UFC on FOX Event Sells Out Ad Inventory for Network Debut

September 20, 2011

During today’s UFC on FOX press conference, FOX Sports President Eric Shanks announced that all ad inventory has been sold as of yesterday (9/19) for the November 19 event scheduled to take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

The event sold out out it’s ad inventory just one month after announcing the event (two months before it’s scheduled to take place) when the newly signed seven year TV deal between the UFC and FOX was announced.  MMAFighting reports:

The quick sellout is a positive sign that blue-chip, corporate sponsors are willing to test the waters. In turn, that should mean new opportunities for fighters as well.

“We’ve gotten more credibility now because we’re on FOX with all these big sports leagues,” UFC president Dana White said. “The fact these guys are reaching out to these other sponsors and they’ve had a great response is big not only for us, but for the fighters, too. This will trickle down to everybody. It’s a big deal and yes, it’s been great and it’s only going to get better.”

 

Payout Perspective:

A few weeks back, AdWeek.com, summarized the past relationship between blue-chip sponsors and the UFC perfectly:

“Given the bloodshed and controlled violence that are hallmarks of mixed martial arts events, advertisers understandably have been skittish about aligning themselves with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But in the run-up to the UFC’s national broadcast TV debut, media buyers say demand for Fox’s new sports property should be fast and furious.”

Kevin Collins, director of national broadcast buying for Initiative, said the following regarding UFC and mainstream sponsors:

“Content is definitely an issue, but no one’s going into this with their eyes closed…You’re not going to get your traditional Sunday NFL audience, but I expect you’ll find a lot of theatrical dollars, as well as QSR and beer.”

According to FOX Sports chairman David Hill, FOX did it’s due diligence – 10 years worth of research data – before signing the TV deal with the UFC. They don’t appear to be worried about the sponsorship aspect of the deal.  “There might be a few companies that have a ‘Do Not Buy’ on the UFC, but there are a hell of a lot of companies that have a ‘Do Buy.’ If you look at the history of the Fox sports media group and what we do, we didn’t go into this with our fingers crossed” said Hill.

UFC President Dana White also shared his thoughts with MMAWeekly:

The hope is that the ad revenues will continue to grow across the board, and the trickle down will hit everything from the UFC itself to the fighters competing on the show.

“Us getting this Fox deal has already taken us to another level,” said White. “We’ve gotten more credibility now because we’re on Fox with all these big sports leagues, and the fact that these guys are reaching out to these other sponsors and they’ve had a great response is big. Not only for us, but for the fighters too.”

 

SPONSOR QUOTES FROM ADWEEK:

– “One national TV buyer who represents a client that has bought time on Spike TV’s UFC programming said he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see more mainstream brands begin to line up for MMA events.”

– “It’s not going to work for everyone,” said one entertainment buyer. “Some clients are more skittish than others. But we have good relationships with the Fox Sports guys, and we trust that they won’t burn us if we decide to test the waters.”

According to MMAPayout sources, big name sponsors such as Nike, Under Armour, and others who typically sponsor major sporting events (NFL, MLB, NASCAR, etc) on the network have stepped in to purchase the ad slots.  As CBS has told us in the past, ad sales and ratings are the two most important criteria in terms of gauging a successful network debut for MMA events.  After this week, FOX and the UFC now only need to focus on providing a quality event and attain a good viewership number in order to retain sponsors for future shows.

NOTE: A key point to make here is that although the UFC on FOX event sold out all of it’s ad inventory in about a month after announcing the event, the ad time slots they sold were only for a one-hour show, unlike the CBS shows which were two-hour slots. UFC on FOX only had half the ad time slots to sell for this event compared to a typical two-hour MMA network event.

7 Responses to “UFC on FOX Event Sells Out Ad Inventory for Network Debut”

  1. mmaguru on September 20th, 2011 5:39 PM

    Hi Jose,
    How does this differ from CBS and Strikeforce? Just curious, I seem to recall Strikeforce on CBS doing well in the commercial sales as well.

  2. Jose Mendoza on September 20th, 2011 6:21 PM

    mmaguru:

    Yup:
    http://www.sherdog.com/news/news/No-Fedor-No-Problem-Strikeforce-CBS-Ads-Sold-Out-23875

    EliteXC started struggling once ratings went down. Strikeforce did well considering first event was Fedor vs Rogers and did good rating numbers. A 3rd event (after Nashville) would have been rough for Strikeforce unless they put some stars like Gina Carano and Fedor on the show.

  3. michael on September 21st, 2011 1:49 AM

    hi jose, thx for the good article!

  4. Jose Mendoza on September 21st, 2011 10:14 AM

    michael:

    No problem. No one is really talking about how the sponsors perspective of the first UFC on FOX event, so I thought it would be interesting to do a write-up on it. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Bill Jennings on September 22nd, 2011 1:51 AM

    CBS may have had 2 times the inventory it had to sell compared to Fox, but Fox is paying more than 4 times what CBS is paying so that’s some serious value you need to recoup with your inventory.

    That inventory already being sold is a huge sign. If the demand continues fox will need more inventory and they will have to do 2 hour shows instead of 1 hour.

  6. Mossman on September 22nd, 2011 7:43 AM

    I wouldn’t go get all excited yet… Its going to be the same usual suspects from Spike paying 3 times as much for less exposure time on Fox. Movies, Video Games, and Burger King (the only company who has never officially sponsored the UFC… but buys time around all programming, p.s. TUF inclusion is not sponsorship of the UFC, it WAS controlled by Spike and dumped in deals as value add for you laymen).

    Glad to see Fox is getting a return for their spend… but I wouldn’t call it the “door opening to mainstream sponsors”.

    Media buyers in particular are hard pressed to try to sell UFC to their clients on buys, as of the perception of brutality and bloodshed… as wrong as it is…is still very much the sentiment.

    The biggest obstacle for the UFC to mainstream sponsors isn’t its product… its the lack of ability to educate those with the dollars. You’re going to be hard pressed to get money from a perfect fit for the demo like say… Taco bell, because their head of marketing who controls all dollars is a 65 yr old woman who doesn’t understand her demo as well as she believes she does and lets her own perceptions of “Cage Fighting” influence her decisions on how to impact her audience and ultimately the bottom line of the brand.

    However if she was educated correctly… You’d be seeing a different response.

    It is frankly up to the organization to do a better job and as we have seen in the last few months… there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement outside of the endemic brands since the Fox deal was announced. You’d think if brands were beating down the door, you would have seen them participating already in events prior to the “biggest fight the UFC has ever put on network television” just to be a part of that historic show.

    Big opportunity missed in my opinion.

  7. Jose Mendoza on September 22nd, 2011 3:47 PM

    Bill:

    That’s a good point you bring up and I agree with that. A 1 hour show with a tittle fight is playing it safe for FOX and I believe they will use the ratings and sponsor list for this 1 hour show to leverage off UFC programming for the next UFC on FOX show and for the other Fox properties (FX and Fuel).

    Mossman:

    Good input. It seems that big name sponsors will trust FOX’s decision of airing UFC on network and will analyze how the first event goes. It’s why I think both UFC and FOX are being very careful with what fights they booked for this event, the 1 hour time slot, etc.

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