Aldo vs. Faber: Gate and Attendance

April 26, 2010

Dana White announced that the WEC’s debut on PPV broke the organization’s best marks for attendance and live gate receipts when it brought Aldo vs. Faber to Sacramento, California on Saturday, April 24th. The show drew 14, 144 people to the ARCO Arena and generated a live gate of over $1 million.

Payout Perspective:

No surprise that this event shattered attendance and gate records for the organization. Zuffa put a ton of marketing muscle behind this fight and Reed Harris had been reporting for weeks that the show was selling very well. Greg Saks at Tapology reported that the google trending patterns for the main event fighters was also remarkably high for a WEC show.

Now, we’ll all just have to sit tight and wait for this PPV number…

Here’s a list of the WEC’s top five in both gates and attendance (courtesy of our Blue Book):

Attendance

1. WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber (14,144)
2. WEC 41: Faber vs. Brown II (13,027)
3. WEC 34: Faber vs. Pulver (12,682 )
4. WEC 38: Faber vs. Pulver II (10,201)
5. WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson (10,207)

Gate

1. WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber ($1,000,000+)
2. WEC 41: Faber vs. Brown II ($815,000)
3. WEC 34: Faber vs. Pulver ($739,000)
4. WEC 36: Faber vs. Brown ($564,000)
5. WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson ($550,000)

Aldo vs. Faber: Payout Perspective

April 25, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we’ll be taking a look at WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber (only it wasn’t titled WEC 48 for various reasons we’ll cover below) that was held on Saturday, April 24th from the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. The event featured a plethora of great match-ups, including two title fights: Aldo vs. Faber and Henderson vs. Cerrone.

Okay Jose, Aldo dominates Faber and ends run at the top of 145

Jose Aldo’s name has been cropping up near the top of everyone’s pound-for-pound list more frequently as of late and his performance at WEC 48 will have done nothing to change that. Aldo was utterly dominant at WEC 48. In Aldo, the WEC has itself a new workhorse champion and it doesn’t look as though he’s going to be dethroned (no pun intended, I swear) anytime soon.

However, I think the real question on everyone’s mind is where does Urijah Faber go from here? Faber is unquestionably the WEC’s most popular fighter and single-handedly responsible for the WEC’s top four events in both attendance and live gate receipts. But he’s now lost three title fights in a row at featherweight and there are seemingly other challengers waiting in the wings. Its not exactly a Rich Franklin scenario yet, because there’s probably some interest in a Faber-Brown III (which makes sense now that they’ve both lost). And, if he were to string together a few decisive victories, he could maybe challenge Aldo again. I’m just not sure how competitive that rematch would be (even though it would probably still sell like hotcakes).

A few years ago, Faber had talked about moving down a weight class to fight Miguel Torres in a super fight, but the thinking at the time was that he didn’t want to interfere with Joseph Benavidez’s shot at the 135lbs strap. Still, there are some interesting match-ups for Faber down at 135 and it would certainly allow the WEC to keep Faber relevant within the organization.

Henderson dispatches Cerrone in quick fashion

I think the expectation – certainly my own – was that this was going to be another grueling war, so I was quite shocked when it ended so abruptly. It was even more shocking when held in contrast to the rest of the fight card that was literally a drag ‘em out war from start to finish.

What’s next for Henderson? He’ll probably fight the winner of WEC 49: Varner vs. Shalorus, which is to be held in Edmonton, Alberta on June 20th (especially if its Varner). However, Shane Roller has strung together three victories in the octagon and his last loss came at the hands of Henderson; a rematch there could be interesting.

Garcia-Sung Jung put on a fight for the ages

Everything that’s right and good about the sport of MMA was embodied in the three round WAR that Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung fought on Saturday’s night prelim card on Spike TV: desire, heart, dedication, athleticism, skill, and sportsmanship. Garcia and Sung Jung beat the hell out of one another to the point of disbelief and came out all smiles at the end. Many thought Jung won the fight, but when Garcia’s hand was raised it didn’t matter – there were no losers. Rematch, please.

Some are even calling it the WEC’s Griffin-Bonnar moment, but we’ll reserve judgement until we see how the WEC’s next few events materialize. However, as I mentioned on Twitter last night, it will definitely be interesting to seeing these quarterlies come through on Monday or Tuesday, because they should be stellar. Even if that fight didn’t convince a ton of people to buy the show, it should help the WEC’s stock (although perhaps not as much considering the WEC was given nary a mention on the broadcast).

Aldo vs. Faber Sans the WEC

Dana White revealed on Saturday night that contractual conflicts between Zuffa’s two television homes – Spike and Versus – was the reason Aldo vs. Faber was promoted as a brand-less fight for the last month.

