Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey (image credit: WWE)

This past Sunday, women’s MMA star Ronda Rousey shocked the wrestling world by showing up at the conclusion of the WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view.   As one of combat sports’ most recognizable figures, her new career switch into the world of professional wrestling caught a lot of mainstream fans off guard.  Let’s examine how she used social media as a decoy to throw off the public that she was not going to appear at the Royal Rumble.

Tells TMZ she’s off to film a movie in South America

On Thursday, January 25, 2018, just four days before the Royal Rumble, Rousey was approached by TMZ at the airport.    Knowing that this footage would most likely be shared on social media through blog sites and smartphones, the former UFC women’s champion welcomed the paparazzi’s questions.  She was coy about her eventual jump to WWE, but truthfully did board a plane once the interview concluded.  It had been previously reported in the fall that she would be filming Mile 22 with Mark Wahlberg in Atlanta and Columbia.   This set the table as an early confirmation that Ronda would not be appearing in Philadelphia, the site of the Royal Rumble.

Enjoying some #Colombia cuisine with the #mile22 crew 🍵 #ajiaco

A post shared by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

Uses Instagram to prove she’s actually in Columbia

For those who thought Ronda would not honor her movie commitments,  she posted a video on her Instagram account.  Dated Saturday, January 27 at 5:49 pm eastern time, Ronda was seen having dinner with the film crew in a Colombian restaurant.  This should have seemed to be enough to convince her fans and the MMA/wrestling audience that appearing at the Royal Rumble was just not going to happen.   Probably the icing on the cake was that her make up artist posted a picture of Rousey in her trailer on Sunday, January 28 – the actual day of the Royal Rumble event.

With Instagram, unless the live video feature is enabled, you can never really tell if the images you see on the platform are in real time or post dated.   People in general assume images are recently uploaded within a few hours of them being taken.  In this case, kudos to the Ronda and the WWE for using the platform to show that while fans will flock to Instagram for information, they can easily fool the public at the same time.

Ronda Rousey’s pre-recorded ESPN interview airs moments after the Royal Rumble

WWE’s relationship with ESPN allowed a mainstream outlet to help boost coverage of their signing of Ronda Rousey to the world.  The legitimacy of the sports broadcaster, known to break big sports new stories, immediately ran this interview following the conclusion of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.  WWE Shop also started selling the walk out t-shirt Rousey wore within minutes of the Rumble finishing on the WWE Network.  It is safe to say that her debut was calculated and had been planned for months leading up to her debut.

Ronda Rousey's Twitter analytics

Ronda Rousey's Twitter analytics

Ronda Rousey’s Twitter analytics via Sysomos

Conclusion

Social media is a powerful tool.  In this day and age where people are looking for information online, it can also be used a tool to misguide as well.  Ronda Rousey’s arrival in professional wrestling comes at a time where the industry is featuring more female talent than ever before.  While she did not compete at the Royal Rumble, WWE is saving her in-ring competition debut for their biggest show of the year.  Look for her to be heavily promoted in the main event of WrestleMania, this coming April.

For a sports entertainment company like the WWE, they are constantly using digital to communicate with their audience.   Personalities take to their social accounts to help build their rivalries.  They keep interest in their storytelling by keeping the consumer engaged.  And in the case of Ronda Rousey…where her debut could have been botched or leaked, WWE is a shining example of how a company can utilize social media and protect a surprise, which is no easy task in today’s digital world.

Ronda explains how she left Columbia to make it in time for the Royal Rumble

Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut at the Royal Rumble