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Turner Broadcasting To Buy BleacherReport.com

Money to Burn

Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS) is rumored to be in talks to buy BleacherReport.com for $200 million. The two companies are not commenting but sources close to deal, including the website AllThingsD, are reporting that the framework of the deal is in place and due-diligence has begun.

The Bleacher Report raised $40 million in venture capital since its inception in 2007. The site is primarily made up of user-generated content. It’s the user-generated content that has Bleachers Reports competitors crying foul, saying the sites contributors borrow content already released. The argument is weak. Twitter breaks news about 15 minutes ahead of the AP. Social networks are the hub of user generated content. YouTube was full of user generated videos when it was bought for billions.

Bleacher Report has done a great job at adding relevant content at a rapid rate. The contributors have helped propel Bleacher Report to over 9 million uniques per month. In 2010 the company generated an estimated $5 million in revenue. The year over year growth has slowed a bit to an estimated 8% from 2010 to 2011. In 2011 the company hired Rich Calacci away from CBS Interactive and he transformed the sales almost instantly. His team is on pace to bring in over $30 million in ad revenue from partners such as Red Bull, Muscle Milk, Pizza Hut and more.

Bleacher Report is selling at a premium, even for a sports based platform. Compare the potential sale to AOL’s purchase of HuffingtonPost.com for $315 million. At the time of the sale to AOL it had 25 million uniques per month and was doing just over $30 million in revenue. The Huffington Post was considered a prestigious website with real reporters and it’s user generated content is generally contributed by celebrities.

Many are asking why TBS is being so aggressive with its valuation of the Bleacher Report. TBS will likely use its vast resources to enhance the BleacherReport.com traffic. There is no question that TBS is seeking to replace the over 9 million unique visitors its ad network lost when they lost Sports Illustrated this spring. TBS is also losing PGA.com at the end of 2012. Bleacher Report saw its competitor MMAJunkie.com and Big Lead Sports’ sales to USA Today Sports Media Group. Leaving Bleacher Report as the only independent website on ComScore’s top 10.

We see a trend in journalism. The barrier to entry has never been lower. User generated content is the fuel for the World Wide Web. We have operated a user generated fan driven content website for years. We were punished by a major movie studio for most of those years until last year they announced they were launching their own user-generated content fan site.

The new online media properties seem to tout their in house publishing technologies almost as much as the content they produce. Bleacher Report is not the only user generated sports platform. Vox Media, a venture-backed startup, operates the SB Nation sports blog network

Add up the pieces – revenue potential, the loss of Sports Illustrated web traffic, PGA.com relationship coming to an end, a powerful publishing platform, and a core base of passionate contributors and the deal starts to make more sense for Turner than it might at first look.


Fight School

SchoolHouse

Last night’s UFC on FX 4 main event was everything that the major brands want to avoid. There is not a lot of control during a fight. If a guy bites another guy’s ear off the world will be watching. If a guy flips off his opponent a few times on FX, the world will be watching.

The Marketing VP that tells me the sport is too violent and the athletes are too unpredictable was just proven right. The Marketing VP that was taking a “wait and see approach” is going to wait a little bit longer. It is bad enough that we have a champion calling on the Major Brands and a few weeks later show up on TMZ arrested for a DUI single car accident with women that are not his fiancee.

The baseline of this sport should be that it is a form of Martial Arts. You can promote a fight without tarnishing your brand or the value of the guy you are fighting. What did James Tooney call Randy Couture? Then Randy beat him up. So what does that make James? Trash talk is not about taking away from the athletes that compete, discounting those around you. It is about promoting yourself, building your brand and following.

Gray Maynard flipping off Clay Guida is about as far away from being a Martial Artist as you can get. In today’s connected world you cannot say you are one thing and be another. If you are the main event on a televised fight you need to carry yourself accordingly. There is a fine line between promoting a fight and losing your cool. The UFC releases athletes for sending stupid or inappropriate jokes on Twitter but is silent when a fight looks more like an episode of Jersey Shore than a UFC Main Event. The UFC should hand down some serious sanctions for this behavior, and FX should hand the UFC some serious sanctions.

Who is managing these athletes? Where is the training and education of what it means to build your own brand and respect the brand platforms that you are leveraging to build yours? Talking about Coors Light while standing on a Bud Light logo, getting DUI’s, flipping the bird on National TV, and ‘motorboating’ female journalists all hurt the sport’s growth potential. Anderson Silva is reportedly being paid $250,000 to work with Burger King in Brazil. How many Burger Kings are in Brazil vs the US? Yet there are no reports of any mainstream deals of this size for any US based Mixed Martial Artist. I can almost assure you that there won’t be anytime soon if our high profile athletes keep acting the way they are acting in and outside of the Octagon.

There will be enough people that will trash or try to diminish the opponents you face. Your role as a Martial Artist is to respect the sport and your opponents and to train hard to give yourself every advantage possible to win. The way you carry yourself will affect your earnings and the earnings of those that come after you. What do you want your legacy to be?


Jon Jones vs The Canadian Immigration

 

If you missed it UFC Light Heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones plead guilty to  Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) today.  For those of you that have never traveled to Canada you might not realize that a DWI is considered a “serious” offense.  I praise Mr. Jones for taking responsibility and handling this matter as expeditiously as possible.

