Sponsorship in MMA: Keys to Raising a Fighter’s Stock Part II

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson repping his exclusive sponsorship agreement with Xbox.

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson repping his exclusive sponsorship agreement with Xbox.

Following on from last week’s entry, this week we detail five different marketing tactics that could improve the value of an MMA athlete’s sponsorship agreement to their fighters. Depending on different organisations’ policies regarding social media and sponsor endorsement, these methods are also applicable to professional athletes of all sports, from soccer to sailing.

1) Embrace the function of social media.

As a cheap, immediate and simple way to converse with different audiences, social media stands out as the finest promotional tool. Fans can voluntarily subscribe to an MMA athlete based on their interest in the talent. Content+, a marketing agency, revealed that 67 percent of Twitter users invest in a brand they follow. When a fighter communicates their support of a product or service, they help bridge a sponsoring brand and his or her audience.

Talents like UFC flyweight Joseph Benavidez have shown the ability to create a sustainable campaign that attracts new interest, while entertaining existing followers. Through dialogue with fans and taking nominations, the MMA JOBE Awards created exciting content that motivated fans to respond. This self-marketing strategy is a template for athletes to combine sponsorship deals with genuine gratitude for fans’ support.

2) Participate in video content.

As a form of communication, videos can offer a visual insight into a fighter’s personal character. Through demonstrations, interviews and monologues caught on camera, an MMA talent can discuss a subject close to the heart, conveying more emotion than most pieces of writing ever could.

By engaging in video projects with their sponsor, MMA talent connect their image with a product or service while openly sharing their appreciation of its benefits. The combination of entertainment and education that video content can portray so well is a recipe for genuine intrigue. This interest converts attention into tangible gain. Tapout, an MMA-centric brand that indulges its sponsored athletes more than most brands, depicted this blend in its #MyFightMatters commercial. The emotionally provocative footage of MMA athletes training over an inspirational monologue identifies the target audience and resonates with their appreciation of hard work and sacrifice.

3) Adopt a slogan to carry the brand.

A slogan can represent many things: an ideology, an instruction, an encouragement or a benefit. This flexibility empowers the saying. Informative, yet vague enough to interpret differently, an effective slogan is a clever means of connecting with an audience. A great example of this in MMA is Daniel Cormier’s “Embrace the Grind.” The Olympian developed his brand using three words. Not only does the mantra reveal Cormier’s personal outlook and share it with his fanbase, but its meaning also allows viewers to relate through their own struggles.

The slogan’s length enables its merchandise potential, while also making for a clever Twitter hashtag. It is a brilliant example of combining marketing savvy with a fighter’s heartfelt principles.

4) Speak in sound bites.

Shout-outs are a dime a dozen. Depending on your outlook, they can also be frustrating, especially when they ignore a question posed to the fighter or emerge in quick succession. A lack of information or context stokes this frustration.

As a solution, projecting a company’s name, audience, service and message in a longer yet more comprehensive sound bite is one way to inform the audience. Short audio snippets offer substance without compromising the fluidity of an interview. They can be recycled and shared without great time or effort, too. The more detail a fighter shares about his sponsor, the more value he or she represents to them. The minute difference between a shout-out and a sound bite can have much larger financial repercussions.

5) Keep the crossover audience sweet.

Finally, and most importantly, a fighter and sponsor must have a deep understanding of their crossover audience. Nobody likes a message rammed down their throat, particularly when it has no interest to them. A t-shirt logo or banner spot is not enough to establish a genuine connection with the audience.

On pay-per-views, where buyers have already spent money to watch the broadcast, a logo must represent more than just another place to spend money. Talents and their endorsers must create dynamic, exciting analogies that endear a brand to the MMA audience. Through promotional giveaways, Gracie family endorsement and the communication of nutritional information, Bony Acai has established itself as a leading brand in MMA circles. In doing so, the brand has enjoyed domestic growth in Brazil, where it is synonymous with mixed martial arts.

In modern MMA, a competitor’s value goes beyond the cage. How far does it go? That’s up to the fighter.


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