(Courtesy of MMAJunkie)

“[The WEC and UFC] are two different brands on two different networks,” White said. “Even though they’re owned by the same company, they’re two different brands owned by the same company. The networks aren’t going to let us do it.”

 

 With Versus, the traditional home of the WEC, committed to broadcasting hockey with the NHL playoffs, White instead turned to Spike TV as a place to air two preliminary fights as a lead-in to the WEC’s first-ever pay-per-view event.

 

But with Spike TV known as the home of the UFC on cable television and Versus holding the rights to the WEC, a compromise had to be reached. White said he was pleased that all parties were able to come to an agreement, even if it did result in an odd brand-free fight night.

It would have been nice for the WEC to tag its brand to the event and gain the additional impressions from all the promotion the fight was given, but in the end the organization is still going to gain tremendously from this event. The fans aren’t stupid. Those who watched the fights on Spike or bought the PPV, not knowing who Garcia or Sung Jung or Aldo or Faber was, are going to be damn curious as to how they can see them again – and they’ll find out.

Be sure to check out the discussion we had earlier in the week on this brand-less event.

Note: I’m still a little curious why, even on the PPV, there was scant mention of the WEC. I don’t want to speculate at all, because I have no working knowledge of the situation pertaining to Spike and Versus. However, the commentators didn’t mention the WEC by name, Bruce Buffer didn’t acknowledge the titleholders as WEC champions, and even promotion of the organization’s next event wasn’t titled WEC 49. Definitely interested to see how this continues to unfold.

Aldo vs. Faber sets WEC records

Aldo vs. Faber set WEC records in both attendance and live gate receipts: the 14,144 fans in attendance generated $1 million+ in gate money. If you’re looking to compare, WEC 48 outdrew UFC 73: Silva vs. Marquardt in attendance and was just 500 short of UFC 65: Hughes vs. St. Pierre II. However, both UFC events did far more in gate money. Still, not too shabby.

Harris gets just reward

WEC 34 is probably a night that Reed Harris will always remember, because it marked a significant breakthrough for the company he founded 10+ years ago. He’s worked as hard or harder than anyone in the business to put his organization on the map, and it was nice to see him rewarded by the performance of Aldo vs. Faber (a card that will hopefully become another breakthrough for his company).

Congratulations, Reed!

Production Notes

The production was solid as always, but I noticed the new graphics scheme for the event and really liked it. The tale of the tape, the fight clock, the fighters key strengths, and the way broadcast cut to and from replays – it was simple, conservative, but also very modern and professional.

I hope it’s something the UFC considers adopting as well; it gave the entire event a very polished and pro sports feel.

Sponsorship Watch

MMAPayout.com’s Sponsorship Blue Book has been updated (reminder that you can always find the Blue Book at the top of the every page).

Bud Light had a notably stronger presence on the PPV tonight. The logo was at the center of the canvas as always, but the Bud Light replay was used pretty consistently (although I’d still like to see Mike or Joe introduce it every time they use it) and there were several 3 second presenting sponsor inserts throughout the night featuring “Bud Light: Here we go.” which is a nice play on Goldberg’s oft-used catch phrase. There’s really some potential there to take that tag line and make a promotional campaign out of it.

AMP Energy Drink had a strong presence on the broadcast and they seem to really get it where activation is concerned. Not only have they sponsored the WEC, but they put a lot of marketing effort behind Urijah Faber with his commercial and AMP walkout kit (shorts, shirt, hat, head band, etc.). Not to mention the company also sponsored Chad Mendes whose fight was shown both on the prelim and the PPV.

MMAterial Facts (04/23/10): WEC Prepares for PPV Debut, Strikeforce Signs Pan-Asian TV Deal

April 23, 2010

  • Shine International and Tiger Gate to launch Strikeforce on KIX action channel in Asia
  • When it comes to a UFC/WEC merger, Dana says he knows what he’s doing
  • Zuffa to learn if fans’ wallets will open for WEC on pay-per-view
  • GOP picks fight with secretary of state over TV census ad
  • UFC Defending Newfound Political Influence with Aggressive Federal Lobbying Efforts

Shine International and Tiger Gate to launch Strikeforce on KIX action channel in Asia

Shine International today announced it has sold Pan-Asian rights for STRIKEFORCE®, one of the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions, to Tiger Gate Entertainment. The Lionsgate and Saban Capital-owned broadcaster will launch the show via its KIX action channel across Asian territories, including, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. The deal also includes Pay Per View rights in HD.  With MMA quickly becoming a global phenomenon, Shine International has now sold STRIKEFORCE’s library programming in 14 markets across Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia.