The effect of this conviction go beyond the sentence that will be handed down by the judge.  As an example, if you are traveling to Canada, before you are allowed to enter the Country you will be asked  “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”  When your answer is “yes”, you will likely be turned away.  If you have been convicted  of a DUI or DWI within the last ten years you will not be allowed entrance.  According to the Canadian Criminal Code driving while impaired is a serious crime.  The attitude is supported by most Canadian citizens.

The common person with a conviction may be considered rehabilitated “after” a certain period has expired from the completion of the sentence imposed.  You must apply for rehabilitative status and demonstrate your rehabilitation.  The usual post conviction waiting period is five years.  After this five-year waiting period the person must submit the following documents:

  1. An application form IMM 1444E
  2. A passport size photograph
  3. A copy of your passport data pages
  4. An FBI police certificate
  5. A state police certificate
  6. Copies of court documents indicating the charge, section of law violated, the verdict, and sentencing
  7. Proof of completed sentences, paid fines, court costs, ordered treatments, etc.
  8. Copies of the text of the law describing the offence.
  9. Detailed explanation of the circumstances surrounding the offence
  10. Three letters of reference from responsible citizens.
  11. A non-refundable processing fee of $180 USD

Further information can be found at Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s webpages, Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility and Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility – Frequently Asked Questions.

It might be possible to get a temporary resident permit to enter Canada prior to rehabilitation, but this is up to the passport control officer’s discretion and requires a $200 (Canadian) fee.  The temporary resident permit is meant to allow entry for exceptional circumstances, which would include reasons of national interest or on strong humanitarian or compassionate grounds, which a UFC event is not.

It remains to be seen how the Jones conviction will effect the UFC plans.

Jason Genet


K-Swiss Taps Out of MMA

K-Swiss the parent company of Form is exiting the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. Form was one of the few companies that had a true endorsement model and activated around the athletes and sport.  According to the companies Edgar filings they bought Form in 2010 for $1.6 million and lost about $3.7 million before tapping out.

From their public filing:

13. Form Athletics
On July 23, 2010, the Company entered into a Membership Interest Purchase Agreement (“Purchase Agreement”) with Form Athletics, LLC (“Form Athletics”) and its Members to purchase Form Athletics for $1,600,000 in cash. Form Athletics was established in January 2010 to design, develop and distribute apparel for mixed martial arts under the Form Athletics brand worldwide. The purchase of Form Athletics was part of an overall strategy to enter the action sports market, however, during the third quarter of 2011, the Company decided to no longer pursue operating in this line of business, as discussed below. Operations of Form Athletics have been accounted for and presented as a discontinued operation in the accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements.

Pursuant to the Purchase Agreement, the Company was obligated to pay additional cash consideration to certain Members of Form Athletics in an amount equal to Form Athletics’ EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 2012 (“Form CPP”). The purchase price of $1,600,000 and the net present value of the initial estimate of the Form CPP was capitalized. The fair value of the Form CPP was determined each quarter based on the net present value of the current quarter’s projection of Form Athletics’ EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 2012. Any subsequent changes to the Form CPP was recognized as interest income or interest expense during the applicable quarter.

The acquisition of Form Athletics was recorded as a 100% purchase and the Form CPP liability was recognized and accordingly, the results of operations of the acquired business were included in the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements from the date of acquisition. A trademark asset totaling $3,150,000 and goodwill of $539,000, were recognized for the amount of the excess purchase price paid over fair market value of the net assets acquired. The amount of goodwill that was deductible for tax purposes was $507,000 and will be amortized over 15 years.

At July 23, 2010, the acquired assets and liabilities assumed in the purchase of Form Athletics was as follows (in thousands):

Balance at
July 23, 2010
Inventories

$ 39
Intangible assets

3,689

Total assets

$ 3,728

Current liabilities

$ 18
Form CPP

2,110

Total liabilities

2,128
Contribution by K•Swiss Inc.

1,600

Total stockholders’ equity

1,600

Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity

$ 3,728

Since Form Athletics began operating in early 2010, operating results prior to the Company’s purchase of Form Athletics were not significant and pro forma information was not materially different than what was reported on the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements.

14
During the second quarter of 2011, after a review of sales, backlog, cash flows and marketing strategy, the Company determined that its investment in the Form Athletics goodwill and trademark was impaired and recognized impairment losses of $3,689,000 (see Note 5) and reversed the Form CPP liability of $2,110,000, which was recognized as interest income.


Where Is the Brand Activation for Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos Sponsors?

UFC on Fox Sponsorship Activation Non-Existent Leading Into Their UFC Heavyweight Championship Bout

We keep waiting and waiting but it never comes.  This next weekend marks one of the biggest events in Mixed Martial Arts history and yet there is little to no activation.  Since it is obvious that most of the MMA industry does not seem to understand what that word means, here is a brief description:

“Activation includes events, promotions, retail display, outdoor, digital, CRM (customer relationship management), direct, and other such services.”

