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“ABSOLUTELY NO FIREARMS, AMMO, HUNTING OR KNIFE COMPANIES WILL BE PERMITTED AS SPONSORS IN ANY ZUFFA PROMOTED EVENTS.”

The announcement came down this morning, and some will say it’s just “Another way big bad Zuffa is screwing the fighters”. In reality, it won’t be long until there comes a day that no sponsors will be allowed. Why? Mainly because these companies are not “sponsors” per say. They are ambush marketing televised events. The athletes are paid based on the televised exposure not based on the athlete.

Our company has an athlete that is pro-firearm and has an endorsement deal with a small firearms training center. He is paid a monthly salary to endorse the brand and no logo placement is required. This is a true sponsorship to athlete relationship.

MMA is full of great athletes with amazing stories to tell. The UFC is providing them a platform like no one ever has. It is not what you do on that platform, it is what you do with that overall opportunity that matters. How much of the interest generated will you retain?

That is what managers need to be doing for the athletes they work for. They need to build platforms that enable them to sustain revenue and sell value to brands without the UFC exposure. You cannot guarantee the exposure in the UFC but you can guarantee leveraging the relationship and the exposure that may come.

For the most part MMA sponsorships are about logo placement on televised events. The athletes and brands rarely have a connection let alone an activation strategy. Aside from a few pre and post fight mentions there is not much (if any) activation. Even the biggest names depend more on discretionary bonuses than endorsement deals. They are making more because they are at the top. When they begin to descend it will be interesting to see how many actually end up with a brand of their own that they own and can create revenue from. Very few boxers ever converted their brand as an individual and MMA has a long way yet to create an Ali or Foreman.

It is not too late and these changes from Zuffa will only force the issue more. Stop just selling logos on shorts and start selling a brand building experience.


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