As the Vice President, Global Digital & Integrated Sales, Rob Kligman’s responsibilities include working with top global brands to incorporate their messaging across the WWE Universe. Strategies available in Rob and his team’s arsenal include Intellectual Property rights, sponsorships, digital/social media campaigns and promotions, live events, in-game integration, retail and licensing deals, all with the 270 WWE Superstars and Legends as major components to the success of these strategies. Under Rob’s leadership, the Global Digital & Integrated Sales department has driven millions of dollars from companies such as Mars, AT&T, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and many more fortune 100 companies.
WWE is available in more than 800 million households worldwide and broadcasts to more than 180 countries in 28 languages with live programming 52 weeks a year—no off-season or re-runs. WWE storylines told over a year culminating at WWE’s WrestleMania—the equivalent to the NFL’s Superbowl for WWE—slated every year towards the beginning of spring. WWE has 1 billion total social media followers across 16 platforms, is the #4 most viewed channel on YouTube, and has 550 live events hosted a year. Those stats make WWE the largest traveling show in the world.
All of this in mind provides Rob with a one-stop-shop for brands to distribute, content create and promote their messaging.
Rob’s day began bright and early starting with a short drive to WWE gym at the Stamford, CT Corporate headquarters. Fifteen minutes later, Rob began his workouts, weight training and cardio. Fitness is important to him—he works out five days a week—and working at a company that profits on how strong and lean each of their superstars are means it’s a priority to the WWE too. It’s open from very early in the morning until 10:00 PM at night on weekdays, open on weekends and holidays. “It’s encouraged to take a break in the middle of the day and get a workout in… the mind and body are so important to keep in tune,” Rob said. The WWE gym is a world-class facility that includes state-of-the-art equipment and machines for building muscle, staying in shape and rehabilitating injuries all at employees and wrestlers’ fingertips. He’s even seen Vince McMahon, Chairman & CEO of WWE, Inc., working out on numerous occasions as well as WWE professional wrestler Ronda Rousey from time to time!
Rob began his workout at 6:00 AM with a treadmill walk at an incline of 10 and a speed of 3.4 for 30 minutes, which burned roughly 350 calories. After cardio, Rob spent 30 minutes isolating his shoulders with seven different exercises. Immediately after, Rob was showered, dressed and on his way to the NYC satellite office located in midtown Manhattan.
Rob drove ten minutes from the Stamford, CT corporate office to the Stamford Metro-North train station to catch a 7:30 AM express train to Grand Central in New York City. The ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Rob takes this time to either take a quick nap—can you blame him? He was up at 5:15 AM?!—reading the news, or answering any emails that require his attention right away from West coast clients the night before.
Upon exiting the Park and Lexington opening, Rob walked roughly five minutes before arriving at the office.
The NYC WWE office houses the music department responsible for licensing music for WWE shows and events, as well as the sales and marketing teams. The WWE has offices all over the world like Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Singapore and others.
In terms of Rob’s team, the stage of the deal determines who’s on his team. He has his pre-sale team, which help Rob prospect, research, solicit and work on ideas and concepts for Request for Proposals (RFPs)—an outlined document that explains exactly what the brand is trying to accomplish, what their targets are, what their flight dates or ad campaign schedule would be, etc. Once the pre-sale part of the deal is complete and the campaign runs, Rob works with a separate team that activates the campaign and collects data on the success to report back to the brand.
Back to the day, Rob’s desk is decorated with mementos from previous and current partnerships with brands, such as WWE branded Snicker symptom bars, Post Honeycomb Cereal with WWE Superstar Big Show on the box, Coke Orange Vanilla, Topps WWE superstar pack of cards, 5-Hour Energy bottles, Geico Gecko bobblehead, G Fuel Energy Drink WWE Legend Shaker cups and John Cena Capri Sun on pack drink.
On the walls, there is a whiteboard that lists accounts of interest and closed advertising deals to date and on the other wall includes a photo of Wrestlemania 33 which took place at AT&T Stadium on April 3rd, 2016 and set a record of 101,763 fans. Hanging from the flat-screen television is a character from the video game Final Fantasy.
Rob opened Microsoft Outlook and replied to roughly ten emails that needed his attention. However, that doesn’t mean there were only 10 unread emails in his inbox. Rob is copied on multiple emails on a “just so you know” type of basis. Event planning logistics, company announcements, case studies’ logistics and findings are topics of those types of emails.