Why have these athletes and their agencies missed the boat?  Is it because the UFC  has strict guidelines against any ambush marketing for this Fox debut?  Or have the managers of Dos Santos and Velasquez failed at executing on this tremendous opportunity?Even the brands that have been supporting Cain Velasquez from the start of his career, before his fame and before the championship belt have not made the push to connect their brand to the upcoming event.  Aren’t they hoping that the wider reach will sell more shirts?  Is this not the opportunity of a lifetime for Dethrone?  They invested heavily into Cain and having Cain at the forefront of their marketing long before he was a star.  Shouldn’t they be connecting the dots?I know it is a bad economy.  That excuse only flies here in the United States.  The UFC and Cain’s management have gone to great lengths to sell Cain as a Hispanic fighter (even ignoring the fact that he was born in the US) yet where are the Hispanic brands?  There was no housing bust in Mexico.  As a matter of fact a lot of the money from the housing boom here in the US was sent back to Mexico.  So where are the Mexican brands?

The endemic brands are not taking credit or touting the investment made and their success of that investment and the non-endemic brands that have signed on are not activating leading up to this historical event.  Why not?  What am I missing?  Is this not a dream come true?

Look at how well Anderson Silva is doing in his home country of Brazil.  He is landing marquee deals with Nike and Burger King.  Junior is a very likable and marketable guy, especially in Brazil.  Both Mexico and Brazil would be ecstatic to have their Countrymen as the reigning UFC Champion.  Yet it appears that nothing is happening.  If it is happening and the activation is coming post the event, then that is just a recipe for disaster.

We are never going to attract the NASCAR type of sponsors if what we call marketing is ironing a decal on a pair of shorts.  Here at Ingrained Media we have brought in main stream electronic companies, main stream boating companies, large auto manufacturers, drink companies, huge musical talent and more.  We have brought them into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  Provided them with activation and total marketing solutions.  All of these companies expected activation and marketing solutions that went above and beyond logo placement.  That is why we have talent on the preliminary cards getting bigger name sponsorship deals then most of the main card talent.

MMA Athletes are not commodities and these opportunities that are being created by others (mainly Zuffa) can be life changing events.  What does it matter if you are fighting for the UFC Heavyweight Belt, if the guy you beat is busy counting his cash, paying off his homes (yes homes) and cars?  What is the actual goal?  To be a World Champion or to be able to support your family and not be in the struggle?  I would rather have my talent be rich than famous.  The sad part of the UFC on Fox event is that you could actually have both.  These managers or agents had an opportunity to change the lives of their fighters, open flood gates for their talent, and the future of the sport. They have not done that and I guess I just do not understand why.

Jason Genet
UPDATED 11-18-2011 – The UFC on Fox has came and gone.  I wanted to update my post a bit to reflect what we saw in the way of sponsorships.
Cain- Cain had a lot of the same sponsors as his previous fight.  Milwaukee Tools, Oak Grove, Dethrone, MicroTech, BSN, LUGZ and a few others.  These sponsors are feeling the pinch of not taking advantage of the opportunity.  There will always be a loser so that is why activation is so important.  Not only will there always be a loser but sometimes the fights are so boring that both fighters come out as losers.  These sponsors had months to promote Cain and keep him active with the Brand.  That is especially true for an athlete that is off due to injuries.  LUGZ who is a Urban shoe company has been sponsoring Cain and other MMA fighters for many years.  They were the only Brand with visible pre-fight activation.
JDS- Junio had Gillette from Brazil.  Gillette is a long term Zuffa sponsor and I am not sure if the two are tied together.  Most brands like Nike or Gillette have international divisions that usually run somewhat independent from the US Brand.  That is likely why we did not see any activation from Gillette here in the US.  This was likely the Brazil division and I am sure they had the activation going in Brazil as they are a major Brand.  Actually it appears that 100% of Juniors sponsors were Brazilian based companies.  In the end it seems like a smart move for a guy who is a hero in his home country and n0t to mention the 22 million viewers that tuned in to watch the fight.
Juniors camp did a great job targeting a lucrative and virtually untapped market.
FOX TV Rating Notes:

- If you combine the FOX and FOX Deportes telecasts (one in Spanish, one in English), it would have received close to a 3.5 rating with 6.2 million viewers and a peak of 8.8 million and a M18-34 rating of 4.7. It is believed a peak close to 9 million was achieved combining both.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 beat every college football game this season except the LSU vs Alabama game on CBS.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 beat 65% of the playoff and World Series baseball games this season on FOX.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 was the third highest rated television show of the year for FOX Deportes.

- The show drew 1.7 million women over the age of 18.

- The median age of viewers for the telecast was 35 years old.

- The 5.7 million viewers was the most watched fight in broadcast on US television since HBO’s Lennox Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko back in 2003

- UFC programming delivered a total of 6.7 million impressions across all FSMG television networks.

- The peak of 8.8 million lasted as long as the fight did, which was 1 minute (fight started at 9:40 pm).

- By 9:45 pm, the viewership had dropped to 5.9 million. Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson peaked at 6.51 million and lasted for 10 minutes and 38 seconds. (Sports Illustrated) … about 25% of the audience had left at the end of the main event.

