pizza Pizza stores across the country are advertising a ‘Flip ‘N’ Win’ promotion. Consumers flip over the triangular card used to serve slices and peel back the sticker to win WWFE prizes, including tickets to WrestleMania.

The PlayStation ‘Submit to This’ promotion invites consumers to Future Shop locations across the country to buy a PS2 unit and get a free WrestleMania DVD. Consumers also get a chance to win tickets to WrestleMania and Fan AXXESS, the latter a three-day fan festival running March 14 to 16, prior to the main event.

Fan AXXESS (at the Automotive Building of the National Trade Centre) not only grants autograph-seekers access to their favourite superstars, but also offers sponsors access to even more promotional opportunities.

In Blockbuster’s ‘Fantasy Play-by-Play,’ the video rental giant gives fans a chance to do the play-by-play of an historical match alongside their favourite announcer. Afterwards, the amateur sportscaster gets a tape of his performance.

Castrol Motor Oil is currently running a cross-promotion with Canadian Tire, entitled the ‘Road to WrestleMania’, driving entries for two trips to WrestleMania X8 and other prizes. The promo continues into Fan AXXESS with a display of vehicles used in a variety of storylines on RAW and Smackdown. For instance, The Undertaker always rides up to the ring in a Harley-Davidson for an imposing entrance. Stone Cold Steve Austin once poured cement into the Corvette belonging to his nemesis, owner Vince McMahon, who occasionally jumps into the ring himself.

Even though tickets for WrestleMania X8 sold out within two hours of release back in November, the hype keeps on going. Sponsorship deals lubricate McMahon’s already well-oiled cash machine and mass exposure drives pay-per-view buys.

Roth expects a million buys North America-wide, 75,000 to 80,000 of them in Canada, which would top last year’s record and earn approximately $3 million.