“It was important for us to find the right partner in Asia to continue to build the STRIKEFORCE franchise, and we’ve found that in Tiger Gate, a like-minded company. We’re excited to see STRIKEFORCE enter another important market as the brand continues to grow globally,” said Chris Grant, President of Shine International.

“STRIKEFORCE is completely on-brand with our programming vision for KIX.  The timing of the deal is also fortuitous, as the demand for this specific genre continues to escalate.  Given the focus KIX will bring to the world of MMA, we anticipate the STRIKEFORCE brand exploding throughout the Asian territories,” adds Paul Presburger, Head of Business Affairs of Tiger Gate.

The STRIKEFORCE® library of programming includes 30 episodes and 56 hours of fights that have aired on NBC and Showtime, respectively. Internationally distributed content includes upcoming live fights through February 2012 as well as STRIKEFORCE Challengers fights, pitting STRIKEFORCE up-and-comers against each other. After signing a landmark deal to air live events on SHOWTIME earlier this year, STRIKEFORCE earned the premium network its highest MMA rating ever on August 15, 2009 with “Carano vs. Cyborg.” (PRESS RELEASE)

***

MMAPayout Notes: KIX is Asia’s brand new premier television destination for Asian action from Tiger Gate Entertainment. KIX offers a high-octane ticket to everything action and boosts viewers’ adrenaline rush with clever action reality shows, exciting martial arts fight events, bone-crunching extreme sports, and explosive action films. To wow the Asian viewers, KIX showcases a plethora of Asia’s hottest entertainment programs, new special-event programming, and original productions.

KIX ACTION ASIA targets a slightly male-skewed audience aged between 18 to 45 years old, people who enjoy non-stop high-energy, and fast-paced, real-life action entertainment. However, the channel’s primary audience is aged 18 to 28.

When it comes to a UFC/WEC merger, Dana says he knows what he’s doing

White isn’t ready to release his blueprint for the company’s future when it comes to merging the two organization’s together, but he wants everyone to know they should relax because he’s got a plan.

“The hardest part of all this is just figuring it out and believe it or not, I have a plan for this whole thing,” White said. “What I’m doing today is based on my idea that all television is going Internet. That’s what I believe and I’ve believed it for a long time.

“One thing I can say is, whether you agree or disagree with the decisions I’ve made, every year we’ve taken this thing to another level. What we’re going to do over the next three years is pretty (expletive) cool.”

White also said that he isn’t against dedicating a season of the UFC reality series “The Ultimate Fighter” to lightweight fighters who would then compete in the WEC. (Las Vegas Sun)

***

No WEC, no problem; Dana White says missing logo all part of master plan
Surprisingly, that apparently includes removing the identity of the WEC brand that Zuffa, LLC has worked so hard to build since acquiring the promotion in 2006.

White said it’s a price the company had to pay in order to expand the reach of the promotion for this historic event.

But is White at all concerned that the missing logo – and the UFC-esque feel of “Aldo vs. Faber” – will make it difficult to use the landmark event to grow the popularity and brand identification of the WEC?

“No,” White said flatly. “You leave that up to me. I’ll fix that; trust me. I like to think that I know what I’m doing, and we’ll see how this thing goes on Saturday.  (MMAJunkie)

Zuffa to learn if fans’ wallets will open for WEC on pay-per-view

Said Faber: “You can definitely see they’re doing a little more here, basically lending some of the star power and people they’ve promoted along the process — Dana White being one of them, Joe Rogan, whose Q rating is probably the highest rated in the sport. It’s nice because it’s an event people need to see and they’re having influential people talk about it.”

How much the maneuver pumps up Saturday’s pay-per-view tally, said White, no one knows, yet anything less than twice the 70,000 to 90,000 reported buys for an April 3 boxing bout between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. would be “terrible.” (Sports Illustrated)

GOP picks fight with secretary of state over TV census ad

Secretary of State Ross Miller is facing questions from political opponents over his appearance alongside UFC fighters in an ad encouraging Nevadans to participate in the U.S. Census.

The ad — which features Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters, an octagon girl, UFC President Dana White, and Miller urging people to send in their census forms — has prompted the Nevada Republican Party to accuse Miller, a Democrat, in an ethics complaint of using taxpayer money to further his political career.

The UFC paid for production of the ad, while the state spent $156,723 to air it statewide between March 10 and April 3, Miller said.   (Las Vegas Sun)

UFC Defending Newfound Political Influence with Aggressive Federal Lobbying Efforts

Between 2008 and 2009, UFC dedicated more than half a million dollars to influencing federal lawmakers and government officials, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis indicates.