- UFC on FOX began with 5.2 million viewers and dipped as low as 4.4 million before viewership started to climb around 9:36 pm, as the fighters were starting to make their way to the Octogon. (Sports Illustrated)

Brazil Ratings on TV Globo:

- The event peaked at 22M viewers in Brazil, and during the fight (1 minute), it reached a 20 rating and a 52% share (percentage of homes with TV’s). The ratings were above average for a Sunday morning. (Globo)

-Jason Genet


Has MMA Folded on Poker?

(Disclaimer: Ingrained Media represents Athletes within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. We have never done business with any of the companies listed below but certain members of our company have. Collectively these individuals made less then $1000 from their previous relationships with these companies. We have no current relationship with these companies.)

Media outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to all the top MMA websites have reported on the issuance of arrest warrants for several executives from the online gaming and poker sites such as Pokerstars.com and FullTiltPoker.com and that the government has shut down those URL’s . The Mixed Martial Arts industry claimed “It’s sponsors were shutdown” and one infamous agent said, “In the short-term, it will severely impact fighters’ sponsor revenue, which traditionally matched their show pay for our televised clients. I would venture to say the poker industry is equal to apparel industry as the No. 1 sponsor of fighters outside the UFC.”

We wanted to look into this situation and the billion dollar industry that will be impacted by these bans and the effects, if any, on the sport of MMA and the game of Poker..

A couple things that we need to make sure are clear: This is a US based ban that has a minimal impact on the overall international gaming market, and secondly, this is the US; these executives and companies are innocent until proven guilty.

The sponsors that the Mixed Martial Arts industry have been talking about are actually not the sites that have been taken down. The sponsor of the Mixed Martial Arts industry that is the most prominent is FullTiltPoker.net. The site that has been banned by the US Government is Fulltiltpoker.com. The difference is the .NET site is for entertainment and learning purposes and the .COM is the pay-for-play site. You would think that agent would know who his “number 2” sponsor is. That is, unless he did his deals with FullTiltPoker.com.

It is actually feasible to assume that the Full Tilt corporation will spend more in the US on its .NET presence since that is all they will be allowed to do. Many of the sites that are reporting on this story also earn income from the online gaming industry. I am not sure why or how they could misreport the information.

The Television lineup is still full of various cash poker games and anyone that can go to an Indian Reservation Casino or most of the Casinos in Las Vegas offer both electronic and live cash games. Many states have “poker rooms” that allow cash games and in houses across the US family and friends come together for friendly cash poker games. Poker is a game that dates back to the earliest settlers of this country. Poker is a part of America’s history and future.

Full Tilt Poker is on record saying:

“Dublin Ireland (April 15, 2011) – Full Tilt Poker is saddened by today’s charges against its CEO Raymond Bitar and offers its full support to Mr. Bitar and Nelson Burtnick.

Online poker is a game of skill enjoyed by tens of millions of people in the United States and across the world. And, Full Tilt Poker remains as committed as ever to preserving the rights of those players to play the game they love online.

Mr. Bitar and Full Tilt Poker believe online poker is legal – a position also taken by some of the best legal minds in the United States. Full Tilt Poker is, and has always been committed to preserving the integrity of the game and abiding by the law.

“I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. I look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration”, said Mr. Bitar.

Unfortunately, as a result of this action, Full Tilt Poker has decided that it must suspend “real money” play in the United States until this case is resolved. However, Full Tilt Poker will continue to provide peer-to-peer online poker services outside of the United States.”

We tend to agree with Mr. Bitar’s claims. While we cannot reasonably or responsibly talk about the legal issues these 11 executives are facing, as we said they are innocent until proven guilty. What we do know is that many of the greatest legal minds contend that poker is a game of skill not chance and therefore not technically gambling. I love the game of poker myself. I have played on FullTiltPoker.net and we have a family tradition where we all gather over Thanksgiving and have a Texas Hold Em Tournament.

Online gambling and online poker just got a lot less convenient in the US. The courts are going to be forced to determine if online gambling and poker should be legal and if legal, who regulates the industry.

If you’re in the U.S., when you point your browser to any of those three gambling sites, you see a scary message: The U.S. government has seized the domain names of the three sites, preventing gambling transactions and anything else:

The Government claims that these businesses manipulated the banks in order to process these transactions (almost all of them conducted electronically) using wire transfers, credit cards and other means of commerce.

The problem gets a bit dicey when you realize that these three online gambling organizations are not based in the U.S. For instance, PokerStars’ headquarters is on the Isle of Man, a self-governed British Crown Dependency located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. Here is an image of their headquarters.

Even if the US Government wins the judgement there is no guarantee that the Isle of Man or the other host countries where these business’ operate and are based will comply with the US extradition request or asset seizure request. There is huge disagreement about the legality of online gambling. Not to mention the economic impact these small countries would feel if these large industries ceased to exist.

Are we supposed to believe the banks and credit card companies did not notice billions of dollars of transactions coming and going out of very small countries? Bank of America calls me if I use my card in a store that is outside of my normal shopping habits but they could not detect the billions heading to Ilse of Man or Costa Rica?

Since we are talking about US law and online gambling being illegal in the US, some questions obviously arise. The US Government is for the people, by the people, right? A recent poll of US citizens with over 3100 responses indicates the people are siding with the poker companies. 52% of those asked said online gambling should be legal and that it is a victimless crime, 33% said as long as it was regulated and only 15% said no. So 85% of the people polled feel as if online gambling should be legal and if we were asking them about poker only the percentage would be in the mid to high 90’s.

