Recently, my colleague Nick Brown wrote about P.T. Barnum, one of the legends of public relations. Vince McMahon, head of the absurd and absurdly popular World Wrestling Entertainment empire (and erstwhile founder of the collosally hyped epic fail that was the XFL), is a modern-day Barnum if there ever was one. This week, he has taken on another modern if somewhat battered behemoth of spin (the National Basketball Association) and, from all appearances, has scored an admirable PR coup for his organization.
A WWE television event had been scheduled for Denver’s Pepsi Center this upcoming Monday. The NBA’s Denver Nuggets, however, advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the interim, and the schedule called for the team to take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center the same night. McMahon, knowing full well that the NBA would eventually win the battle for the arena (and knowing that he could easily reroute the event to another available arena), immediately and brilliantly turned the scheduling snafu into a storyline for his TV show.
McMahon is painting the NBA and particularly Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke as greedy Goliaths who don’t care about the wrestling fans of Colorado, and to further his self-protrayal as “David”, he said he would hold his card in a parking lot if need be. In an ingenious twist, he announced yesterday that he is moving his show to Los Angeles’ Staples Center (not so ironically, the home of the Lakers), where it will now air on the USA network head-to-head against the Nuggets-Lakers tilt on ESPN.
And he hasn’t stopped there: according to the AP report, his show on Monday will now include a 5-on-5 match pitting “Lakers” against “Nuggets”, and his character will likely battle a character of Kroenke in the ring. (We must mention that McMahon has transformed himself over the decades from a skinny play-by-play announcer into a roided-up, egomaniacal wrestling league “commissioner” who occasionally steps into the ring and plays the bad-guy role to the hilt. Talk about commitment.)
You’d never catch me watching professional wrestling (well, I do have an affection for the lo-fi, barnstorming version you might see at your local armory or high-school gym), especially against an NBA playoff game, but I’ll be tuning into McMahon’s televised event on Monday just to see what lunacy he has concocted, and I suspect a lot of other NBA fans will, as well.
Who knows? Maybe the NBA and the Nuggets are in on this on the down-low, too (it’s interesting that the NBA even has the AP story posted on its own site). In that case, what a joint PR success that would be!
Posted by Joe Paone