The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and its owners, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. (WWFE), have become one of the great entertainment success stories of the past decade. The growth of WWF programming and the company have been impressive with the company now trading publicly on NASDAQ and plans to launch the XFL, a competitor to the NFL, in 2001.
APCO’s primary goal was to boost the image of both the WWf and the WWFE as responsible organizations dedicated to consumer choice programming, as well as provide appropriate tools to parents to raise the awareness of WWFE as a participant in the political process.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
APCO’s main challenge was to create greater understanding among media and policy leaders of the nature of WWF and the commitment of WWFE to consumer choice in programming. While the popularity of the WWF has skyrocketed, the program has not been without its detractors. Also, while WWF as a program is known by millions, WWFE is known by few and has invested little time in building political capital.
Another obstacle was the brevity of time in which APCO was enlisted to achieve the goals. WWFE first approached APCO regarding this project in July 2000. Because one of the tactics used was a voter registration drive, APCO had to quickly mobilize, gather election information materials and coordinate partner organizations so as to attract as much attention as possible in the four months prior to the November 2000 elections. Simultaneously, APCO had to focus on other important tactics such as development of the parent’s Web site, establishment of dialogue on choice in entertainment with decision-makers and planning for the 2001 philanthropic program.
The challenge is to create greater understanding among media and policy leaders of the nature of WWF, and the commitment of WWFE to consumer choice in programming. And the goal is to and to providing e appropriate tools to parents to help in that regard and to raise the awareness of WWFE as a participant in the political process.
Prior to embarking on the project we researched:
- Attitudes among key staff and members of Congress
- Criticisms of WWF by self-styled “watchdog” organizations
- WWF programming and demographics
- Media treatment of WWF and WWFE
- Ancillary issues affecting WWF and WWFE
- Resources for parents regarding entertainment choices
Based on our research we identified three areas where we believed WWF and WWFE could make substantial contributions to the dialogue and achieve some of the goals outlined above:
Use their considerable reach among younger audiences to encourage voter registration
Provide greater resources to parents to assist them in making informed choices about their children’s television viewing
Mobilize the power of the WWF fan base to contribute to good works in local communities
- Demonstrate that WWFE is a responsible and active participant in the political process;
- Demonstrate that WWFE is committed to providing parents with appropriate resources to help them make informed choices about their children’s television viewing; and
- Demonstrate that WWFE is a good corporate citizen in the many communities where it performs.
Based on the conclusions reached during our planning process we decided to:
- Use the political campaign/convention season as a hook to garner national attention and engage WWFE with the political leadership;
- Leverage the “bad boy” image of WWF to appeal to and engage younger voters;
- Partner WWF with other credible youth-oriented organizations to lend greater reach and credibility to the effort;
- Utilize the power of the WWF web presence to engage voters and communicate with parents; and
- Utilize fan base and star power of WWF to assist charitable entities.
Target Audience: Legislative and regulatory opinion leaders, media (especially national media), eligible voters and WWF sponsors and potential sponsors.
Smackdown Your Vote: Partnered with reputable organizations, including MTV’s Choose or Lose, Youth Vote 2000, Project Vote Smart, and the National Association of Secretaries of State to launch “Smackdown Your Vote,” a non-partisan voter registration program.
Earned Media: Gained media attention at multiple press conferences and at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Coverage included Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, all national broadcast networks, CNN, MSNBC and others.
Political Action: Began a dialogue with policy makers to educate them about the actions WWFE has taken (support for v-chip, voluntary ratings of all programming, parents Web site, etc.) to be a responsible programmer.
Web site Development: Developed new Web site, www.wwfparents.com, that provides parents with information and methods of how to discuss the show and its controversial content with children. The site also contains links to other recognized sources on parent-child communication.
Objective 1: Demonstrate that WWFE is a responsible and active participant in the political process.
APCO and WWFE scheduled numerous talent appearances, press conferences and interviews in promotion of the “Smackdown Your Vote!” voter registration program, which at last count, had helped register over 120,000 new voters in 12 states Through media coverage of these events, WWFE executives and talent communicated a message that the company was devoted to educating youth about the importance of exercising their right to vote. WWFE has been commended for their efforts to promote voter registration by the news media, members of Congress and various youth vote organizations. In addition, WWFE attendance at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions allowed company executives and talent an opportunity to meet with key policymakers to drive home the message that WWFE has a serious interest in politics.
Objective 2: Demonstrate that WWFE is committed to providing parents with appropriate resources to help them make informed choices about their children’s television viewing.
The WWFparents.com web site is scheduled to be officially launched in late October of this year. In developing the site, APCO researched similar parent-child information sites and held focus group sessions with parents on what resources they found most useful. APCO drafted content for WWFparents.com based on their findings and advised WWF web site editors on the design. The WWFparents.com site contains links to many of the most highly respected resources for parents on the web for parent-child communications regarding entertainment and electronic media. The site promises to serve as an invaluable resource to parents of WWF fans who seek to learn more about how to talk about WWF programs with their children.
Objective 3: Demonstrate that WWFE is a good corporate citizen in the many communities where it performs.
Beginning in 2001, the WWF will launch an aggressive new philanthropic program with the goal of scheduling talent appearances to promote causes in the major cities where their live events take place. APCO is currently helping the WWF to identify appropriate venues for these appearances and to schedule the talents’ time with area schools, hospitals and community centers.