Rob’s sent folder is mostly reserved for brand communications and negotiations. A few examples Rob gave of emails he would need to reply to could concern, “a proposal that was sent out, a rates negotiation, a question about whether a [WWE] Superstar could be utilized in a certain element for a brand,” things like that.
Rob prepared for a 10:15 AM presentation around the launch of Coke Energy, a brand new energy drink initiative for Coca-Cola that will occur in early 2020. In preparation, Rob read through a PowerPoint presentation and made notes to discuss while at the meeting. Rob and his team are one of seven brands invited to present their ideas to win the launch dollars around the January Energy drink campaign.
“Launch dollars” is an industry term used to explain the prestige and exclusivity of the partnership. If won, it means the company will be the first to advertise with the product as soon as it hits the market also for the first time.
This isn’t WWE’s first rodeo with Coca-Cola and their new products’ launch dollars—their launch of the Orange Vanilla flavor was an example of a time where Coca-Cola was requesting a proposal to advertise their new flavor exclusively.
Rob and his team for the Orange Vanilla proposal pitched the idea, the perfect pairings. Rob explained their past brainstorming session saying,
“because Orange and Vanilla is a great pairing for you to drink, we went back to the well for us and thought… ‘what are the great matchups or tag-team pairings that we’ve had in the past and how is that relevant?'”
After hashing out the objectives and synergies from the soda to WWE content, Coke went with WWE’s idea to advertise the new flavor and sweepstakes were made—that have now expired of course. YouTube content was produced and WWE fans were exposed to entertainment that promotes the message of the advertiser while giving the audience the content they desire.
This is exactly the type of experience desired this time around for the launch of Coke Energy.
Rob took a 10-minute cab ride to Coca-Cola’s media agency of record. After he checked into the building, he began setting up a laptop to present, with his marketing team, why the World Wrestling Entertainment audience made sense for the Coke Energy beverage launch in January of 2020.
Accompanying Rob to this meeting is the Marketing Manager who works closely with him to come up with the concepts for the brand pitches.
When asked if he gets nervous for presentations like these, Rob said he feels the opposite. “I get excited,” Rob said especially when he knows what’s at play and what’s at stake.
He continued, “I have to step it up. I have to be articulate. I have to understand who’s in the room and I have to pitch our messaging in a way that everybody in that room understands it and is captivated.”
“Getting away from the phone and the computer and actually being in front of somebody is what really makes advertising sales exciting!”
A tip Rob has to rock presentations like these is to, “think of the questions that are going to come about throughout your presentation before actually walking into the presentation.” That’s why his prep before is so important. While he’s re-reading and reviewing the presentation before the meeting, he said he thinks to himself, “what could this person ask as a question?” What are areas of the pitch that’s convoluted with in-depth information that needs extra explaining? Dig deep in articulating the answers to those questions in a way a layperson would understand and watch the nerves slowly fade away as you dive into the presentation.
Aspects brands like Coca-Cola keep in mind when looking for partnerships like this are:
Rob and his team, along with the specifics of their creative pitch, leverage their data to try and convince the brand to land their business. Rob said the WWE’s demo is interesting because it not only includes the consumer (children and teenagers), but the purchaser (parents), so that’s a unique selling point in their arsenal.
The presentation took 30 minutes and a Q&A occurs from the media agency team that lasted roughly 15 minutes. Rob shared the questions asked were related to the specifics of a few scenarios of ideas mentioned in the presentation. In those scenarios, they talked about utilizing certain WWE wrestlers and one of the questions that came up was which of the wrestlers mentioned would be best to reach a certain demographic compared to others. A discussion ensued to try to nail down the right person.
Rob left the agency with his team to head back to the WWE office. While they didn’t find out the decision on who won the launch dollars on that day, Rob shared by the time the interview for the article took place, his team won the business!
Rob arrived back at his office and jumped on a client call with the head of marketing for Mars Chocolate. The purpose of this call was to discuss renewing their title sponsorship leading up to and surrounding Wrestlemania 36 for the fourth year in a row. Wrestlemania 36 will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on April 5th, 2020.