Last but surely not least, Full Tilt Poker specifically is just a platform. The laws that are being violated if online poker is illegal are being broken by the users of Full Tilt Poker, not the company itself. If the Government prevails in it’s case against Full Tilt and others, are the Internet providers who connect the users responsible? Or how about the poker table manufacturer? Full Tilt is not a wagering company or betting company. They are the virtual version of a Card Room; they merely provide a service to those who wish to test their skills against others for fun, prizes or money. It is duly regulated and licensed by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

The residents of the US seem to want to be able to play poker and gamble online and poker seems to be at its all time high in popularity. The few in opposition of the game and its legality should be reminded of Las Vegas. It was a relatively unregulated home to the Mob who handled and profited from the gambling industry. The US Government did not shut down Las Vegas, they cleaned it up and regulated it. The Mob was servicing millions of tourists (the voting public) and the Government found a way to keep them playing. Now Vegas represents a billion dollar industry.

For a company that has always found a way to brand itself (NSFW) in a industry valued in the billions we think the fight has just begun.

Or look at China. Some of Las Vegas’s biggest “whales” came from Asia and specifically China. China took a small island that had historically been plagued with prostitution and some of the lowest numbers trade jobs in the region. It has been transformed to a Chinese Las Vegas. Many of the same casinos located in Las Vegas have locations there. It has become extremely successful and transformed the economy of the region.

The law makers and media do not need to worry about the MMA athletes who are sponsored by websites still operating and very much in need of promotion. We need to ask our Senate and Congress to try to find a way to do what the majority of the people want and legalize poker and online gambling. Virtual gaming will help our economy and could create jobs here in the US if we found a way to embrace rather than erase this business.

Jason Genet

IngrainedMedia.com


Mixed Martial Arts Gold Mine?

We have been blessed to work with some amazing athletes and sponsors over the past few years. They both shared one thing in common, they gain exposure when they perform, and in that performance they have a 50% or greater chance to loose. Throughout this time in the sport of MMA, fighters complain that they do not earn enough and the sponsors claim to not be able to identify the return on investment (ROI) involved.

One of the big issues is that the athletes are usually too busy to market themselves correctly and do not have the right representation helping them find the time and tools to build their own fame outside of the events. The sponsors rarely activate the sponsorship and roll the dice on the event. Yet the athlete they are paying has little to no control over the event, if they show the sponsors logos or the very important walkout. Some brands have paid mid five-figures per fight to have their shirt worn during the walkout and post-fight coverage.

Many opportunities to engage the consumer and potential consumers are often missed or ignored and the activation is almost non-existent. The major promotions like the UFC regulate and restrict which sponsors are allowed and even charge the Brands a sponsorship participation fee. This fees can sometimes be in the mid to high five figures per year. They are not given anything that any other brand is given. You would think that this “tax” would increase the sponsors desire to get more for their investment. Instead it appears to have only reduced the amount the sponsors are willing to pay, made the sponsors focus more on if the event will be televised, and at the same time weeded out the small to medium apparel companies from the mix and removed their ability to support athletes. That is at least what they will have you believe. The fact is, many have just used this “tax” as a reason to leave the sport because they never developed an ROI.

We have brought in many non-endemic sponsors that are focused on the athletes and are willing to look at the events as “bonus” exposure while working with the athlete in a true endorsement fashion. One of the UFC’s major sponsors, Bud Light and it’s parent company, is arguably one of the largest Sports Marketing agencies in the world. They are also one of the most successful.

There is no missing the event involvement Bud Light has in place with the UFC. Their approach to their MMA Fight Team is less about big in-event placement on the athlete and instead more focused on outside the event endorsement. They use their athletes in their retail point of sale advertisements, use the athletes image and likeness in their bar and restaurant advertising, produce webisode series promoting the athletes and more. They make sure they ingrain their brand and athletes at every possible outlet and event. It may be argued that they provide equal or greater promotion of these athletes than the UFC does.

So what are some of the solutions? The first step is for the Brands to realize they are sponsoring and endorsing an athlete. They need to have a plan in place on how they are going to extract value from the sponsorship and utilize these athletes. Instead of looking at it as a billboard type logo placement it must instead be viewed as a relationship. They have to get beyond being a fan of the athlete because that will only lead to the most expensive Facebook photo in the world. Second, they need to activate around the athlete and his or her platform. Use the events these athlete’s participate in as spikes in exposure and capitalize on the ability the events have to engage the target consumer but do not make this the be all, end all effort. The athletes and their team need to make sure they have a platform to offer. The brands need to try to coordinate and cross promote whenever possible.

As you can see Wrangler does a great job with this. They offer a wide array of their shirts with various PRCA and PBR sponsor logos on the shirt along with their Wrangler logo. I know MMA has to get away from having seven competing fight brands on one tee shirt and shorts before they can offer this type of merchandise. As you will see in the slide show below it is not just Rodeo either, many sports employ this model. You are also not tied to using all of the brands as you see with the Wrangler shirt above.

Here is the Official NASCAR Team DuPont Jersey.

And here is a NASCAR fan wearing the same jersey.