The flurry of spending comes at a time of peak influence for mixed martial arts, not long ago an athletic backwater. And it reflects a willingness by UFC to aggressively defend its newfound influence.

“By moving into federal lobbying efforts, [UFC] are behaving exactly as one would expect a mainstream sport would behave,” said Marie Hardin, associate professor of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, who compares UFC’s latest move to that of the nation’s most established professional sports organizations, such as the National Football League and Major League Baseball. (Capital Eye Blog)

VIDEO OF THE DAY

  • MMA Live: 4-22-10: MMA Live recaps a wild weekend for Strikeforce, which included a post-fight brawl in Nashville. King Mo Lawal is back on the program as a Strikeforce champion. Is Jake Shields now UFC-bound? Urijah Faber joins the show to preview his title fight.

QUICK HITS

  • MacDonald ready to Get It On for shot at Strikeforce (Edmonton Journal)
  • Former LSU fullback finds MMA success (2 The Advocate)
  • Matt Hughes Promotes MMA Workout and Complete Fitness System (Press Release)
  • MMA returns to the Target Center with 10 UFC vets Saturday night (Star Tribune)
  • Bellator’s season-two debut and replay each earn top ratings for FSN (MMAJunkie)
  • “WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber” official weigh-in results: All fighters make weight (MMAJunkie)
  • Dana White says UFC still coming to Oakland, just lukewarm on Hawaii (MMAJunkie)
  • Randleman vs. Gracie, Villasenor vs. “Jacare” official for May 15 Strikeforce event (MMAJunkie)
  • Rafael “Feijao” vs Antwain Britt official for May 15 Strikeforce St. Louis Event (MMAPayout)
  • M-1 on Fedor’s Return: Ball in Strikeforce’s Court (Sherdog)
  • Hornbuckle, Thomas Advance in Bellator Tourney; More Matchups Announced (Sherdog)
  • Lesnar, Carwin Sign Off on UFC 116 Bout (MMAFighting)
  • Cesar Gracie on Aoki, Possible Sanctions (MMAFighting)
  • SAC TOWN NOW FABER TOWN WITH URIJAH FABER DAY (MMAWeekly)
  • ALMEIDA VS. HUGHES IN THE WORKS FOR UFC 117 (MMAWeekly)
  • Nick Diaz talks about the brawl, GSP and triathlons (Yahoo! Sports)
  • Florian vs. Maynard Signed For UFC 118 (Heavy)
  • Joe Stevenson vs. Takanori Gomi In The Works For UFC On Versus 2 (Heavy)

TV LISTINGS

  • HDNet Fights Vault: Shinya Aoki at 8 PM ET on HDNet (04/23/10)
  • Fighting Words with Mike Straka (feat. Bobby Lashley) at 8:30 PM ET on HDNet (04/23/10)
  • InsideMMA (BJ Penn, Chael Sonnen, Jens Pulver) at 9 PM ET on HDNet (04/23/10)
  • HDNet Fights: Sengoku Raiden Championship 12 at 10 PM ET on HDNet (04/23/10)
  • WEC 48: Aldo vs Faber at 10 PM ET on PPV (04/24/10)

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • WEC 48: Aldo vs Faber at 10 PM ET on PPV (04/24/10)
  • Bellator Fighting Championships XVI at 7:30 PM ET on FSN (04/29/10)
  • Bellator Fighting Championships XVII at 7:30 PM ET on FSN (05/06/10)
  • HDNet Fights: MFC Vindication at 10 PM ET on HDNet (05/07/10)
  • UFC 113 : Machida vs Shogun 2 at 10 PM ET on PPV (05/08/10)
  • Bellator Fighting Championships XVIII at 7:30 PM ET on FSN (05/13/10)
  • Strikeforce St. Louis: Overeem vs Rogers at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime (05/15/10)
  • Bellator Fighting Championships XIX at 7:30 PM ET on FSN (05/20/10)
  • UFC 114 : Rampage vs Evans at 10 PM ET on PPV (05/29/10)
Huerta, Hinton Cleared for Bellator Season 2 Debut

Aldo vs. Faber Sans the WEC

April 23, 2010

John Morgan of MMAJunkie.com has written an interesting piece that features Dana White discussing the rationale for removing the WEC from this weekend’s event title and fight promos:

But is White at all concerned that the missing logo – and the UFC-esque feel of “Aldo vs. Faber” – will make it difficult to use the landmark event to grow the popularity and brand identification of the WEC?

