Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Marketing of March 31, 1985

Since 1985, marketing the biggest wrestling/sports entertainment show of the year has been an integral part of its success.  Sure, it's always been the wrestling promoters job to market their respective show, but there's a reason that WrestleMania has always been a cut above the rest.  It didn't become the known brand name of wrestling events without plenty of advertising, hard work, and, of course, the almighty dollar.

I've always wondered if some fans of today don't quite grasp that WrestleMania was huge from the get go.  While the crowd from the first event is perhaps more maniacal than any audience of today and the card is definitely star packed, the look of the event doesn't give a hint as to how the WrestleMania's of today are presented.  The inaugural WrestleMania has the appearance of a standard Madison Square Garden show of the day.  With the low lighting, lack of screens, and curtain entrance, it's the kind of setup that many old school fans still yearn for today.

Most wrestlers and anyone in the production and/or promotion of that 1985 event will tell you that they knew it would be something different.  Celebrities from other walks of life were in attendance both as part of the show and as fans.  The event was going out live on closed circuit television as well as through an extremely limited newer technology called pay-per-view.  Merchandise bearing the name was produced as was an elegant silver and gold logo that was classier than anything professional wrestling had seen before.  This was WrestleMania.

Part of the promotion involved a company named Bozell & Jacobs Public Relations.  This firm created a rarely seen WrestleMania item known as a press kit.  Press kits are very common in the movie industry, often including photos, press releases, and other forms of media that can be used by other media agencies to promote the event. 

The WrestleMania press kit is a handsome yet basic black covered folder that features what is likely one of the first printings of the original WrestleMania logo.  It's hard to say exactly what all was included, if it didn't vary from folder to folder.  The example shown here was found with various press releases about the event, its stars, and the history of the WWF as well as the WrestleMania program.  It is likely that several 8x10 promotional photos labeled with both the WrestleMania logo and the Bozell & Jacobs name and address were included in at least some of these kits.

The press releases include a full card rundown, a history of the World Wrestling Federation, a release dated 3/14/1985 regarding the celebrities involvement, a history of the WWF Championship to that point, and bios of several of the stars involved.  It's no surprise that the releases seem to place the outside celebrities above the wrestlers.  This PR firm as well as the WWF knew how to get the mainstream attention just as WWE does today.

The program itself is much more familiar to collectors.  Full color with shots of most of the members of the card as well as a heavy dose of Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper, the program was similar to the event it promoted: it was something that professional wrestling had never seen before.  I can still remember looking at the "lighted" card rundown that is featured both here and on the back of the Coliseum Video release.  Even the fonts were carefully chosen to make the wrestlers appear to be the biggest stars you ever will have witnessed.  The term "name in lights" has never been more appropriate.

Just as Mr. T and Lauper are prominently featured, the matches in which they were involved dominate most of the publication.  These matches were, after all, the core of the "Rock n' Wrestling" connection.  The WWF was also in a unique position to have high profile feuds that could appeal to both the male and female demographic.  As much as the country was enthralled with the on-going saga of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and friends, fans also wanted to see just how Lauper and Wendi Richter would get their revenge on The Fabulous Moolah and her charge Leilani Kai.  The female twosomes both get ample coverage in the program, with the infamous Moolah-Kai "horror lighting" shot getting a full page.  In a random bit of trivia, the jewelry worn by Kai in the photo was actually given to her at the shoot by Lauper.

There's no doubt that the #1 wrestler in the world at the time was Hulk Hogan.  He captivated a nation and is exactly who the people wanted to see.  To paraphrase Gorilla Monsoon, "he gave the people what they wanted."  We've come close, but there will never be a bigger star to grow out of wrestling in the United States than Hogan.  Having been champion a little more than a year at the time of this publication and event, it's truly a look at The Hulkster when he was not only on top of the world, but when he owned it.

There are other WWF and WrestleMania press kits out there including examples from the past decade or so, but none capture the greatest wrestling extravaganza of all-time in its infancy like this one does.  It's artifacts like this that show exactly why in a number of days we will be celebrating the 29th edition of this great event, and why it still grows and thrives today.


Anonymous said...

I saw the first Mania on CCTV. That first program is still my favorite. I looked at that program for weeks after the event.

The show probably doesn't hold up or compare to other Manias, but it brings back great memories and for that it will always be in my top five Manias.

J\/\/ said...

Definitely doesn't hold up to the past several years...a trend hopefully broken this year.

Loneman1 said...

I've almost pulled the trigger a few times on auctions for some of the earlier WWF programs like this one, but haven't followed through as of yet. This post might be the motivation to finally grab one or two!

J\/\/ said...

For the earlier ones definitely hold out for a good price. The prices on those go up and down more than anything.

Loneman1 said...

Yeah, the last one I was looking at was WM III. Can't remember what it went for, but it was a little out of the range that I was willing to spend at the time. Gonna be keeping an eye out for decent deals now though....with WM just around the corner, I'm digging out all my old magazines for old time sake. I might wait until after the show is over since there might be a little more demand leading up to the big dance, hence more bidders.

J\/\/ said...

Definitely. 1 thru 9 you can usually find for $20 or under at off-peak times.