WWE is catapulting itself into the Mother Continent in a move to increase its globalization efforts.
The wrestling organization is deepening its ties to Africa by launching a continent-wide talent search to find its next African superstar. The new campaign is highlighted by a multi-day tryout in Lagos, Nigeria next February, where a select group of participants will win a chance to continue their journey in the United States and potentially earn a full-time WWE development contract. Thousands of men and women are expected to submit their applications for the February tryouts over the next couple of months.
Planting deeper roots in Africa is part of the WWE’s renewed globalization strategy, which aims to leverage new talent to grow international business through localized products and capture valuable intellectual property of the next generation of superstars worldwide.
WWE head of talent recruitment and strategy James Kimball believes recruiting in Africa may also eventually boost other revenue streams, ranging from consumer product sales to media rights negotiations. He says the WWE is already in talks to host live events and enact other activations on the continent.
But the planned work in Africa is just the beginning of a global takeover.
“We’re already in talks with multiple broadcast partners in some of our key [international] markets to understand timing and [execution],” Kimball said in a video interview. “This is a launching point specifically for Africa, but this will be a playbook and a model that we’ll look to emulate across the globe.”
The campaign coincides with WWE’s recent renewal of its deal with African broadcast partner MultiChoice. That partnership features Showmax, MultiChoice’s African streaming service, becoming the destination for all WWE Network programming and premium live events. The company is working alongside SuperSport, a broadcasting subsidiary of MultiChoice, while partnering with Nigerian sports federations to identify superstar talent and capitalize on their stardom, which may transcend globally.
“Establishing a year-round presence in the market and creating a talent development pathway to the WWE, we think will have real long-term impact to the business,” Kimball said.
WWE (NYSE: WWE) looks to add to the list of current and former stars with African backgrounds, which includes South African American PJ Black and Ghanaian American Kofi Kingston. WWE star Omos, who was born in Nigeria, and Apollo Crews, who is of Nigeria descent, have been actively involved in this campaign launch and working behind the scenes on this initiative over the last several months.
The top performers from the try-outs in Nigeria will get an all-expense-paid trip to WrestleMania 39 next April in Los Angeles, where they’ll perform alongside WWE superstars. The last ones standing will receive a full-time development contract and begin their career at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.
The campaign complements WWE’s push to widen its college talent pipeline through its Next In Line program, in which top-performing college athletes can earn the same development contract. The NIL program, which is expected to announce its third class soon, was launched a year ago and is headlined by standout athletes like Olympic gold-medal winning freestyle wrestler Gable Steveson.
Former Alabama track and field standout Isaac Odugbesan is a Lagos native and one of the members of the inaugural NIL class. Like Steveson, Odugbesan is based in Orlando and is already signed full-time with WWE.
WWE continues to transition into a new era following some major leadership restructuring in the wake of longtime CEO Vince McMahon’s retirement in July amid sexual misconduct allegations. Chairman Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan have since taken over as co-CEOs while WWE Hall of Famer Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque was named chief content officer.
WWE, which hosted its Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, has championed globalization and expanding international business. This dive into Africa is another example of high-level investment in its long-term strategy to capture the next generation of fans.
WWE reported last week that media revenue increased to $233 million during the third quarter. The 15% bump from the same time last year was primarily due to an increase in both domestic and international media rights fees, according to the company.