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Leadership

Inside The WME-IMG Playbook To Transform Events Into Global Pop Culture

WME-IMG uses star power, digital savvy, and seven other steps to build next-generation entertainment brands.

Inside The WME-IMG Playbook To Transform Events Into Global Pop Culture

Wild ride: Professional Bull Riders has gotten a kick from WME-IMG’s ownership.

[Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images]

1. Identify An Underleveraged Asset

WME-IMG represented Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and UFC for years, so it knew their business potential before acquiring them.

2. Add Star Power

More stars equals more business. Breakout bull rider Bonner Bolton is now also a WME-IMG model, and 40 more cowboys are getting the glam treatment. Next up: Turning dozens of both male and female UFC fighters into household names.

3. Add Storytelling

Fashion events and emerging sports such as PBR are platforms for TV shows, digital series, documentaries, apps—anything that can be turned into content.

4. Upgrade The Live Experience

WME-IMG mixes music, celebrity, fashion, and food to create an event. It’s added screenings and concerts to PBR contests and recruited celebrities such as Ben Affleck to bring glamour to UFC.

5. Democratize Access

New York Fashion Week introduced pop-up shops during the event. Brad Paisley headlined a free concert series during college-football weekends.

6. Add Sponsors

WME-IMG matches brands such as Target and Intel with Fashion Week to create additional consumer experiences. It has helped the beer giant InBev get into e-sports and daily fantasy to support these burgeoning activities.

7. Launch A Digital Streaming Network

WME-IMG creates digital homes for the content it creates and coalesces superfans around them. There’s M2M for fashion, Fight Pass for UFC, and PBR for rodeo (in 2017).

8. Take It International

Weeks after Made, traditionally a downtown New York fashion event, debuted in Los Angeles, WME-IMG brought the concept to Berlin. UFC’s potential in China contributed to the agency’s ardor to purchase it.

9. Apply Everything You Learn To An Even Bigger Idea

PBR is an incubator for what WME-IMG might do with UFC. Experiments with Made lead to new ideas for Fashion Week.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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