AEW Needs Help in the Marketing Department – Here’s Five Ways to Improve That

Song of the Week: Knocked Loose – “Deep in the Willow”

Word of the Week: マーケティング (maaketeingu) | Marketing

So we need to talk about last night.

Even as a very loyal AEW fan, I won’t sugarcoat this. While All Elite Wrestling seems to be bouncing back in 2024, one blemish still remains:

Low ticket sales.

Now look, I don’t want to be a naysayer, especially as an avid AEW supporter. Weekly attendance isn’t everything. In the early 90s, WCW Saturday Night rarely drew over 1,000 in attendance, still aired on TBS, and drew anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 at the gate for Pay-Per-Views.

Can AEW still flourish with smaller gate numbers and a solid TV contract? Of course they can. With Revolution currently at over 15,000 sold, and All In 2024 at over 35,000 sold, it’s not like AEW’s bigger shows are lacking in attendance.

Remember, both WWE and AEW make most of their money from media rights. This number exceeds money made from live events by nearly a 10:1 ratio. 

But it looks much better for optics if you have a bit of a fuller crowd, right? Last night’s Dynamite crowd was well, small. And this is no offense to the Savannah people. I’ve been to Savannah; it’s a lovely city. But in total, the final ticket numbers ended up at around 2,100 in an arena that seats over 8,000 (last year they did 3,700).

And on TV, you can tell. Last night’s show was very quiet.

And it’s not like the show was bad. We still got a subjectively good show, but when it sounds like there’s less than a thousand people in attendance, it takes away from the product. Wrestling fans are what make or break a live show, no matter how good it is. They are just as much a part of it as the talent themselves.

So far this year, the average attendance for AEW weekly shows has hovered in the 3,000 range. Again, not bad, especially when compared to a hot WWE product right now. But you really want that 4,000 or higher range at a bare minimum. That’s reasonable for a 5-year-old #2 wrestling company.

So can we do better? As someone who has done marketing in a past career — yes.

Here’s how.


Stay Out of Smaller Markets

@TheyLoveBigFunk (Twitter)

“bUt hARd cAm!”

I’m not one of those idgits who obsesses over a hard cam shot. This has been common practice for decades to fill the other side of the hard cam first, and then release more tickets as need be. There are plenty of past WWE shows where you can find some empty looking hard cam sides.

However, when you risk playing smaller markets like Savannah, you might get what you had last night in a small crowd. And honestly, Savannah just might not be a great wrestling crowd in general (WWE has had similar problems with dead Savannah crowds in the past).

However, in comparison, AEW’s Phoenix show in two weeks has already sold over 3,000 tickets. It’s realistic that the show will hit 5,000 by showtime.  And look, comparing AEW to the #1 wrestling company during WrestleMania season is silly. AEW won’t be selling 8-10,000 tickets for weekly shows. But 5,000 is reasonable, right?

Stay out of smaller markets.

-Collision out of Bossier City, LA currently has 1,115 tickets sold at the time of writing.
-Collision out of Henderson, NV on Feb. 10 has less than 1,000 sold.
-Dynamite out of New Orleans (bigger market) next week has around 1,500 sold.

And that last one: WWE Raw just played New Orleans literally 3 days ago. Why are we booking this a week after Raw just hit the area? Wrestling fans only have so much money to throw around for live shows…

I’ll say it again. 

Stay out of smaller markets. Don’t play an area a week after your competition has. Common sense.

Moving on…


More Local Promotions in All Markets


I’ve heard so many examples of markets with little to no advertisement for AEW shows. And it’s quite common, especially in your less populated markets. Even research for Savannah’s show landed me on exactly one news article about it. A news article where it was written that the feud between Adam Copeland and Christian Cage could further.


Not only did that not even happen, but could?

This is unacceptable. Tell the people what they’re getting.

I’ve helped market community theater and put more butts in seats than at Wednesday’s show. And that’s community theater — not a mainstream wrestling promotion. Save the money on signing another few wrestlers, and throw it into your marketing budget.

Every single Dynamite and Collision should have multiple radio spots, local TV commercials, billboards, social media campaigns, news interviews, press releases, merch giveaways with local businesses, (at the least), and preferably, weeks out from the show itself.

If AEW is coming to your town, it needs to be obnoxiously obvious.

And to further this idea:  Branch out to surrounding areas. 

Folks have vehicles. I have one. I’ve attended three Dynamites in my life, and I drove 2-3 hours for each trip. Fans will travel if they know the show is coming in the first place. But I’ve never seen any promotion for a Dynamite in my area, and I only live 2 hours away from a city that AEW has played multiple times.

We need to drastically get better at this. If AEW is coming to my area, the entire state should know.

And as for the show itself…


Announce Matches in Advance


This is a simple practice. Use stories on Dynamite to build to and announce next week’s matches. This not only elevates your storytelling, but gives fans something to look forward to on a continued basis.

This week, oddly enough, was one of the better examples of this. Give the fans something to look forward to. Next week I can look forward to Deonna Purazzo vs. Taya Valkyrie, and two Dealer’s Choice matches with Adam Page and Swerve Strickland.

