Correction: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect descriptions of the WWE and its talent.
- KFC returned as a co-presenting partner for WWE's SummerSlam event for its second-consecutive year, this time having superstars Dolph Ziggler, Enzo Amore, Goldust and more battle to become the next celebrity face of brand mascot Colonel Harland Sanders. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, Shawn Michaels came out on top to earn the title of "The Colonel," according to news made available to Marketing Dive.
- The concept behind having the superstars duke it out to become the latest celebrity incarnation of Sanders came from KFC's creative agency Wieden & Kennedy and media shop Spark Foundry. Last year, WWE's Dolph Ziggler (as Colonel Sanders) and The Miz (dressed as a chicken called "Puppers Cluckers") wrestled during the event. KFC also released a YouTube video of them brawling that's racked up over 1.5 million views. You can watch it below:
- WWE EVP of Global Sales and Head of International John Brody said in a statement made available to Marketing Dive that the promotion was the second year of integrating a customized multi-platform campaign for KFC in an example of how the global media company provides "one-stop shopping activations" for blue-chip global brands.
KFC shows how marketers can take event sponsorships beyond advertising and brand awareness plays to become a real part of the experience. WWE fans are known for their devotion to their favorite stars, creating a built-in investment and enthusiasm for the co-branded stunt. For KFC, it's also a fun way to pick the next face of Harland Sanders, who's been played by comedians like Norm Macdonald and Jim Gaffigan along with WWE's Ziggler.
"We've found with a lot of efforts that going out of our way to remain authentic earns us goodwill from the folks we're talking to (also it's just not a good idea to upset an arena full of wrestling fans)," Shaine Edwards, copywriter, Wieden & Kennedy, said in a statement. "People have to know that we love the things they love just as much as they do, otherwise we're just co-opting their interests."
TV spots and pro wrestling tie-ins aren't the only way KFC has been leveraging the Colonel in its marketing of late. For Mother's Day, it released a real-deal romance novella starring Sanders as a Fabio-esque hunk. In July, in honor of National Fried Chicken Day, it also installed animatronic versions of its brand mascot at select restaurant locations, complete with voice recognition technology that turned drive-thru operators' voices into the Colonel's Southern drawl.