Sponsorship Spotlight: RYU

May 24, 2012

Welcome to another edition of Sponsorship Spotlight.  This time we are featuring MMA apparel company and UFC® sponsor RYU.  MMA Payout had the opportunity get in touch with RYU CEO Christopher Martens for a quick Q&A regarding its recent involvement as a UFC® sponsor.

You will likely see a lot of RYU this weekend during UFC 146 as RYU will have its largest presence to date on-site and during the PPV.

MP:  When was the company founded? How did you come up with the name?

RYU:   The company was founded in the fall of 2008 and we recently launched our debut line of premium men’s performance apparel in February 2012.

RYU is an acronym for Respect Your Universe, but it’s also a term that is the embodiment of the principles and philosophy held by the company.

MP:  Where are the headquarters? It appears that design and development is in Portland, whereas HQ is in Vegas. What’s the reason for the dual offices?

RYU:  We were incorporated in Las Vegas and we have the Sports Marketing piece of the brand located there, but Portland is one of the centers in the country – or even the world – for outdoor and athletic apparel, as well as footwear creation, so the resources for us to create innovative products are all located here in Portland.

MP: What influences does the company have from Nike?

RYU:  RYU has the influence of experience.

We have four executives who came from Nike, and our executive team as a whole comes from leadership positions at multiple major sports apparel brands.

MP:  How is the company structured?

RYU:  As typical of most consumer product companies, we are structured with a marketing arm, product creation arm and sales arm, as well as operations and finance, though a lot of our positions are virtual, contracting out elements that make sense.

MP:  What is your target demographic? What do you do to reach out to this demographic?

RYU:  Our target demographic is a person that athletics are important to their life on a daily basis, and we reach out to them in a variety of communication channels – digitally, through our partnership with the UFC®, Sports Marketing, or, on a grassroots level, through the RYU Ambassador Program.

MP:  When did you decide to be a UFC® sponsor? What was the process for sponsorship (i.e. did you have any input on where, when and how the RYU brand would be utilized during UFC® broadcasts?)

RYU:  Working with and sponsoring the UFC® has always been a part of our plan, as the brand was founded on insights from fighters to create great product.

We work in partnership with them to maximize the placement of the brand to best connect with our consumers.

MP:  How many UFC® athletes does RYU sponsor? Does RYU sponsor any other athletes?

RYU:  We actively sponsor UFC® welterweight Jon Fitch, and have had worked with several talented athletes in the UFC, such as TJ Dillashaw, John Hathaway, Mike Massenzio, Danny Castillo, Marcus LeVesseur and Alex Soto.

We’re also excited to be represented by Jamie Varner and Darren Elkins at UFC 146 on May 26th.

Outside of the UFC®, we actively sponsor 2011 Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, Boston Red Sox Outfielder Darnell McDonald, and endurance athlete Christian Isakson and have worked with Strikeforce fighter Josh Thomson, Bellator Fighting Championship Welterweight Champion Ben Askren and Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard, who recently signed with the UFC®.

MP:  How does RYU use Jon Fitch as an ambassador for the brand?

RYU:  Jon is an Ambassador on multiple levels. We utilize him for product feedback through his training, in social media, digital and ad campaigns, as well as at the grassroots gym level.

He wears and talks about the product with other fighters and with trainers.

MP:  How is RYU using social media to reach out to its target demographics? How does RYU measure social media success?

RYU:  It’s important to us to be able to interact with and get to know our consumers, so we have a very active presence on both Facebook (www.facebook.com/RYUapparel) and Twitter (@RYUapparel).

As far as measuring our social media success, at this point, we are building brand awareness and relationships with consumers within the mixed martial arts and athletic apparel communities and markets – so every time someone sends us a tweet about our product, or posts a photo in RYU product, that is a small victory and success for the brand.

MP:  What are the long-range goals for the company?

RYU:  Our long-range goals are to continue to bring innovative product to the marketplace, as well as to continually grow as a premium performance brand within the space of Mixed Martial Arts and beyond it into a global athletic brand.

MP:  We understand that the company is publicly traded. What are some of the challenges of having a publicly traded company? What do investors/shareholders think of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and the business plan for RYU?

RYU:  The cost. There are a lot of costs associated with being a publicly traded company, specifically as far as reporting and auditing. Also, aligning – making sure that the short term goals of all involved are in-line with the long term vision of the company.

We have a team of investors, shareholders and board members who are very supportive of both the sport and RYU’s goals.

A lot of the investors are either fans or participants in martial arts or mixed martial arts and they see the opportunity there and how that opportunity aligns with RYU’s long-term business plan.

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