Wrestlemania 37 raises the bar for digital production in sport
This week, the WWE welcomed back fans for the first time in over a year for a two-night delivery of its annual showpiece event, Wrestlemania.
This weekend, 51,350 socially distanced fans were welcomed into the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa across the two nights for Wrestlemania 37. Alongside new safety measures for visiting fans, the company utilized new production workflows to engage with fans in the stadium as well as those at home, while providing innovative activations for its sponsors.
The event was the first WWE pay-per-view event streamed directly to Peacock, NBCUNiversal’s recently launched OTT platform, since NBCUniversal announced it would become the new streaming home of WWE in January.
The company leveraged lots of augmented reality (AR) enhancements to assist the production team in delivering stunning visuals to fans at home. Utilizing immersive camera angles, including a high 50-yard angle, and an end zone angle, were all fitted with AR systems based on Brainstorm software.
With at-home engagement in mind, the WWE production team made the decision to adjust their workflows from helicopter and spider cams to AR-based production.
The use of AR not only enabled WWE to deliver Wrestlemania 37 with the high production value that wrestling fans have come to expect, but it also helped the production team to retain the sense of atmosphere that is vital to its showpiece events.
One of the biggest challenges for sports organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic has been conveying the spectacle and emotion of live sport in broadcasts, without the help of a full arena. WWE ensured the Raymond James Arena looked full of life with branded AR overlays and enhanced audio coverage using 2.9 million Dante audio crosspoints.
As fans are gradually welcomed back into sporting arenas, innovative production techniques such as AR overlays and enhanced visual and audio mixing will be vital in creating immersive experiences and maintaining a high value product for fans to enjoy.
WWE also worked with its sponsors of Wrestlemania 37 to create new activations to reach the vast Wrestlemania audience. WWE showed versatility with integrations across the weekend, finding new ways to deliver value to its sponsors.
Snickers presented WrestleMania for the sixth consecutive year following the renewal of Mars Wrigley’s long-standing partnership with WWE announced in February. Leading up to the show WWE presented bespoke behind-the-scenes content featuring Snickers products.
For the first time this year, Snickers was the presenting partner for the Main Event on both nights of the show, allowing Snickers to reach further into the WWE community.
Another challenge that has faced sporting organizations during social distancing measure has been the lack of in-person events, which has prevented physical sponsor activations.
Leading up to WrestleMania each year, WWE usually hosts its popular fan convention, WrestleMania Axxess. This usually acts as the primary physical activation for sponsors, providing direct access to WWE fans.
WWE worked to provide a valuable digital alternative for sponsor Old Spice, creating a character called Night Panther, and creating six pieces of branded content for the Procter and Gamble brand, delivered during the time that WrestleMania Axxess would usually take place. This created additional inventory for the brand while offering WWE fans additional content to enjoy.
One piece of on-the-ground activation that did take place saw WWE, Nestle Waters, Feeding Tampa Bay, and Bullard Family Foundation create a community garden at Sligh Middle Magnet School and at other locations throughout the Tampa area to tackle food insecurity.
The official WWE Gaming Partner DraftKings activated entirely online, introducing two $25,000 free-to-play pools around WrestleMania 37. This allowed DraftKings to tap into the WWE community while enhancing the viewership experience for fans.
WWE has led the industry in adopting new technology and production methods which open up new opportunities for its brand partners. The brand successfully balances providing inventory for sponsors without damaging the viewing experience for fans by centering each activation around content or experiences that add value for fans in an organic way.
For more news and analysis from around the media and broadcast industry, check out some of Grabyo’s recent blogs below.
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