Communications: Freestyle Wrestling World Cups

≡ The Backdrop:

For the first time in decades, a major Olympic-class wrestling championship event came to Los Angeles in 2014: the Men’s Freestyle Wrestling World Cup, matching the world’s top nations in dual-meet competition. The U.S. is a many-time winner of the event, but the program also brought world-stage drama with the appearance of teams from Cuba, Iran, Russia and others.

≡ The Work:

Given our experience with Olympic-sport events of all kinds, Perelman, Pioneer offered to help with the 2014 event, the first sporting event to be held in the newly-renovated Forum in Inglewood, California. Now managed by the Madison Square Garden Company, there was no existing template for media support for a sporting event at the revamped site. So we got to work:

  • Developed a complete media-support plan for media credential distribution, press seating, photographic positions, news conferences and a workroom;
  • Helped USA Wrestling coordinate media accreditation on-site, operate the mixed-zone interview area, and the compilation and distribution of results;
  • Compiled and published a comprehensive media Fact Pack, explaining the rules, profiling the competitors and teams, and encapsulating the history of the World Cup.

For 2015, USA Wrestling sought out our help in the media outreach area, to raise the profile of the event, both locally and worldwide in the last 60 days prior to the event. We assisted by:

  • Creating a content-driven media outreach program:
    = A fan-focused Facebook page to create an owned audience that could be promoted to for ticket sales;
    = A media-focused microsite sharing stories designed to (1) develop media interest and (2) offer angles that could help ticket sales, especially in ethnic markets in Los Angeles;
    = Traditional media outreach to Southern California and Olympic-sport outlets for the pre-event news conference and day-of-event coverage at The Forum;
  • Expanding outreach into smaller media outlets, through circulation of 101 detailed calendar listings, and promotion of the event to ethnic communities through California consulates who teams were participating in the event (Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Russia and Turkey);
  • Placement of competition coverage stories with local, national and international wire services, to ensure that World Cup coverage was available, regardless of which media were actually in attendance;
  • Revision of the Fact Pack for 2015, with updated athlete and team biographies;
  • Quotes from competitors and officials, for both media use and our own coverage stories.

≡ The Outcome:

The installation of a quality media operations program for the 2014 World Cup marked the event as well managed, which was a benefit for both the local organizers and for USA Wrestling, which handled most of the actual operations.

Media had good spaces to work and the Fact Pack, compact results compilations and quotes were very well received by both media and team officials.

For 2015, the media outreach effort maximized the successes possible within the last 60 days prior to the event:

  • The Facebook page grew consistently with each post, and the stories created for media use also provided quite popular. As a strictly fan-focused site, it generated significant organic interest, with more than 544 “likes” through the event weekend. According to Facebook’s algorithm that calculates the reach of each post, more than 2,600 people were seeing Freestyle World Cup news during the event weekend, with a high of more than 5,700.

This is significant for a venue configured to seat about 8,500. Even more noteworthy was the continued interest in the page as the 2015 World Wrestling Championships (in Las Vegas) approached, with the “likes” total surpassing 1,662 within six months after the Freestyle World Cup; this is a strategy to be pursued again in the future.

  • Outreach to the California-based consulates of competing teams worked very well, especially for the two Los Angeles-based consulates of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Both of the Consuls General attended the event, the Azerbaijan Consulate produced a greeting party as the team arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, and both consulates were active in sending supplied messages and announcements to their ethnic communities for ticket sales; a ticket promotion was created specifically for these audiences, helping increase attendance for 2015 over the prior year.

  • Wire service-style stories recapping each day of the World Cup were well received by media, both from the microsite and from direct contact through electronic mail. Online usage was reported from local media (such as City News Service and the Los Angeles Times) and international, Olympic-sport sites such as the highly-respected InsideTheGames.biz.

USA Wrestling’s communications team was quite pleased with our program – especially given the compact time frame – which was coordinated with multiple agencies working on allied projects, including advertising, television and youth development.