Steve Kaplan is the Founder, President & Commissioner of WAL – World Armwrestling League.
Steve explains in this video his plans for the growth of WAL and of the armwrestling sport. I made a transcript of many points from this video.
” For the past 6 months myself and you WAL management team has been working around the clock to deliver an our vision of building this sport and WAL into a major force in the world of sports. We are accomplishing this through innovation and building for today’s market place. We have no interest in replicating past models and practices which have proven time and again to not work. In order for us to accomplish this goal, we must align ourselves with best in class partners.
From blue chip companies who will invest in this sport and help it grow at an accelerated rate to publications that will provide ongoing coverage and content, and in any area in between. These partnerships are oftentimes very complex and take a while to complete. Which is the main reason why we haven’t been able to update you until now.
The WAL brand, like the competitors in this sport, does not count a win until a match is over. And in our case a deal isn’t a deal until it is a signed deal. I’ve got a lot to go over with you, so sit back here we go.
NEW PARTNERSHIPS. In December we developed a massive new partnership with Monster Energy and its Muscle Monster Energy Shake brand. The partnership places WAL and armwrestling front and center as the pre-event crowd entertainment at pit parties for 12 supercross events around the country. Directly interacting with more live potential fans in competitors than at any time in the history of the sport. It was an opportunity we needed to grab. Getting it off the ground it was a huge undertaking but we got it up and running and in early May when it’s all over, just 4 short months, over 100 different WAL atheletes would have participated at these events and we will have them directly face to face with approximately 180,000 potential new fans and competitors. That kind of one to one exposure to our sport is priceless. If you would have been to one of these events, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, check the news section of the WAL website for a schedule and come and check it out: www.walunderground.com/news
Success in the Monster Supercross partnership has led to additional opportunities to be featured at fitness expos and more.
Speaking of Monster, I’m sure many of you have read in the press about the Muscle Monster title sponsorship of the WAL series and ESPN, which will now be officially called the Muscle Monster World Armwrestling. This is a different partnership than the Supercross Activation, and it was a game changing moment for WAL. Not only did we get a title partner, in my opinion we’ve got the very best one in the business. No one knows how to build sports brands better than Monster. They genuinely understand the WAL brand and in the short time they brought many opportunities to the table. The Partnership is comprehensive and ranges from the shring of digital content and social media assets to having a strong presence at WAL events.
WAL has also formed a partnership with MillerCoors and its Smith & Forge Hard Cider brand. This is a very significant partnership. Aside for being a perfect fit for the series and the sport, Smith & Forge will be investing in the sport by running promotions at local venues around the country, that host WAL events. They have developed first class promotional materials that will not only amp up the excitement and bring more and more new competitors to the sport, it will also raise the profile of the sport and WAL to even a higher level.
SPONSORSHIPS. We continue in the area of corporate sponsorships. These sponsorships are critical to all of our success as no one () can reach its potential without strong support from corporate america which plays a vital role in the development and growth of the sport. The reason for which these mega companies consider investing in WAL is because rightfully so they believe it is a sound business decision. Which will result in growth for their brands.
Early on in our meetings it became very apparent that if these companies were to invest in WAL and the sport, they would have to have complete exclusivity at all levels of our events. This means that even at our local qualifying events, they are not sharing space with non-affiliated products. This includes both national and local brands. This is why we have had restrictions on local sponsorship of athletes and in local events. It is actually very important at the highest level. We know that this could feel hard on your end, but we are playing this game at a completely different level than anyone in this sport has in the past and we are working towards a much higher scale. And these are the necessities that are required to achieve at this level.
MORE NEW PARTNERS. Muscle & Fitness magazine – this partnership includes both digital & print, and it will give WAL ongoing coverage including listing of upcoming events, results & more. WAL will provide digital content to Muscle & Fitness’ 6.5 million users.
Boyd Gaming – Owns and operates 22 casinos in Las Vegas and throughout USA. They will be hosting WAL events at several of these casinos, including the WAL Championships, which will be held from June 24 – 26, 2016 at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
2016 will showcase the first WAL Women’s Championship competition, with and entire episode dedicated to them on ESPN. This episode will air a minimum of 4 hours, including prime time. They will compete for a $65,000 prize money, plus a chance to walk away as the first women to win a WAL Hammer. This is the chance you’ve been waiting for: big money & big exposure. It will never be a bigger opportunity for all of us. So let’s work together to drive huge turn out of female athletes.
In addition to the exciting news about women armwrestling, we are also pumped to welcome our European competitors into the WAL family. The top 3 men & women in each class from WAL European Super Qualifier 2016 will advance to the WAL Championships. Neil Pickup along with his country directors have done an amazing job of executing qualifiers in countries including the UK, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway and Finland. We re extremely excited to see you in Las Vegas.
Also on the upcoming slate in Las Vegas is our new WAL Amateur championships. We feel it is important to give new competitors in this sport a chance to have a place to shine, compete with others at their level and win recognition for their skill and effort. This is the kind of thing that can really help continue to expand the sport and we are excited to offer this in Las Vegas this year.
Athletes Agreements. As the league and the sport continue to grow so too is your standing as a professional athlete in this sport. You no longer are packing 5 in a car driving 4 hours and sharing 1 room for a chance to compete for $200. As professionals you’ve signed agreements to be a part of WAL and compete at WAL events. We’ve worked hard to make our agreements as flexible as possible while providing us with the rights that we must secure in order to build the sport and the WAL brand. Among these rights that you’ve contracted include the exclusive rights to your name and likeness. WAL must secure these as we grant use of these to our partners, which includes our broadcast partner. As a reminder, if you’ve competed in the 2015 regionals in Las Vegas, you have signed these rights, among others, to WAL until May 30th, 2017. These rights you have given still allow you to compete anywhere you would like with the exception of any event that is broadcast. This includes television and yes, events that are streamed. Since you were only be competing at the events that are not broadcast, you would not have to wear WAL gear, if you choose not to, but you cannot wear another’s league brand without prior written approval from WAL.
New benefits for competitors. We are increasing the payout pull for the 2016 series by an additional $25,000 prize money. We’ll add that money straight into the prize pool at both regionals and finals levels. So come and get a piece of it. Check the details on this, next week.
Our version of the super match series. We believe that the current format is outdated and in need of an upgrade to meet today’s market place. And this is an area where we could expand and grow. We will be running at least 4 of our newly formatted super series from late July to November to showcase our athletes throughout the year. We already have a venue and a time and we are working on our first mega match-up as we speak. The first of these events will take place in the Chicago land area. Look for the complete details in the upcoming month or so, and keep an eye out for this. WAL is about to change the game again, and these series will be something to see.
One of the most unique aspects of WAL has been our ability to capture and develop an imagery that is unparalleled. I put our videos and still images up against those from any sport anywhere in the world. We’ve spent quite a bit of effort and money crafting our creative imagery strategy to build our brand and hire the best shooters in the business to deliver on that strategy. Many of them are award winning artists who have also shot for the top sport leagues in the world.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be releasing much of our archive to you, so you could enjoy them. We encourage you to post and share them with others. We will start with images from the New Orleans and the 2015 regionals. Enjoy these, they are really amazing and get ready for videos from these events as well, that’s coming soon, too.
Many of you have seen our new digital trading cards posted on instagram. The first one featured right handed stud super-heavyweight undefeated Dave Chaffee. We feel that this is an innovative way to help spread the word on WAL and its incredible athletes. We’ve launched our men’s and women’s champions series which will feature an armwrestler or two each week. This will be followed by the state champion series, the contenders series and the platinum WAL directors series.”
WAL 2016 Address from Steve Kaplan