And this is good, but we can do better.  Will we hear from Samoa Joe? Adam Copeland? What feuds are we furthering next week? We need to hype the shit out of whatever is happening next week.

While AEW is on a little hot streak, announcing random matches for Dynamite and Collision won’t work the rest of the year. You need to start telling some stories, and this means building towards whatever matches are to take place the following week to coincide with furthering said feuds.

I’m going to be blunt here. I appreciate TK, and everything he has done for AEW. I think he’s a genuinely great person and wants the best for AEW…

…but if he can’t book multiple weeks of Dynamite or Collision at a time, match-by-match, then we have a serious problem. That’s booking 101. Hell, I was practicing that as a teenager when I was booking e-feds.

Next week’s edition of Dynamite from New Orleans luckily has 3 matches announced already. And we need one more featuring hometown favorite Ricky Starks. This needs to become the norm. 

Feb. 7 in Phoenix now has Sting/Darby vs. Starks/Big Bill announced, which can be built over the next two weeks. This needs to become the norm. 

If people know what to expect, they’ll more than likely show up.


Announce Your Cast in Advance

Just as important, at the very least, announce who will be appearing in-person.

If you announced that Swerve Strickland will be on Dynamite “live”, then he better either A) have a match or B) have an in-ring promo. If it’s neither, or just a backstage promo, then he didn’t actually appear “live”.

Again, we’re building consistency. This is Marketing 101. Give the audience a set of expectations that they can sink their dollars into. When I attended a show last year, I had no idea who would or wouldn’t be there sans a match or two.

That’s not good. It’s like going to a music festival with only a few bands announced.

Take the entire lineup for next weeks’ show, feature them on local ads and billboards, and make this a habit. But take a look at some of the lineups for coming weeks via in the above graphic:

We know Kenny Omega is injured. Why feature him for Phoenix in two weeks? Julia Hart was featured on this week’s poster for Savannah. Spoiler: She never had a match on Dynamite or Rampage. Nor did Jericho, who was also featured on the poster.

And I better see Willow Nightingale and Julia Hart on Feb. 3rd’s Collison. They’re advertised, right?

I work in media for a living. I use Premiere Pro and Photoshop all the time. It is not hard to update a graphic for a show and replace the old one online.

Come on, guys. We can do better than this…

If fans can count on who will be there with an announced live cast, more will likely want to show up.


Pick a Main Character (Preferably Adam Page)


The one thing AEW lacks right is a hero. Sports-based or not, a wresting promotion needs a top babyface that is constantly fighting off evil. A main storyline invested in one hero is the backbone of any major wrestling promotion in history.

Whether it was Hogan, Sting, Flair, or now with Rhodes, it’s storytelling 101 to have your protagonist visible as much as possible.

Unfortunately, AEW doesn’t really have this right now. 

And you can still accomplish this with a sports-based approach. You can still accomplish this with a rankings system.

So what Khan needs to do is go back to the original main character of AEW: “Hangman” Adam Page. 

He’s beloved by most fans, great in the ring, solid on the mic, and seems to be in his Magnum T.A. era at the moment. And while his ongoing on-and-off again feud with Swerve Strickland is good stuff, it’s not quite the right dynamic for this.

Swerve and Page both need to ascend at the same time, but down different paths. They both need to be in major feuds after this current story, but up against two different sets of heels. Personally, I don’t know why a “Hangman” vs. House of Black feud hasn’t materialized yet. Even if you pair two random tried and true faces with Page to fend of the House, Page vs. Black is a PPV headliner on its own and has a built-in story ready to go of good vs. evil.

And again, Swerve Strickland vs. Ricky Starks is another feud that I can’t for the life of me understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

But whether it’s Page, Swerve, Cassidy, HOOK, or hell, turn Griff Garrison into your top babyface, I don’t care. Just pick a main character, and feature them on every Dynamite as the main character of the promotion.

Give fans something consistent to look forward to when they attend these shows live.


In Conclusion…


Do better.

I could just leave it at that, right? But let’s face it; it seems like more effort was put into assembling the best roster in the industry than letting consumers know that they even exist in the first place.

Every AEW talent needs to look like a million bucks. Every show needs to be promoted as “can’t-miss”, and every town AEW plays in needs to leave the fans thirsty for more. It’s not that AEW is doing a poor job at marketing their product — but it’s just sort of average.

You’re the #2 wrestling company, still without a TV deal, with a hot #1 WWE product breathing down your neck. Now is not the time to kick back and run business the same as usual. And yes, I do know that Khan recently hired former WWE Regional Director of Live Events Kosha Irby as COO, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt here and give him time; but marketing isn’t something you do in steps.

You either do or don’t.

AEW needs a marketing team, not a marketing person. The next time AEW rolls into my area, I should become so overwhelmed by promotions that it gives me anxiety weeks before I even attend.

Let’s do better. AEW fans deserve that much.

(social media sucks; email me)