Obviously there are no competing brands on this jersey but you see various brands showcased and the primary brand DuPont is prominent. The fans buy these jerseys for the same reason they buy NFL, NBA and MLB apparel because it is authentic looking.

I recently moved to the Central Coast of California and on any given day you see a slew of Cyclists riding through the hills, coast line, and throughout town. I started to notice the majority of them are wearing authentic team apparel. Either Radio Shack has started sponsoring every cyclist in the world or once again we are seeing fans and practitioners of the sport seeking authentic apparel. Here are some examples –

Here is the Team Radio Shack cycling uniform.

and

Here is the Team using the uniform

And once again here is a fan who has sought, purchased, and is proudly representing the brand in the exact same gear.

This is not really a sport specific phenomenon. The fact is NASCAR, NBA, Soccer, MLB, NFL, PBR, PRCA, Motocross, Indy Car and more derive a considerable amount of revenue from this type of merchandise. The brands exposure is extended beyond the athlete, the event, and the athlete’s platform and the marketing provided by the Brand. The exposure alone is a tangible return on the sponsors investment and having your brand worn by your target consumer or applied to your target consumers personal property becomes an extremely valuable proposition for the brands supporting these athletes and Teams.

The majority of the MMA industry is missing this market and opportunity. From the athletes to the brands no one seems to be making any replica merchandise. There is no doubt that there is a demand for these types of products. There is no doubt that in these tough economic times we need the sponsors to be more successful then ever before and at the same time find a way to extend the engagement beyond the events.

The managers and agents in the sport of MMA need to get out of the patch business and get into the brand building business. They need to build the brands of the athletes they represent and help guide the brands that support those athletes to successful and controllable engagements. If you are merely trading logos for dollars based on exposure you did not create you are on the path to failure for you and your clients.

The athletes need to look for ways to connect with the fans and extract value for the sacrifices made. Depending on events and televised exposure you can not and do not control is a recipe for disaster. You need to yourself or have other people helping you build your brand and increase your exposure even when you are not fighting.

Brock Lesnar’s sponsor Death Clutch has offered replica walk out tees in the past. They seem to be one of the few brands or athletes offering such items. In the past you used to be able to buy the Overeem Replica Fight shorts. The issue with fight shorts is that unless you can kick ass like The Reem you probably should not be wearing his shorts. It is kind of like showing up to your first BJJ class with 20 sponsors on your gi.

Here is the Death Clutch UFC 116 walk out tee:

We have had one client that fought 9 times and 3 of which were in the UFC and he had earned just under $100,000 for 3 years of work and 9 fights that he won, his MMA earnings were predicated on when or if he fought. The same client is now a millionaire based on competing 3 times over two years. He has months where he makes $50,000 and has consistently has earned a monthly income from his endeavors in and out of the Octagon. The difference has been focusing on building his brand and finding ways for his sponsors to earn their ROI. He has both endemic and non-endemic sponsors alike.

The authentic and replica tee shirts are a great opportunity to increase your brand, your sponsors branding, and your income as an athlete. You can go to any size event and you will see merchandise similar to what you see here and in our slide show. If the athletes do not create these then the brands should. Even the video games strive to ingrain authentic sponsors on the in-game characters on both the THQ and EA Sports MMA games.

This should not be ignored and it very well may be the lowest hanging fruit in the entire MMA market. If you trained would you wear replicas of your favorite fighters shorts or rash guard?

I am sure just about everyone in the US has seen that NASCAR fan who has their personal possessions or vehicles with logos from the brands that support their favorite athlete.

Here is a slide show that shows various sport jerseys and tee shirts and the fans that wear them. It is easy to see the potential market that is out there. A lot of these fans are cross over fans and are fans of many sports.


Social Experts or Snake Oil Salesmen?

We’ve received quite a few emails about our Facebook blogs, so we wanted to expand upon some of those thoughts. Please feel free to comment or send us an email about your thoughts.

The fact is Facebook is a 500 pound “Gorilla” and most people know of it or have an account. So essentially, it becomes the easiest target for companies and brands to focus on. The job of “social media manager” is one of the fastest growing new job postings. University of Southern California is even offering courses and degrees focused on this new phenomenon. Agencies all over are working overtime to create new divisions focusing on social media. Pretty much every brand has a social media “expert” to assist them in this new world of social media.

The “affiliate marketing” experts are now touting their social selling skills and as this new market emerges, the so called experts seem to be more like job seeking opportunists rather then social media experts.

This group of newly employed “experts” continue to spout off about engagement on third party social platforms like Facebook as if they are Mark Zuckerberg’s first cousins. They are the same ‘experts’ that lead brands to the social graveyard called Myspace.com. They claim that these engagements are meaningful and encourage these brands to spend their hard earned money to help promote a third party application. Billions of dollars are being spent to gain a “like” and resulting in tons of free exposure for the brands like Facebook. Where is the ROI? They are merely telling brands what the brands already know (that Facebook is popular) and that social media marketing is an emerging but necessary market.

As we have discussed in our previous blogs, people (the brands target consumer) use social networking and specifically sites like Facebook to connect with friends. There was a time when you could not even join without a connection within the network. Now that it has grown, the brands and their experts see Facebook as the holy grail of social media marketing.