 

“No,” White said flatly. “You leave that up to me. I’ll fix that; trust me. I like to think that I know what I’m doing, and we’ll see how this thing goes on Saturday.

Payout Perspective:

In removing the WEC logo from the event title, Zuffa is shifting attention from the brand to the fighters and relying upon its stars to sell the fight – that’s an interesting approach for a company that has traditionally been very brand-oriented in its marketing. Zuffa has been reluctant to shift its focus in the past, because it doesn’t want to lose negotiating leverage (i.e., help build a fighter’s unquestionable popularity and then have to submit to his contract demands).

However, the power of a brand can only take an organization so far. While it can provide a platform to generate awareness and recruit a base following, it’s the stars that attract an audience. This is generally true of all professional sports: the brands like the NFL or the Minnesota Vikings provide the platform for the stars to shine and sell to the masses (e.g., it’s not the Vikings that necessarily sell a MNF game as much as it is Brett Favre or AD).

Although, that doesn’t mean that the brand is less important, because that platform is what you use to sell collective television rights and merchandising licenses; the value of selling the brand that contains all the stars is greater than selling individual rights to this fight here or these fighters there.

I’m not a mind reader – only Dana and the boys and girls at Zuffa know what’s up – but I suspect they’ll try to use guys like Faber, Aldo, Cerrone, and Henderson as the main selling points of the PPV and then leverage them into generating interest in the regular WEC on Versus cards.

TUF 11, Episode 4: 1.5 HH Rating

April 22, 2010

MMAPayout.com has learned that the fourth episode of The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 earned the highest rating yet on the season with 1.5 HH rating on an average audience of 2 million viewers. The show scored very well in the M18-34 and M18-49 demographics with a 2.4 and 1.9 respectively.

The quarterly hours tracked as follows: 1.33, 1.49, 1.58, and 1.64.

Payout Perspective:

This is the second straight week the ratings have increased for the show. It’s not a HUGE increase, by any means, but my expectation was that the ratings would drop to their average levels as they’ve been shown to do over the last 7-8 seasons. That still may happen, but there’s certainly a resiliency in this season that others didn’t have.

Perhaps there’s renewed interest in TUF as the result of the new fan push the UFC made last summer (after TUF 9, but before and during TUF 10) that has risen the baseline – more so considering its Chuck vs. Tito. Maybe the ratings are a reflection of Spike using a new schedule strategy that tries to pair strong shows together to make the viewers continue watching the station for longer periods of time. It’s even possible that last weekend’s brawl on CBS pushed some people towards this week’s episode of TUF.

I think it’s likely a case of all three having a part in the ratings, but in judging the quarterly results I’m also inclined to think that people who started watching the show figured out there were going to be two fights and called their friends (especially when it was discovered that this season’s villain, Jamie Yager, was fighting in the second bout).

Here’s a look at the ratings thus far:

TUF 11   Overall M18-34 M18-49
  Episode 1 1.5 2.1 1.8
  Episode 2 1.2 1.9 1.54
  Episode 3 1.3 1.63 1.53
  Episode 4 1.5 2.4 1.9
  Episode 5      
  Episode 6      
  Episode 7      
  Episode 8      
  Episode 9      
  Episode 10      
  Episode 11      
  Season Ave. 1.375 2.0075 1.6925
  Season Med. 1.4 2 1.67

WEC 48 Coverage @ MMAPayout.com

April 22, 2010

MMAPayout.com will be streaming a host of content for this weekend’s debut WEC PPV, WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber. All content can be viewed through this page. Here’s the schedule of events:

  • WEC 48 pre-fight press conference on Thursday, April 22 at 1 PM PST (4 PM EST).
  • WEC 48 weigh-in on Friday, April 23 at 4 PM PST (7 PM EST).
  • WEC 48 post-fight press conference on Saturday, April 24 at 10 PM PST (1 AM EST)

UFC Sponsors Picking Up Activation

April 21, 2010

Earlier in the week, MMAPayout.com discussed some of the activation that sponsors are planning around next month’s boxing super fight featuring Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley. Here’s a look at some of the things UFC sponsors are finally start to do involving the fight property.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC’s VP of Sponsorship, Mike Pine, has done a remarkable job since being hired to bring in some pretty high-level sponsors for the organization. Pine negotiated a deal with Harley Davidson in January 2008, which essentially gave the organization its first mainstream corporate endorsement. Not long after Pine reeled in Anheuser Busch and placed its Bud Light brand in the center of the octagon with a three year deal – Anheuser Busch was then and still is the leading sports sponsor and advertiser in the world. If those two weren’t enough, he’s also brought Tequila Cazadores, Edge Shave Gel, The US Marines, USA Today, and SI.com into the fold throughout his tenure.

