Saturday, October 23, 2010
It’s getting personal. You don’t get this in NJ. It’s a steel cage death match throwdown with WWE vs. the Connecticut Secretary of State! Tired of seeing attacks on his candidate wife Linda relative to her time spent with the entertainment megaplex, McMahon & Co. have a new campaign out called “Stand Up For WWE.”* It’s in response to the warning by the Secretary that anyone wearing clothing on Election Day with WWE themes or characters will be asked to cover up.
While Vince spins this as a trampling of your American right to enjoy honest to goodness wholesome family entertainment, he’s also savvy enough to take advantage of the moment and also show how his sport is the real victim here. It’s a rebrand minus the logo change; the perfect stepping-off opportunity for the brand to show people what they don’t know about WWE.
In effect, the old WWE vs. a kindler, gentler WWE?
Showing feel-good stories from employees (outside the ring), the move also serves to indirectly counter one of the main allegations against Linda with regard to steroid use by wrestlers on her watch. (To the point that they’re running – for them at least – an understated spot for the Make-a-Wish foundation showing wrestlers with patients.)
It’s a good campaign in general for changing perceptions, but beyond self-promotion, the fauz outrage isn’t standing on solid political ground. An Obama t-shirt wearing woman was also told she couldn’t vote in an early election. At first the two *brands* couldn’t be more opposite, but the common denominator is the indirect political influence that any imagery can have on voters, aka, passive electioneering.
By law, candidates are not allowed to solicit votes or campaign within 100 ft. of any polling place. That's why there’s always a barrage of candidates in one spot when you pull into the school parking lot to vote. Which also means any representation of a particular party (an Obama shirt, a representation of a candidate’s former company and immensely popular brand, etc.) is verboten so as not to exert undue influence on voters. (Ironically for the GOP, their buddies at the ACLU have spoken out against this type of free speech ban.)
Does this violate your right to free speech though? He makes it less about that and more about your right to vote and what entertainment you can watch. His support for the Bill of Rights notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean people can’t vote – it just means they have to remove the item(s) in question from view.
But this is self-promotion, and letting states and local municipalities determine their own course of action doesn’t fit that agenda. (That is what Linda is running on. Less big government – more local control.) Sharp as Vince is – and he is – it’s hard to hang your hat on that a First Amendment argument given how states have already defined electioneering.
Like any great promoter though, he understands mass media all too well and what the WWE means to CT – and America. Voters here seeing a WWE logo or John Cena on a shirt is enough to get them thinking Linda, Linda, Linda. There’s no way officials could let it slide, and he knows it.
He’s betting on fans showing up in force wearing whatever branded WWE merch they can find, just to test the people working the polls. Headlines about WWE fans banned from polling places en masse is just icing on the cake. Depending on the outcome, there might even be cries for a recount too, based on that very same displaced WWE vote. I would love for California voters to test these waters and show up with an HP or eBay shirt come election day.
That’s not just a rebranding – that’s classic Vince McMahon.
*Full disclosure time kids. I freelanced for the then Titan Sports (way the hell back and the pre-cursor to WWF > WWE). At one point I was also asked to interview for a CD role there, but had to keep a low-profile since the person I was going to replace was in the other room.