Shortly after the announcement of Endeavor’s deal to acquire WWE and merge it with UFC (in a new company we now know will be called TKO Group Holdings), Endeavor President & Chief Operating Officer Mark Shapiro did an interview where he talked about using “the UFC playbook” for WWE “create a significant amount of value for shareholders.”
A focus of those efforts would be on increasing sponsorship revenue. Coming off a WrestleMania that featured breakfast cereal characters, a guest star dressed as another celebrity wrestler’s energy drink, and an Academy Award winner introducing a match in-character to promote an upcoming movie, we wondered how much more marketing integration anyone could bring to WWE.
Speaking to Richard Deitsch on the Sports Media podcast, Shapiro took a stab at answering that question:
“Look, you want to be authentic, you want to be seamless, you want to be organic, you want to be true to your audience. So, no, we’re not going to put a brand on somebody’s robe walking into the ring. Now, by the way, do UFC fighters wear Venom apparel and Project Rock shoes when they come into the octagon? Yes, they do. Could the WWE benefit from an apparel deal as such? A shoe deal as such? Absolutely but we’re not going to over-commercialize it, we’re not going to saturate it to the point that we cheap it out, we trick it out, and you turn off the fanbase.
“You’ve gotta figure out what’s right in the ring, in the octagon. You’ve gotta figure out what’s right with the arena, indoor, outdoor. You’ve gotta figure out what’s right with the fighters and the participants, and you gotta walk before you run.”
Again, based on the boos in SoFi Stadium whenever The Pope’s Exorcist graphic was shown, the fanbase is already at a breaking point with sponsorship tie-ins. But maybe something more subtle like an apparel deal wouldn’t be as much of an issue?
Shapiro emphasized that this is all theoretical until the Endeavor/WWE deal is finalized later this year. But there remains a lot of interest in how WWE will change when Vince McMahon is technically no longer its controlling owner, and speculation about issues like this will continue until we start to get a tangible sense of that.