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The House is gearing up for a battle over spending taxpayers money on sports sponsorship.  The focus is on NASCAR but you cannot cut NASCAR without affecting all sports.  The UFC recently inked a deal with the US Marines and many Mixed Martial Artists (“MMA”) have been sponsored by Military divisions.  If the measure passes these expenditures would cease.

Republicans are divided over topics that usually unite them (spending cuts, military and NASCAR) and the Democrats are excited to have the distraction.  At the heart of the battle is the $80 million dollars spent on sports sponsorships and the return on that investment.   The proponents say $20 million a race is way too much.  While supporters of the sponsorship programs, like Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr. say “the program is effective. “  Without the draft, the Military needs to find ways to reach their target demographic.

There is no question that the Military’s target demographic is watching NASCAR and UFC type events.  The in-content exposure is valuable and hard to miss.  When marquee brands like Nike are cutting TV and Print spending by 40% in favor of Team and Event sponsorships it seems like an odd move by the House to pressure the Military in exactly the opposite direction.

As the US Marines learned with their UFC deal, there are other valuable sports properties that allow the Military to reach its target demographic and not spend $20 million per event.  The model in play with the UFC makes a ton of sense for The Marines.  The Marines are getting in-content branding on the most sought after sports property around.  They get interaction with the athletes, digital placement on the UFC’s website and more.

Unlike NASCAR or other sports like Bull Riding, MMA also opens the door to real engagements with the target demographic. This engagement can go well beyond the recruiting phase too.  We all have seen the UFC and Marine marketing program.  The House should be looking at ways to get more for the expenditures.  Ideas like:

  • MMA Athletes showing up during Basic Training to help during Combatives Training.

  • Military discounts on Merchandise and Tickets.

  • Armed Forces MMA Team – While on Active Duty the ability to train and compete at the amateur level (like they do with other sports like Boxing and Wrestling).

  • Veterans that were on the Armed Forces Team get immediate entry into TUF and their Pro card is paid for, in return they continue to represent their Branch of service.  Guys like Brian Stann should be a sponsored athlete and a part of a program that helps transition the soldier athlete to a professional athlete.

  • Lifetime free entry in signature events like Grapplers Quest and NAGA for active Military and Veterans.

Ideas like those will only enhance the ROI.  From a MMA perspective the price the Military allegedly spends on one race would fund all of the above programs for several years.  Every service member will learn some form of hand to hand combat during their enlistment.  There is no reason not to offer MMA as a Team Sport on the bases.  The opportunity to enhance the return on investment has never been better.

The House needs to realize that it is less about how much they spend and more about how they spend it.  If NASCAR has become too expensive then find other sport properties that reach the same demographic.  If you can find sports like MMA that weave into the basic structure of current Military life then you can find others.  You don’t have to spend $20,000,000 per race to reach your target demographic.  You don’t have to kill off your marketing plans because one part of the plan has become too expensive.  Just replace it.  The sport of Mixed Martial Arts would welcome this budget and the branding would be dominant and active 24/7 like our Military.


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


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