UPDATED with sponsorship resumption. Slim Jim has resumed its WWE sponsorship following the exit of Vince McMahon from his executive role at the wrestling outfit’s parent company, the Endeavor-controlled TKO Group Holdings.
The Conagra Brands jerky maker, which has been affiliated with pro wrestling since the 1980s, will now officially be part of this weekend’s Royal Rumble in Florida. It had paused its sponsorship Friday in the wake of what it called “disturbing allegations” in a lawsuit filed against McMahon by a former employee. The suit catalogs in vivid detail a number of accusations, including sex trafficking, battery and sexual assault.
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“After the departure of Vince McMahon, and discussions with WWE TKO senior leadership, Slim Jim has decided to re-enter the Royal Rumble,” the company said Saturday in a statement provided to Deadline.
Longtime WWE sponsor Slim Jim is pausing its promotional activities with the wrestling outfit in light of what it called “disturbing allegations” against its longtime leader, Vince McMahon.
Shortly after the sponsorship news was emerging late in the day Friday, McMahon resigned as executive chairman of Endeavor-run TKO Group Holdings. TKO was formed when WWE merged with the UFC last year.
“Slim Jim values integrity and respect in all of our partnerships,” the Conagra Brands division said in a statement provided to Deadline. “Given the recent disturbing allegations against Vince McMahon, at this time we’ve decided to pause our promotional activities with WWE. This decision reflects our commitment to our brand values and responsibility to our community.”
The jerky maker gained fame during the 1980s and ’90s when pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage appeared in a series of its commercials (see some below). It took a stand after an explosive lawsuit was filed Thursday against McMahon by a former employee. Now executive chairman of TKO Group Holdings, the Endeavor-owned ring sports giant that is now WWE’s parent company, McMahon ran WWE for decades and built it into a multibillion-dollar sports entertainment power. Just a day before the lawsuit, Netflix entered into a 10-year agreement with WWE, paying $5 billion for exclusive rights to linear TV’s Monday Night Raw in a milestone rights deal.
McMahon was accused by the ex-employee, Janel Grant, of a range of explicit acts, including sex trafficking and sexual abuse and assault, in the suit filed in federal court. The exec denied the claims, and a TKO spokesperson said the matter was being dealt with “internally” by the company.
Sponsorship and brands are a vital revenue source for WWE, and Slim Jim’s move came on the eve of the Royal Rumble, a high-profile annual event being held in Florida this weekend. Earlier this month, TKO announced it had combined the partnership teams of the UFC and WWE into a single unit. The merger would give brands “access to one of the most formidable sports marketing portfolios in the world,” the company said.
Prior to the merger with the UFC, WWE emphasized its efforts in the sponsorship arena in its final annual report as a stand-alone company. “In 2022, we grew several partnerships with blue-chip brands, including Take-Two Interactive, Xfinity Comcast, C4 Energy, Credit One Bank, and Blue Triton/Pure Life. We also partnered with new advertisers, such as DoorDash, Mike’s Hard Beverage, Toyota, Krafton, Hasbro, and Amazon Studios,” the report said. “We believe advertising and sponsorship continues to be an attractive area of growth for us in the future, and we are making strides in developing custom campaigns for sponsors that are a differentiator in the marketplace.”
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