But despite all of these deals, we’ve yet to really see any of these brands seriously activate around their sponsorship investments. Bud Light, a very creative brand, has been uncharacteristically quiet where activation is concerned; only using special UFC co-branded packaging aimed at the Hispanic demographic in select markets. The bulk of what was expected – at least in my mind – in the way of commercials, fighter endorsements, on-site promotions, off-site contests, and other means of associating with the UFC have yet to materialize. The same could be said of Harley Davidson,  Tequilla Cazadores, and Edge – all were pretty silent.

Silent until now, that is.

Bud Light has just launched a UFC promotion in conjunction with Facebook that requires one to join Bud Light’s Facebook page in order to become eligible for a trip for two to UFC 114 in Las Vegas. It’s a great way to integrate social media with activation on one of its many sports properties.

Harley Davidson recently unveiled its Ultimate UFC Weekend sweepstakes that packages round-trip tickets for four to UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin and the opportunity to meet Dana White and UFC Octagon girls. I was a little surprised that the grand prize in no way involves a Harley Davidson motorcycle, but the contest does offer five first prizes in the form of $400 gift cards from Harley Davidson. Regardless, the fact that Harley is finally starting to take activate around its sponsorship is a very good sign; this contest could be the start of more profound marketing in the future.

Edge Shave Gel is also jumping into the fray by producing co-branded UFC packaging that offers the consumer a free three-month subscription to the UFC Vault if they go online and submit the SPC number of their purchased gel container at UFC.com. There the consumer can also enter into a contest where the grand prizer winner will receive a trip for two to UFC 116 (along with benefits similar to the HD contest).

But what’s the point? Why even bother if you’re Bud Light or Harley or Edge? There are multiple reasons to activating around a sponsorship. These contests, in particular, offer the following advantages:

  1. They help to increase brand awareness and attempt to influence some sort of reciprocity in the consumer (we support your sport, so support us).
  2. The contests also offer each company (and the UFC) access to the consumer data of entrants that fill out the forms.
  3. Not only does this give the UFC and its partners a better indication of who their customers are (think of the information users hand over by signing up on Bud Light’s FB page), but it also gives the partners an idea of whether the partnership is a good fit. The Harley Davidson contest is a perfect example: it asks entrants if they own a motorcycle or plan to buy one in the next year, which provides valuable feedback as to whether HD has invested (or invested enough) in reaching the right demographic.

I’m inclined to believe that the number of activation platforms around the UFC has only started to increase as the economy has recovered to the point where these companies once again have discretionary money to get creative and spend on activation. However, I also happen to think that UFC 116 plays a big part in their rationale; Brock Lesnar is the biggest draw in the sport and will garner these sponsors a host of additional exposure that they wouldn’t normally get at a regular UFC event.

So keep an eye on the UFC and its partners over the next few months. Please let us know if you see examples of activation in your areas.

Note: I focused primarily on HD and Edge, but it’s only fair to point out some of the cool things that Tequila Cazadores is doing online to activate around its UFC sponsorship. They’ve got UFC party tips, mobile swag, and other interactive content on its website.

The US Marines have also done well on the activation front; creating a sort of “Warriors” theme to their entire UFC activation platform that consists of commercials, on-site contests (like a pull-up showdown at select UFC events), and inviting UFC fighters to train at their academies.

Bellator Season 2 Ratings Up

April 21, 2010

Bellator Fighting Championships made its second season debut earlier this month to what its now reporting was a record television audience for the organization.

Bellator Fighting Championships made its FOX Sports Net debut April 8th as FSN’s highest-rated national program on both Thursday and Sunday night. The Thursday premiere lifted the network’s prime time ratings by an impressive 60 percent compared to the same time period average in the 2nd Quarter of 2009. In addition, the Bellator 13 re-air was also up 57 percent from the 2nd Quarter time period average on Sundays.

 

Bellator 13 from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood , Fla. , was the highest-rated program nationally distributed by FSN on Thursday, April 8th and Sunday, April 11th.

 

The show was especially successful in attracting males under the age of 54 to the network. Bellator 13:

 

- Increased FSN’s Thursday night 18-34 male audience by 143 percent;
– Increased FSN’s Thursday night 18-49 male audience by 153 percent; and
– Increased FSN’s Thursday night 25-54 male audience by 180 percent.

 

Bellator also showed the ability to draw strong local ratings for individual FSN affiliates. For example, Bellator 13 drew a .85 local rating for FSN Pittsburgh, where the event aired live and in prime time.

