TNA Wrestling's Dan Stevenson on How the Entertainment Empire Mixes Brand and Direct
Consumers seeking meek and mild entertainment probably won't be tuning in to Thursday night's TNA "iMPACT!" or opting in to receive direct marketing messages from representatives of the show's professional wrestlers. But fans of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling are a wilder lot, and they've been responding positively to the entertainment empire that knows them so well.
In fact, Nashville, Tenn.-based TNA Wrestling has been shifting more of its advertising spend toward direct marketing. Part of the reason is the valuable insight the company gets from its fans—such as feedback and survey results that show aficionados want to see TNA's wrestlers grapple on Thursdays instead of Mondays, says Dan Stevenson, TNA Wrestling's marketing director. (The change in schedule became official last week.) Another reason is costly live events are becoming more profitable.
Here, Stevenson explains why.
Target Marketing: Is TNA Wrestling more of a direct or a brand marketer? How and why is the mix changing?
Dan Stevenson: I would definitely say we're 50/50. ... That is because there's so many different elements that make up TNA. We're a television show, we're a monthly pay-per-view show, we're a merchandise company with our ShopTNA, we're a touring company with our non-televised shows. So for each ... tentacle ... we do certain types of marketing that are both direct and brand marketing. An example would be, for our television show and our pay-per-views, we're very traditional. ... We do a lot of television, a lot of radio advertising. But with our live events, we're a little bit more strategic ... I would say, the shift has become more direct marketing with social networking ... When I first started here three years ago, it was a lot of radio, a lot of TV. But with the growth of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, we've kind of taken a step back and really analyzed what we can do to maximize the information that we get from those three groups and market with them, vs. using them as a side thing or a fun toy to play with once in a while. ...
TM: How does TNA Wrestling collect data on its fans? How does it segment the data?
DS: ... If you go to our website, you can sign up for updates, which is like a newsletter ... We have three different Twitter accounts. ... We've got one that is a TNA Twitter account; and our president, Dixie Carter, has her own Twitter account; and then one of our backstage guys, Jeremy Borash, has a Twitter account. And between the three of them, they have over 100,000 people signed up. ... And then we also have Facebook, which has 134,000 fans on it. ... We've got TNA Mobile, we've got our website, we've got Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. And we put all that stuff together. And for everything that we want to get out there, we utilize all those outlets to get out there. So a lot of it is depending on what the messaging is ... We've got about 500,000 people that we can reach through one of those things. ...
TM: How does TNA Wrestling determine the most appropriate channels to use to address its fans?
DS: ... We're really starting to understand Facebook and Twitter as outlets to our fans and direct communication to our fans. We've done a switch in strategy, where before we were handling everything through our e-mail and text blasts. And we still continue to do that, and that was part of the reason why we [hired Knotice]. Because we were able to bring our e-mail database, our text database and some online stuff that we've done all together under one roof and send one message that we can control. ...