Facebook is essentially web 2.0’s version of email You do not need to send emails through email clients. You can share, connect or find your friends, colleagues and family. It is an easy way to stay connected and communicate with the people you want to connect with. No email address changes or loosing the phone number. Just type in their name and Facebook will give you numerous ways to connect. Most consumers do not seek to have these kinds of relationships with brands. They are interested in brands providing them content, information, contests and so on, but a meaningful friendship is not what they are after. If you are a brand and not an athlete or celebrity, the actual engagement ration on Facebook for brands is close to zero percent.

People aren’t involved with most brands’ fan pages, even though on a daily basis a large percentage of them are involved in connecting with the brand. The problem is the “real” engagements and the feedback provided is normally one directional. This is not engagement, but more like a new form of email spam. When the engagement is real Facebook provides no real way to engage the users back. Ultimately, what little success you will find can backfire. The consumer will feel ignored.

People tend to forgive the celebrities for the lack of response. The celebrities tend to be forgiven based on the sheer number of fans they have commenting. It would be humanly impossible to engage with 50 Cent’s 12,000,000 Facebook fans. He offers his hard core fans his own unique social network that has over 540,000 active members (www.thisis50.com). To me, this group is far more valuable to 50 and his endorsed brands. He can directly communicate back and forth with his fans. The engagements are real. He can monetize thisis50.com and owns it rather then being a passive participant on Facebook.

There are too many people and groups on Facebook and making lasting and meaningful engagements is next to impossible. Facebook and sites like it offer the users of the site a tremendous platform to stay connected and communicate. It just does not mean that all of its users will “like” you or even be your target consumer. Social media is like having clovers in your lawn. They look cool and you hope to find a four leaf clover but they are not necessarily good for your lawn.

I always try to get our clients to visualize social media as a virtual social gathering. If you had a gathering with 12,000,000 people, it would be chaos. Even 500,000 could be chaotic so brands have to remember that they are going to be at the center of the conversation. So building your network needs to be balanced with feeding your network content and meaningful engagements.
Brands should, however, focus on Facebook advertising. The cost to advertise on Facebook is very affordable and very effective. Since Facebook revolves around socializing, those conversations create the ability to target conversations and interest. Facebook users tend to list their likes and dislikes and Facebook advertising can effectively help you find your target consumer. Targeting is the smartest ad expenditure brands can make. Niche advertising networks like MMAAdnet.com are one solution; contextual based targeting is another. Each are very effective and remove a lot of the mystery involved when advertising on or off line.

Brands SHOULD have a page or at least a group or two established on sites like Facebook. They should use these platforms to help find and potentially extract this consumer from being a passive friend to a truly engaged consumer. At the very least, Facebook and third party social media platforms offer “free advertising” for brands.

Build a realistic plan, assign realistic goals and go. If you are using it correctly, social media will tell you where to go and what to do. You have to listen to the consumer. If your expert has advised you to focus solely on Facebook and suggests hiring staff to manage the comments and tell you what you should be sharing, you might need a new expert. There is no magic to social media marketing. It is about engagements and providing feedback in a timely manner.

You can have your own thisis50.com style site with an iPhone app for under $5000. You and your team can manage this and all of your social platforms through your cellphones and desk top. I guarantee you it is not Weird Science or even Sixteen Candles. It is just communication with the very person you are willing to spend tons of money to understand what they like and want. Save your money and time and just ask them.

Jason Genet

IngrainedMedia.com


Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo CeWHOdo

Cejudo Captures Gold

You might not be a fan of Wrestling if you do not know who Henry Cejudo is. Either way, please keep reading as this blog is relative to any sport and athlete.  Henry won the Olympic Gold Medal in the sport of Wrestling at the ripe age of 21.

Being the youngest Olympic Gold Medalist in USA Wrestling History was quite the accomplishment.  His Olympic run was your typical underdog story.  He came into the Olympics seeded 16th and even lost his first period of his first match.

In the sport of wrestling, especially at the elite level, losing the first period can sometimes mean losing the match. Again in the quarterfinals and the semifinals Henry would go on to lose the first period and was forced to rally back to victory.

Henry went on to win his gold medal match and the gold medal.  Henry’s personal struggle and life story made this unbelievable accomplishment even more amazing.

Henry was one of the country’s most decorated high school wrestlers.  He won State Championships in two states (AZ and CO) and was the ASICS Wrestler Of The Year. He was also the first high-schooler to win U.S. Nationals since USA Wrestling‘s formation as the sport’s national sanctioning body in 1983.

Henry’s youth was another tale of overcoming accomplishments.  He was born in the late 80’s in South Central Los Angeles, California.  His parents were undocumented Mexican immigrants.  Henry’s father was a frequent long-term visitor to many of the California Prisons.

Henry’s mother did what she could to provide for her six children and worked numerous jobs to provide for her family.

Henry’s family eventually settled in Phoenix, Arizona which was just a hotter version of the bad neighborhoods they had lived in the past.  This is the basis for a story that many lead to tell from behind the walls of America’s prisons.  Some could say he was destined for failure.  Henry found wrestling and began to devote himself to the sport.  Henry used the sport to build an opportunity for himself and his family.  Henry and his brother dominated the sport of high school wrestling.