The venues of Wrestlemania have changed throughout the four years Mars Chocolate has sponsored Wrestlemania, which brings interesting logistical challenges, Rob said, adding, “what can we do new and different,” this time around? Rob and his team are ensuring their clients, not just Mars Chocolate, that the activation for each partnership will be new-to-market and never done before.
The call lasted 30 minutes and previewed some new ideas to bring to life the Snickers brand and their tag line, “who are you when you’re hungry?”
Wrestlemania, for those who don’t know, is, as Rob described it, “the SuperBowl for WWE, it’s where all the storylines culminate.” It’s a 4-5 day event—one the biggest events for WWE out of all 500+ events they schedule for the year—which also means, as mentioned, it’s a big opportunity for brands to achieve high visibility and reach among potential consumers. To put the Wrestlemania fanfare into perspective, hundreds of thousands of fans from all 50 states and 68 countries attended last year’s Wrestlemania 35. Again, big opportunities available for sponsorships and advertising.
Rob met with the head of marketing for Rovio Entertainment—a Finnish video game company best known for the Angry Birds franchise—for lunch at Haru Sushi in Times Square. The purpose of the lunch was to discuss the activities coming up in the days ahead which include an activation within Times Square to count down to the official 10th anniversary of Angry Birds in concert with its #BringTheAnger campaign. This campaign aimed to show how anger can be converted into positive action—who doesn’t like to let it out once in a while?!
Rob said, “this is more of a ‘thank you’ type lunch where we’ve done all the hard work and now we’re seeing it all come to life.” This is also an opportunity to exchange more detail descriptions of what each respective company does to pitch a future partnership and to get to know each other personally. The more informed each leader of different companies are about their partners personally and professionally, the better they can serve each other in the future, Rob said.
After lunch, Rob walked over with the head of marketing for Rovio Entertainment to their Times Square activation. Rovio unveiled the Angry Birds Venting Machine. The idea behind this Venting Machine was to accept angry actions, like bashes, shouts or shakes, as forms of “payment” for special prizes.
Both parties thought to get the most use out of this furious machine, Rovio debuted the Venting Machine in one of the world’s most infamously agitating destinations: New York City’s Times Square.
To drive larger crowds, WWE’s contribution to Rovio’s Venting Machine idea was to provide WWE Talent, The Big Show (7’0 441 pounds) to drive awareness for the campaign through an appearance in Times Square to help fans shake the “venting machine”!
The Big Show showed up at roughly 2:45 PM which resulted in a long line of fans waiting anxiously to see the larger than life WWE Superstar. A few Instagram reposts later, the client, Rob and the fans were very happy with the successful outcome!
Following the Times Square activation, Rob traveled back to the office. The first thing he did was make a call to the Rovio social media team to let them know WWE’s The Big Show has initiated his post on his Instagram allowing Rovio to repost and drive more awareness to the big event.
Following his Rovio call, he prepared for a discussion at 4:45 PM with the Universal Studio’s theatrical marketing team. Their team discussed with Rob the 2020 schedule for theatrical releases and brainstormed on which titles would make sense for the WWE audience.
A couple ways these movies studios and WWE can work together include inviting the stars of the movies to come to a WWE event and sit front-and-center, showing the trailer during commercial breaks/on the jumbotron, producing a mash-up promotional video with clips from the movie and WWE Superstars to air on the jumbotron, showcasing props from these movies for fans to take pictures with, among other ideas.
The objective for the studios to partner with WWE is to get tickets sold, Rob said, adding, “so it’s my job to create awareness,” using all of WWE’s assets in their arsenal to promote these movies. Since the demographics for WWE fans span over generations and the studios want to target a specific age demographic, the promotional strategy will differ. For example, if they’re working on promoting a movie geared towards a younger audience, Rob’s team will focus on digital marketing vs. television marketing. These are the details that are hashed out on phone calls like this.
Ironically two of their major releases, Dolittle and Fast and Furious 9, will star WWE Superstar John Cena. “The inclusion of John Cena creates a nice synergy for a marketing partnership,” Rob said.
Upon completing the call with Universal Studio’s theatrical marketing team, Rob prepared an email to his internal WWE marketing team identifying the three best titles for us to prepare marketing ideas around. Materials attached could include any foundational information Rob got from initial calls, synopses of the movies, and/or RFP documents. He followed up his email brief with a meeting invite to discuss in person the next steps to aligning their marketing initiatives around the flight dates for the Universal titles.
