We’re big fans of wrestling and are particularly impressed with the WWE’s Online Marketing activities. As fans and self confessed Online Marketing nerds, we watched with eager eyes to see the level of response that WWE generated from this week’s groundbreaking change to its programming.

If you are not aware, over the years interest in WWE has declined, while this is quite common in the world of television, the drop in interest in WWE’s two flagship weekly programs Raw (which is the longest running episodic TV show in the USA, having first aired on January 11 1993) and Smackdown (which first aired on August 26th 1999), has been quite alarming, to the point where record lows have been reported.

June 13th Raw’s was watched by only 2.03 million people – a 19 year low and WWE Smackdown recording record lows of 1.996 viewers for June 9th’s show and 1.981 million viewers for September 2nd 2015th’s episode.

google trends - smackdown vs raw
Google Trends – Interest in Smackdown & Raw


Google trends reports that interest in Smackdown peaked in September 2009 (the program was then built around CM Punk, Batista & The Undertaker), while interest in Raw has remained somewhat consistent, but hasn’t reached the level of interest achieved in July 2012 (which featured Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, John Cena & Kane).

There is no doubt that something needs to be done to reconnect the WWE brand with its audience, Smackdown’s switch from Thursday nights to Tuesday in a live broadcast from its previously pre-taped provided a perfect opportunity to do so. The decision was made to re-introduction of the “brand extension”.

The Brand Extension

The “Brand Extension” where Raw and Smackdown are essentially treated as separate entities, boasting unique rosters of wrestlers, storylines and characteristics is actually a throwback to how the programs existed from 2002 until 2011.

This was initially introduced out of necessity from WWE’s acquisition of its former rival promotion WCW. Having failed to secure an additional TV deal to air a WCW show, the result was an overly bloated roster, with little opportunity for many of the contracted wrestlers to appear on television.

Treating the two programs as separate “promotions” or sorts provided a platform for both shows to be “in competition” with each other, competing for the acquisition of the top performers, free agents and other on-screen talent.

The Annual Draft

In a vein similar to other popular sports, an annual draft was held for superstars to switch between shows, thus refreshing the programs (often causing a spike in interest and ratings) and creating new stories for fans to enjoy for the next twelve months.

google trends - wwe draft
Google Trends – Interest in the WWE draft


The drafts however often favoured Raw over Smackdown, with Smackdown’s top stars often being drafted to Raw, with lesser names returning in the other direction (apart from a few exceptions such as Batista in 2005).

Online interest in the annual draft peaked in 2008 which featured Rey Mysterio, CM Punk Batista and Kane join Raw, with Jeff Hardy, Umaga, Mr Kennedy join Smackdown.

From around 2009 onwards, the exclusivity of the shows wrestlers appeared became less, eliminating the feel of competition and separation. This often added to the perceived decline of importance of Smackdown.

The Hype

wwe draft hype - wwe instagram upload of paige

Since the re-introduction of the brand extension was announced, the excitement online has been very evident. In the week prior to the draft, This a selection of “Raw or Smackdown?” promotional images uploaded to WWE’s official Instagram account and those by a small selection of the talent roster gained over 795,600 “likes”.

The build up also earned coverage from websites such as the Daily Mirror, Forbes, ESPN, Fox and CBS sports amongst many others.

The Draft

The show featured the two new on-screen authority figures Daniel Bryan & Mick Foley (working alongside the established characters of Shane & Stephanie McMahon), assembling their rosters aiming to surpass the 2,068,000 TV viewers who tuned in to watch the final show on the Thursday time-slot. The hype certainly paid off, with a reported 3.17 million viewers tuning in to watch, an increase of 53.28% compared to the previous show and was also the highest original program on cable that night.

The WWE Draft Online Reaction & Statistics: Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

The Online reaction was huge and must have pleased the WWE executives. Here’s a breakdown of the response across three of WWE’s major online channels: Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.


The reaction on Twitter was equally as impressive, during and around the show 138,982 unique Twitter users talked about the draft, potentially reaching a massive 555,911,506 people.

#WWEDraft was used 268,349 times, with #Smackdownlive used 156,103 times (#Smackdown 44,814),#Raw used 78,426 times and #WWE 26,000 times.

WWE Draft - Tweets Per Wrestler

Raw’s second draft pick, the Women’s champion Charlotte was the most mentioned draftee, by 14,958 users.

The second most talked about draft picks were the trio “The New Day”, by 13,768 users. 9,629 tweeted about main event mainstay John Cena, 8,066 about newcomer Finn Balor, 6,756 about current Champion Dean Ambrose and 6,098 about Cesaro. 6,875 unique users tweeted about the first draft pick Seth Rollins.


During the show and 2 hours before and after, WWE’s posted 69 stories on it’s Facebook page. These posts generated:

456,100 reactions
14,260 shares (please note not all share totals were visible)
111,100,062 video views

The most popular videos showed how the NXT roster reacted to the announcements of Finn Balor (594,000 views) and Nia Jax (538,000 views) being drafted to Raw.

The post revealing the new announce teams, introducing NXT’’s Corey Graves generated the most comments (1,148) and shares (1,941). It also earned 20,000 reactions.
WWE Draft - Facebook reaction

A post linking to WWE.com’s official draft conclusion story was the most reacted to overall, with 41,000, the story also generated 981 shares & 907 comments.

“The Boss” Sasha Banks had the most posts around the show dedicated to her with 5, generating 32,700 reactions, 1098 shares, 571 comments & 906,534 video views.being drafted to Raw.


57 photos out of the 59 draft picks were posted (strangely there were no posts for the drafting of Diva Summer Rae & relatively recent NXT callups The Vaudevillians) generating 2,153,100 likes and 30,321 comments.

WWE Instagram reaction - Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns generated the most response with 76,600 likes and 2,799 comments.

In terms of likes, Roman Reigns was followed by Randy Orton (75,300), John Cena (66,700), Paige (64,700), Dean Ambrose (64,700) and the team of Enzo & Cass with 56,600.

NXT call up Carmella received the second highest comment tally (1,849), followed by NXT Diva Eva Marie (1,606), John Cena (1,396) and Finn Balor (1,370).

Combined Roman Reigns generated the most reaction with 79,399 likes and comments, followed by Randy Orton (76,271), John Cena (68,096), Paige (65,588) & Dean Ambrose (65,568). Bo Dallas generated the least response (23,602 combined likes and comments) followed by The Shining Stars (24,688) and The Ascension (25,044)

Final Thoughts

Only time will reveal if the re-introduction of the brand split will provide a long term boost to TV ratings for the two flagship WWE programs, there is no doubt that it created a huge buzz Online and has got people interested in and talking about the product.

We will be watching eagerly to see how the events unfold over the next few months.

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