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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


Can Real-Time Scoring Solve the MMA Judging Crisis

We have seen fight after fight go the the wrong way. The Judges still use old fashioned score cards and need to tally the scores after the fight. This seems like an archaic approach to judging the fastest growing sport.

So it begs to question what is the solution? A lot of times a fighter may feel he is ahead on the score cards and try to fight conservatively in the final round. Could a solution like Rob Dyrdek’s Street League’s real-time scoring be the solution? The fighters know where they stand on the judges score cards as the fight progresses.

What about just using retired fighters or having a “certified” MMA judging program. The program would make sure that judges understood all aspects of Mixed Martial Arts and they all use the same judging criteria. This allows fighters and trainers to know exactly what is going to be scored.

MMA is such a unique sport where winning is a very important part of the sport. Forget about the fair weather nature of the typical MMA fan just take a look at the economics of the sport.

The typical MMA gym charges $80-$150 a month. This fee is merely the entry fee. You will need private lessons that can cost as much as $100 per session. You will need your supplement and meal program, your personal trainer, equipment and likely a standard gym membership to do your strength training These are all up front expenses.

THen you have find the time to train. This can consist of several training sessions a day at various locations. The average MMA athlete trains 4-6 hours a day 4-5 times a week.

All of the above is really just a small part of what it takes to get to the fight you agreed to take. You are only going to be paid if the fight happens. Most promoters pay a “show” and “win” bonus. So loosing a fight based on a bad judges call can affect 50% of the money the athlete earns.

In the NFL or Baseballt he bad calls by referees don’t cost the players 50% of their wages. They are paid to train and compete. MMA Athletes are independent athletes and the judges are costing them more then a win with these bad calls.


Fight for the Troops but Who is Fighting for the Athletes?

After watching the Facebook portion of the UFC’s Fight for the Troops II and specifically the Cody McKenzie vs Yves Edwards fight I was reminded how tough things have become for athletes seeking sponsorships. The big brands are securing the events and the small brands are merely focusing on the TV exposure. The brands remain focused on Ambush Marketing. Athletes like Cody come from Fight Teams that understand the importance of being a marketable fighter. Yet his team failed to take advantage of the fact that millions of potential eyeballs would be watching what would become the fight of the night. The fight could have ended up being a double whammy for sponsors had they sponsored Cody.

I will paste a previous article I wrote about the need for true sponsorships for athletes and the fact that the Athletes must participate in the activation and support the brands efforts. Now more than ever are brands expecting more and able to measure and quantify the results.

To sponsor something is to support it. In our sport (MMA) we are talking about athletes, events, and possibly gyms. Since the down turn of the economy you have seen more and more of the main MMA sponsors disappear or change their sponsorship terms.

What is happening today is brands are calling themselves sponsors to Ambush a particular event. We are hearing more and more that sponsor dollars are tied to TV exposure and if a fighter is not on a televised card there is no money available for him or her. Yet the fighters have no control over televising the fight or not. They control the training, the preparation and of course the execution of the fight,

It takes the average top level cycling team about 8-14 million dollars to have riders qualified enough to place at the top of the biggest races in the World. These sponsors invest in equipment, training, physical wellness, and coaches to help there athletes reach the top. Yet only one rider can win the Yellow Jersey. There is no guarantee that the team they assemble will win, challenge or even make it to the top. It is a risk and the reward could be your Team Winning the Tour De France.

NASCAR Teams usually take on a few exclusive brand sponsors that again agree to pay for tires, testing, best pit crew money can buy, engine and aerodynamic science to go faster and win some races. Being in the top 10 is often a goal because the owners and sponsors know that is who the crowd gets behind and that that where the TV Cameras are going to be. These Teams can cost sponsors upwards of 2-5 million per race and no guarantees of TV time, exposure etc.