Speaking generally about how meetings like this typically go, Rob’s first step in thinking through these ideas is using his marketing background to brainstorm with the rest of his team. He likes to be involved in the creative process keeping in mind his sales expertise as well—what will be the best approach for the studio to get the best return on their investment?
After they’ve come up with the ideas, his team will flesh it out further and Rob will present the best ideas to the movie studios in person, similarly to the Coke presentation earlier in the day.
It was the end of the workday, so Rob caught a train back to Stamford, CT from Grand Central and arrived home at 7:45 PM. On the train ride, he could be answering emails, but only emails that require a quick response. For most emails, he prefers to use a laptop. If he’s not answering emails, he’ll check back in on the news that relevant to his industry, like finance and company developments, since he doesn’t have time to during the day to do so. From there, he prepared dinner and answered urgent work emails mostly from West Coast brands.
Rob’s evening routine usually consists of relaxing by playing a few games of pool and pinball in his home game room before falling asleep by listening to an ’80s playlist on Spotify. What a day!
In his formative years, Rob figured the best place to pursue his career in the sales industry (and to get out of mom and dad’s house) was to move out West from Connecticut, the same place that’s home to WWE’s headquarters ironically. It wasn’t easy to find a job, Rob said, adding, “I worked really hard to just get my resume in the door wherever I possibly could.” With grit, hard work and a friend’s recommendation, he landed an interview at MTV in cable television advertising sales.
1997 was the year he interviewed with MTV which meant the cable network was, as Rob put it, “the gold standard for 18-34-year-old television and media, so it was a dream come true to get in there.” Before he knew he got the job, he wanted to express his gratitude after his interview creatively and thoughtfully. Taking inspiration from his mother, who owned her own advertising premiums company, Rob remembered a product she would sell that he thought would be the perfect gift to send to MTV’s HR department—a stress-reliever shaped like a foot. He made a business card, stuck it in between the toes of the “foot” with a message saying, “thank you so much for letting me get my foot in the door.” He got a call back that day that it was received and ended up getting the job immediately and spent the first three years of his career learning as much as he could.
From there, every position he’s had from then to now has been a step up the corporate ladder from Manager to Senior Manager to Director to Vice President at companies like Sports Illustrated, USA Today, 8020 Media and more. And with each experience he had, he said he always wanted to walk away from each with an epic answer to this question: “do I have a story?” He added, even if the experience only lasted a year, with every new opportunity, it meant reflecting on the previous and remembering what he learned, the people he met there and the rationale of why he took it in the first place to help ground and propel him forward.
“I always had a great story to tell.”
He grew up in Stamford, CT, where WWE is headquartered, so he said he must have passed the building “hundreds upon hundreds of times growing up.” He was always a fan of the brand growing up. All that being said, a recruiter reached out about the WWE role and Rob felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
Rob was intrigued by the opportunity and the potential to learn something new at a company that was about to take their content to the next level. With content consumption habits changing, Rob pointed out what specifically interested him by saying,”[WWE was] about to launch the over-the-top network… and I knew if I could get in at that early stage and learn the most I possibly could from it, it would benefit me in the long run and that’s exactly what I did. I got in at a great time.”
“Content is king!”
From the writing to the endless catalog of content to the ultra engaged fan base, Rob was ready to take his skills to the next level and thought WWE was the perfect place to be in a world that constantly wants immediate content and at a place where new content is created every single day, all year round—what a match!
What’s an industry insight you can share?
Rob said, at the end of the day, the best way to generate success in this industry is being personable and authentic. “When your clients feel that you’re being genuine, you’re not just selling them and you’re doing what’s best for them, in many cases, you build a friendship that becomes trustworthy,” Rob said. When you establish a bond built on trust, it makes you stand out among those who are constantly requesting rather than reaffirming. A lot of times, Rob said, he became friends with his clients before they gave him any business, which means you have to take the time to make your presence known and use that time to gain trust and ascertain their business needs.
“You have to be a great listener in this industry.”
What is your favorite part about your job?
“It’s never the same.”
Every day is different in the WWE universe and the added excitement/challenge of never turning off pushes Rob to always think outside the box and come up with new, fresh sales and marketing strategies. “There’s no real lull and there’s no real time to enjoy what just happened because we move right on to the next event and storyline the next day,” which keeps Rob on his toes.