As part of an aggressive expansion of the WWE franchise beyond wrestling events such as Friday Night Smackdown and WrestleMania, the company has launched an online broadband network. Since the beginning of February, WWE.com has served as a platform for web-only shows that cover other, less-fight-oriented but still high-energy areas of the character's lives. Each show, be it "Lifestyles of the Built and Famous" (about wrestling stars' homes) or "My Day Off" (about their leisure time), is ripe for branding.
Wrestlers brag about their rides
"WWE Rollin'" is the entertainment company's first test for its new product-placement model. The short lets superstars brag about their rides -- and gives sponsor Castrol plenty of airtime.
"What [Castrol] wanted to do was use new and innovative media," said Patricia Clark, VP-digital sales, WWE. "They wanted to get new users to the product. They wanted to retain heavy users. They definitely wanted to be associated with something automotive-related. It was our idea to use "Rollin'" and specifically to use our talent in "Rollin'" in a product-placement way."
The result is a pre-roll commercial, a background logo during the intro to the segment and -- in the latest iteration of the show -- a huge banner that Jonathan "Coach" Coachman drives by in his BMW. Coach, executive assistant to newly bald WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, never mentions Castrol products by name, but there is a bottle of GTX tucked in the front seat of his car and a Castrol baseball cap in the back.
Coach also pops open the hood and discusses proper care of the engine, which includes changing the oil. All the while, Castrol has a static sweepstakes ad next to the video.
Coach's is the fifth segment Castrol has sponsored. Castrol would not comment for this story.
Involving sponsors outside the ring
"The fans cannot get enough of what the stars are doing outside of the ring, which is why the shows are as successful as they are, because people are honestly interested, and the stars are talking about things they are interested in as well," Ms. Clark said. "The stuff that the stars are doing outside of the ring, in terms of their lifestyle -- that's a really good thing to be involved in. They are involved in other things that a sponsor can be involved in."
The website receives up to 17 million unique visitors each month and spikes of up to 67.6 million visitors the day after an event such as WrestleMania 23. Each month, according to WWE, the website supports 46 million video streams. Ms. Clark sees the "Rollin'" model as only the first step in a long line of possibilities.
"We have a couple of areas we are already really strong in that lend themselves to this really naturally," she said. "We're very strong in movies and entertainment of all types. We're strong in video games, we're strong in music, strong in QSRs, consumer products -- especially men's hygiene stuff. What we did here for Castrol is very easily transferable again in a fun way to another category."