 

“In our first week on FOX Sports Net, we were able to drive a substantial increase in viewership to the network nationally,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “We are confident that working with FSN, together we can significantly build upon this strong foundation. My focus from day #1 has been to produce and promote compelling, competitive tournament based MMA programming designed to appeal to MMA fans just like me. My belief is that our tournament format, combined with great fights, world class fighters and strong attention to production quality will continue to increase viewer support for our events on Fox Sports Net.”

Payout Perspective:

Bellator has put on a fantastic product thus far, but it won’t matter unless people actually see it. So, obviously, these ratings are encouraging from the organization’s perspective. However, I’ll caution that long term success via the Fox Sports Network has proven to be quite illusive for MMA promotions; both the IFL and Pride failed to gain any sort of traction by using the network. This newest television distribution deal featuring FSN, NBC, and Telemundo should just be considered a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

UFC Undisputed 2010: Career Mode First-Look

April 21, 2010

THQ has released a new video preview of its UFC Undisputed 2010 title that this time focuses on the career mode aspect of the game that’s set for a May 25th release date.

Payout Perspective:

The more authentic THQ can make this game, the better for all stakeholders. I say that not just because it obviously makes for a better game that will sell more units, but because the more fans are able to understand how the sport really works, the more it deepens their interest and affinity for the real product.

The importance of this game moves beyond the direct revenues associated with its sale. It will be the indirect effects of this game on revenues that really pays dividends for the UFC. The additional interest generated by Undisputed will push live gate receipts, PPV buys, and merchandise sales. It will also make the UFC a more attractive property from sponsorship and regulatory perspectives.

BJ Penn's Book "Why I Fight" Finds Early Success, Surrounded By Controversy

April 21, 2010

BJ Penn may have returned from UFC 112 as a former champ, but  that has not deterred any of his fans from lining up in book stores to purchase his latest release “Why I Fight: The Belt Is Just an Accessory”.  Penn landed in Southern California this week  to promote his book and initial reports suggest that the sales have been doing quite well.  Here is a fans account of the book signing from user cagefightonacid on BloodyElbow:

BJ Penn finished his book tour signing in Torrance, California yesterday (Monday, April 19, 7pm). I got there about 3 hours early and ended up about 300th in line. BJ showed up about 10 minutes early and stayed until every single person got their book signed and picture taken (probably around midnight). He came off as really humble, was super nice and kept thanking all the fans personally.

BJ Penn Book Signing in Torrance, CA

Sports Illustrated writer Josh Gross was also on scene, and expressed his experience on-line:

Amazing fan response @bjpenndotcom‘s book signing in Torrance. 600 copies sold out hours ago. http://tweetphoto.com/19165179 … Could’ve sold 2000 books. People are buying copies from other stores and bringing them in. Line out the door. Pretty impressive.

While Penn’s book has had early success, it has not come without controversy.  Josh Gross reported in a recent SI column that UFC President Dana White was not too thrilled about Penn’s book release since it was being published without the UFC’s approval. The book was co-authored by 36-year-old freelance writer David Weintraub, who took most of the heat from Zuffa and allegedly lost his job in the process.  Josh Gross reports on the issue:

White told SI.com that after he became aware of the book, he approached Penn and Penn family lawyer, Gary Levitt, with a question: “Why would you put out a book that is 90 percent not true?” …

“I’m very happy I wrote the book but I’m also very disappointed the UFC decided to force my employer to cut me loose,” said Weintraub, who alleged UFC executive vice president of operations and production Craig Borsari told Exit 9 Films that Weintraub was “no longer welcome to work for the UFC.”

David Weintraub has allegedly issued a statement on the Sherdog forums:

I do not really post much on public forums, but a lot of people I know mentioned to me that people were discussing BJ’s new book, and even giving him a hard time about having not read the book. So now I’m posting.

BJ and I discussed his life for hundreds of hours, starting when I lived in Hilo for many weeks in 2009, to multiple phone discussions, skype chats, and countless texts/emails, etc. As the two of us put this book together, going over it as we went along, large parts of it were exchanged between myself, and Penn. When a final manuscript was put together, BJ went through it again, removing and adding parts he did/didn’t want in the text. I have physical copies of these papers with his handwriting all over it. This is how it works.

I want to clear a few things up about these books, which I’m sure most of you already know. It’s rare the subject of the book will ever actually type/write large portions of the book. Sometimes a subject will write up notes, and the co-author and subject will go over them together, but this is why you have a co-author in the first place.

