Hogtown Wrestling is a sports theatre company in Toronto that produces live wrestling events which are videotaped and edited for a monthly wrestling cable TV show. Hogtown Wrestling videos are actually the most watched local sports programs on Rogers cable TV today. In this blog post I’ll explain how real world attractions like semi professional wrestling shows can become very powerful link-building solutions for small business sponsors, and especially local businesses.
The Story of Hogtown Wrestling. The league used to be called Victory Commonwealth Wrestling and as such it built up a large audience following, and a stacked roster of talented athletes and other performers. But last summer, August 2016, there was management schism and Jason Nadler emerged with full control of the property. Sadly, at that point, he didn’t have access to any of the existing digital appendages. The website and all the social media profiles were lost to the ravages of time. Jay had to start over.
On Saturday September 5th 2016 Nadler visited with me and told me about the troubles he was having. On that day we registered a new name for the company and set about building a new website. That was Day One, as Jay is signalling below.
Jason registered the new site on Blue Host.and then set about registering all new social media profiles with the Hogtown Wrestling name. The time consuming exercise was strangely cathartic for him and resulted in him adopting a new outlook on his prospects. Although none of the activities solved his immediate problems of how to make money, or even how to cover his expenses, he was suddenly filled with hope that brought a renewed business optimism.
Traditional business models for ‘entertainment companies’ would include selling tickets, SWAG, advertising space, and beer and liquor at the bar. But SMOJoe focused instead on finding small business sponsors that would pay for roles in the behind-the-scenes drama, (SEO storytelling) and thereby get incoming links from other stakeholder websites. These sponsored contributions are chronicled in articles, blogs and discussion forum posts where super fans digest the minutia of the live events. The whole ‘system’ can be plotted in advance.
There are some really talented athletes in the Hogtown wrestling roster. Below is a superstar named RAGE absolutely destroying Vinny Somebody and Eddie Saks.
Here’s my favourite picture from the October 2016 show . Below is the perfect image to best illustrate the interactive environment at the live performances. Nick Watts is listening and will react to audience cues according to the narrative ‘arc’ that has been outlined in advance.
In a calculated move, knowing how interesting and exciting the property was then and could become in the future, SMOJoe bought the rights to create sponsored content on the new wrestling website blog, which considering it was brand new and completely empty at the time, was equal parts visionary and reckless charity.
In autumn 2016 I worked with Jay and seven different small business sponsors to earn these business entities links and buzz, social media mentions and brand presence in the Roger’s TV show. Together we wrote fun and easy to read content for and about wrestlers at Amico’s Pizza, Jaconello Wellness Centre, Archer Dental, Dine Palace, Pilates4Physio, SignSourceSolution and A2ZPC laptop repair and a business phone buy sell refurbishing service Standard Telecom. This last two were the most challenging. How did we manage to create meaningful roles for technology repair companies in a sports theatre production? Both were added to the new league’s backstory and became part of the phone hacking myth which connects the management schism to the name change. The evil deeds of Mysterion, the renegade wrestling promoter who plotted the downfall of VC Wrestling, and his henchmen wrestlers were punished by the good and noble warriors at Hogtown Wrestling in their first and second events. The website and Roger’s TV show propagated the videos filled with sponsor’s brand messaging and the one below shows the proprietors in their place of business.
An interesting SEO case study, SMOJoe took a failed wrestling league which had no website and built the foundation of a new sports entertainment dynasty that leverages the strength and popularity of their character driven stories on their blog and social media channels.
The characters and events combine to make ‘memetic’ stories by which I mean they grow with every telling. If you read about the phone hacking story on the Standard Telecom blog or on the A2ZPC blog, you will get an entirely different perspective on the same set of events.
This athletic club has a big cheering section that I hope will be even better utilized in 2017. The community is small but passionate – wrestling super fans can very naturally form a powerful ‘esprite d corp’ to help propel readership and grow a sponsor’s importance. The more media a sponsor makes and the more places where people can like and share the media (with links to sponsor’s website), the bigger the payoff for the business. Not to mention the boost that lifts symbiotic social media profiles; we gain new followers on all platforms at every event.
The wrestlers are themselves storytellers. In October 2016, a wrestler known as The Lover visited Archer Dental (twice) and received a complimentary sportsguard emblazoned with his name on pink plastic. He wore the gear in his November bout and showed it off before the match as another piece of personal flare.
After The Lover won his match he tweeted out his victory and the dental office employees retweeted his jubilation. They even blogged about the wrestler’s new sportsguard on their dental office blog. We also chronicled the new gear from The Lover’s perspective on Studenomics: Seven Secret to Attracting Sponsors.
The Lover is just one of twenty or more charismatic wrestlers at Hogtown Wrestling. On the other end of the spectrum is the Sumerian Golem. This character is often deemed nefarious by association. He can be seen relaxing and receiving a free intravenous drip at Jaconello Wellness Centre at 615 Yonge. The awkward moment so artfully captured in the photo above is staged. Their role-playing made for the hilarious video where the staff poked and prodded the silent performer through their downtown Toronto Wellness clinic.[
How did being involved in these strange wrestling stories actually help these small business sponsors?
Standard Telecom was looking to make some noise in late 2016. They were stagnant in Google SERP rankings. The domain was listed on pg2 for the most popular search terms in their competitive B2B ‘business phones Toronto’ niche. The website needed an injection of relevance, a dose of real importance and by participating in the ‘phone hacking’ mystery narrative (a detective story in which Hutch Henries (Jay Nadler) finds the crucial clue which pinpoints Mysterion as the culprit), the Standard Telecom website and blog received twelve incoming links and twenty or more tweets and Facebook mentions. So what? What did that really accomplish? It boosted website rankings respective to 474 keyword SERPs as per SEMRush – 15 Jan 2017.
November 2016 appears to be the start of the growth (of # of keywords ranking in top 20 results), but in truth, we’d been making incoming links to the site for a month previous in connection with the Socktoberfest show. It took thirty days to cache these magazine articles, blogs and Indy wrestling discussion forum posts in which there were links to Standard Telecom. Each piece of media published was carefully bookmarked and forcefully promoted in social media. Important – I must say here again that I believe the whole construct required the interest and corroborative social media activity of other influencers to make it real for the robots working out the positive increase in sponsor’s domain authority. And that’s what took thirty days.
Today the Hogtown Wrestling league lives in SMOJoe’s back pocket and can be made available for any small business sponsor that wants to rank higher in search engines.