They were so talented the national developmental freestyle coach for USA Wrestling invited both Angel and Henry to attend the resident freestyle program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

The fact that Henry essentially raised himself while his mother worked and his father paid his debts to society lead to the fact that Henry’s education was nowhere near the college level.  Making it to the Olympics without college wrestling is the route less taken to say the least.  Had Henry’s chosen sport been Basketball or Football he would have been on a full ride to any NCAA Division I powerhouse and playing in the NBA or NFL today, he is simply that good.

Henry took second at World’s losing to Matt Azevedo but came back the next year and won the spot on the 2008 Olympic team.  This is normally a spot reserved for NCAA All-American’s and Champions.  Henry would secure the Gold Medal in storybook fashion.

Henry was the poster child for the 2008 Olympics during his time in Beijing and when he came back to the US.  He appeared on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, CBS Early Morning Show, ABC’s Nightly News, Oprah, and many more.  For a short period of time he was an International Star.

I was sitting one row ahead of him when he and his posse rolled into a MMA fight in Phoenix.  Most everyone knew who he was and a lot of kids were coming up asking for his autograph and he was even announced as being in attendance by the promotion.  He must have had 12 to 15 people with him, who all seemed to be catering to Henry.

Henry was living the life of a rock star.  Everyone wanted a piece of him and “just a few minutes of his time”.  It seemed like wrestling finally had a star.

Now, fast forward to 2011 and we are beginning to approach the 2012 Olympic Games where Henry is again just one of many wrestlers in the 55 kg division competing for the one spot at the top.  In the last 4 years we have seen All-American Wrestlers become Champions and millionaires in the sport of MMA.  We have seen Wrestlers become the dominant force in the fastest growing sport in the world.  Wrestling programs at the College level are under attack and stories like skipping college to pursue the Olympic Gold may become the only option.  The PAC 10 Conference is shrinking and NCAA Division II powerhouses like Nebraska have been eliminated.

Pac 10

Wrestling is one of the few USA Olympic sports that still uses true amateurs when competing.  Something the Eastern European countries stopped doing long ago.  Athletes like Henry need to find ways to earn a living and remain relevant for 4 years before then hoping to secure the single spot on the Olympic team.

This may be the very reason that wrestling is considered a “poor mans” martial art.  It also is likely the same reason the sport of wrestling is failing to thrive while wrestlers are able to use wrestling outside of the sport the thrive and earn a living.  My very own brother has spent 20 plus years of his life sacrificing his time and efforts for about $2,800 a year.  The Athletic Directors pay by season so it doesn’t seem as bad but any Wrestling Coach will tell you it is a year round commitment.

Why is USA Wrestling so anti-MMA?  Everywhere I go I see BJJ gyms and MMA gyms opening in the same town where the Wrestling Programs are on life support.  What was the plan with a guy like Henry?  Obviously the USA Wrestling program knew he could win or they would not have even invited him to Colorado.  Once he made the team and won the spot on the ladder, why not market him?  When he won the gold and had all of the press and momentum, why not market him?

Instead they let a rising star succumb to gravity.  Imagine an athlete like Henry competing in MMA.  His wrestling skills alone would place him at the top of the 125 pound division.  Then you take his story and his Olympic notoriety and he is everything the UFC was hoping for in a Cain Velasquez.

Imagine a wrestler like Henry after he has learned to contend with punches and submissions.  He would be an elite Mixed Martial Artists and his participation in MMA would allow him to earn a living, promote USA Wrestling and make him a more complete athlete when the Olympic Games come around in 2012.

Instead Henry Cejudo is just another great Wrestler having to earn every inch he gets.  He has to work harder and train harder than any other athlete in the world and all for a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent our Country for free.  USA Wrestling needs to embrace MMA if it expects MMA fans to embrace Wrestling.  MMA is the NFL for Wrestlers.  MMA makes it possible for guys like Henry to continue building his brand outside of Olympic Trials and The Olympics.

If not MMA, what is the plan?  There is an extreme lack of follow-through in marketing and little to no plan exists to keep amateur wrestlers who earn a place in the spotlight relevant.  From Henry’s posse to USA Wrestling, they all have to take responsibility for Henry’s lack of exposure.  If he happens to win another Olympic Gold, will we see even less than we have seen since 2008?  Maybe USA Wrestling is waiting for Henry to save a baby from a burning building while overcoming the obstacles in his life and winning the US Olympic Gold.

No matter what the platform or stage, athletes and their posses need to find a way to stay relevant and engage with people of the sport.  Do not expect those around you to do so because you are the current flavor of the week.  You worked hard to earn this opportunity, make sure you have someone working hard to make it last.  Do not become a Henry CeWHOdo.

Olympic Gold Taste So Good!

For my wrestling readers, please do your part to support your local wrestling tournaments and teams.  Give back to the sport.  It needs you now more than ever.  One of the greatest and oldest sports in the World has played a large part in building one of the fastest growing professional sports in the world.  There has never been a better time to support Wrestling and Wrestlers.  USA Wrestling works for you.  They could not exist without your contributions so make sure you let them know you want more for the sport and the athletes of the sport.

Jason Genet

http://www.ingrainedmedia.com


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