In other words, BJ Penn without question read his own book, and more than once. He created this book. There is the semantic argument he “never read the book”, and yes, that’s true, when referring to the actual physical book itself. Under that standard, I’ve also never read the book. But obviously, we both read the text which became a book.

BJ responded to a Dana White text to him about the book, after White flipped out over it, and suggested he didn’t “read the book.” He wrote that because he was actually worried something ended up in the book he didn’t sign off on. It truly concerned him at first. BJ couldn’t understand what White was so livid about it, that he was replying as if he needed to go back and find out what it was. After realizing White was just being his caustic self, and being comfortable with everything in the book, he just blew off Dana’s comment. In fact, he has no desire to really address it because he thinks anyone who believes for a second he didn’t read his own book is ridiculous. I’m realizing quickly how many people like to dump on BJ (and support).

The part that really bothers ME when I hear stories like this one is how easily people will echo the words of UFC President Dana White after he makes such a statement. The UFC is not promoting the book in any way, and White has obviously done his best to discredit the book itself. For fans to take his words to heart, to actually believe them, is shocking. However, I imagine it’s much more of a small loud minority than the majority of interested people who actually do. I would think fans would support fighters over company presidents, but hey, that’s just me.

In the end I’m hopeful people enjoy the book. It’s as honest a book from a MMA fighter as you’re going to read, even if you disagree with the opinion of Penn. This book is not my opinion in any way, even if I lost my job doing freelance work with the UFC because of it. It’s BJ Penn’s book, and love him, or hate him, I can assure you it’s an honest assessment and perspective of his life.

Finally, people have commented that fighters and athletes shouldn’t be writing biographies while they’re still relevant. I don’t completely disagree with this line of reasoning, but with MMA/UFC, a fighter’s shelf life is short. If Dan Severin wrote a book right now I wonder how many people would buy it, or if the companies he fought for would promote it. I doubt it. I don’t think Kobe Bryant should be writing a book now, but his situation is completely different than a MMA fighter, to use an example.

Because of the nature of MMA, especially when you think about the contentious relationship fighters have with organizations, writing these books is important now. It’s not the same in baseball, football, and other large sports, as it is for MMA. Fighters don’t have a large voice, especially in the UFC. The organization will always do whatever they can to be bigger than the fighters. Dana White himself has said, “no fighter will ever be bigger than the UFC.” With this being the case, you cannot fault fighters who are trying to be heard now, during a time when media will actually pay attention to them.

I am doing a radio show today in New Jersey at 4pm Eastern. It’s not MMA based, but mostly news based. However, if anyone has questions regarding this book I would certainly be willing to answer some of them, and would entertain MMA questions about anything. Having spent over 6 years with UFC, I certainly believe I can answer some.

Hope those of you who read the book enjoy it. After all, it cost me my job!!!

Thanks,

David Weintraub

Here is an excerpt from BJ Penn’s book, which BloodyElbow quoted:

“K-1 was offering me $187,500 per fight – five times what the UFC was offering – and I was still willing to stay with them for one-third of that amount. This was when the relationship took a turn for the worse, and my view of White changed drastically. From that point on, I knew when it came to money, we couldn’t trust him to treat us right. Did I like him at the dinner table? Sure. But at the negotiating table? Not at all. The pressure to perform and safeguard other people’s money had changed him, even though he was constantly bragging to anyone willing to listen about how ‘big this thing was going to be.’ Things between us would never be the same.

When it was finally official I was going to fight in Japan, White called me up and told me his true feelings. ‘You mother******! You’re ******* done! You’ll never fight in the UFC again! You’re finished. You’re scorched earth, mother******. Scorched earth. Don’t call me crying saying you want to come back because you’re ******* done!’ And on and on and on, like a true professional – even going so far as to tell me I would never see my face again in a UFC video, promotion, or anything else. He also planned on removing my fight with Hughes from the UFC 46 DVD so no one would even know who I was. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’ I told him. ‘You know it wouldn’t take that much to make this work.’ But he just kept yelling.

UPDATE: BJ Penn’s “Why I Fight” book is now on the New York Times bestsellers list (BJPENN.COM)

Payout Perspective:

The controversy surrounding BJ Penn’s book will only help boost his sales, perhaps to the ire of the UFC.  Word is getting around that Penn wrote a candid take on his experiences with Dana White and the UFC, which would explain why Zuffa may be upset.  Either way, this book is filled with great stories and juicy tidbits of how not only BJ Penn as a fighter has grown and evolved over the years, but MMA as well.  The great stories,  insight, and juicy tidbits will make this a great read for most fans and should make this tour a success venture for BJ Penn.

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