I can give example after example but this is combat sports and that means most everything is pay for play. Fighters, trainers, training partners live in a Pay for Play world. If they can reach the biggest stage they can then trade placement on their shorts for money. If they get hurt while training for the “bigger stage” they make nothing. If their opponent gets injured and a fight can’t be rescheduled they make no money. If they end up on the un-televised portion of the biggest stage they make less or no money.

There is no support system for building better fighters. Imagine if NASCAR still used 1970 Monte Carlos and never evolved to the speed rockets they have today. What if Coke told its top racer we will give you 8 million if you win and nothing if you don’t make it on TV.

That is what is going on in MMA. You can’t call yourself a sponsor or a supporter of the sport if you are buying patches on fighters that are televised. To be a true sponsor you have to support the fighters through training, through winning and loosing. It is an investment in the fighter’s future and your brands future. If you are just paying when he or she has a televised fight then are you not just stealing exposure from the promoter? The fighter does not own that television time paying them for it and not the sacrifices made by him, his trainers and training partners is a disservice to the sport.

If you’re a sponsor rep and your trading televised spots for money, are you really doing your client any favors? What happens when all organizations charge a sponsor tax? What about when the sponsors refuse to pay because the promotion decided to bump the fight from televised to dark?

Many fighters show up to fight for the money, the show money and the sponsor money. Then they have to collect AFTER they perform. No credit for the training, no credit for the training injuries and the sacrifices in the gym that helped the fighter reach this spot.

Sponsors are not the problem they are operating in a world created by others. Brand X wants to be affiliated with this fighter because this fighter will be on TV. As Managers, Agents, fighters etc we need to look for ways to give the sponsor more then a patch next to their competitor. We need to develop marketing solutions that include activating the brand into the sport and marketing platforms that allow the sponsor to have exposure points when the fighter is not on SOMEONE’s TV show. The fights and ambush branding should be secondary to the overall campaign.

Developing marketing platforms that involve the fighters and brands. Help the brands reach the fans of the sport and stop relying on the UFC or some other organization to build your fighters name and thus allow you to do more sponsoring dollars.

We have been bringing in over $250,000 a year in sponsorship money as a result we have increased sales for companies and opportunities for fighters. We don’t treat the fighter like a commodity that creates opportunity for us. We work for the fighter and the brand. We help them determine goals and build a program that helps them reach those goals. Marketing in this new economy is about delivering results. If you get a brand on the UFC other agents will call that brand, but have you reached or touched the consumer? Converting sales and reaching a measurable return on investment is what brands want. If sponsor reps really believed that merely putting your logo on the ass of a fighter will spur sales wouldn’t they be putting their companies logo and not Tapouts.

As a fighter invest in yourself and your coaches. Build a brand for you. Only fighters and trainers know how hard they work to get to the fight, I think MMA fighters train harder then any other athlete in the world. The Ultimate Fighter tells you that lots of people are interested in seeing no name fighters train and live the fighter lifestyle on that road to greatness. Don’t wait until some promoter or MMA news site say’s you are great, make yourself great and brand yourself like you are the next Fedror. Act as if.

As a sponsor, get involved with your fighters. Make them a part of your brand. Look at Moto for a great example of how to harness the athletes and fans into a billion dollar industry. You wont see riders wearing Yamaha Jerseys riding a Suzuki. You see brands trying to connect with the consumer they want by supporting and developing the future leaders of the sport. Fighters have no control as to when they will be on TV but if you help build the best fighter in the World you will be on every media outlet you could ever had dreamed for,

Support the Sport and those that make it great. The only guaranteed TV time is to buy a commercial or sponsor the event itself.


Welcome

Welcome to the Ingrained Media blog.  We are excited to share our vision through this blog.  We will be blogging about marketing, advertising, social media, and brand building.  We are passionate about marketing and sports.

The Brands we represent are some of the best in the World.  They are forward thinking and we are proud to be associated with them.  We will share some of our success stories and of course our failures along the way.

We also represent some World Class athletes in various sports included in this group is World Champion UFC stars and PRCA Cowboys.  Our clients come first in everything we do.

 

Jason Genet

Founder