Forbes.com reports on “lean” UFC sponsor market and Hendricks/Reebok deal

March 20, 2014

Forbes.com wrote a piece on Johny Hendricks and his sponsor Reebok in light of his victory in the Octagon at UFC 171.  Notably, one of the takeaways from the articl focused on the fact that Reebok’s main goal was not to sponsor MMA fighters but to develop Reebok’s Fitness Marketing division.

It was noted that Hendricks was sponsored by Reebok for the fight.  Hendricks indicated to Forbes how he had problems getting gear from past sponsors and was thankful to Reebok for helping him without any issues.

John Lynch, Vice President of Reebok Fitness Marketing told Forbes that Reebok’s focus is on fitness. The Hendricks sponsorship for his fight was a byproduct of this.  Lynch stressed that while Hendricks only fights 2 times a year, he’ll be training year around and that is where the sponsorship ties in.

Hendricks and Jamie Varner both participated in The Spartan Race.  The race is an obstacle course which tests competitors as they navigate various physical challenges throughout the race.  Reebok sponsors the event and eventually came into partnership with Hendricks and Varner for the event.  It was not until UFC 167 did Reebok officially sponsor Hendricks in his title fight against GSP.  UFC 171 was the second time it sponsored Hendricks.  Despite the continued relationship, Reebok maintains that it is sponsoring Hendricks and not the UFC.  “We’re with Johny, but we’re not sponsoring the UFC,” Lynch told Forbes.

The article, written by sports and entertainment attorney Darren Heitner was a mainstream narrative on Hendricks and painted the MMA sponsor landscape as “lean” while noting “obscure brands” such as Dynamic Fastener spreading its sponsor dollars to multiple fighters.

In addition to the Forbes article, Sports Agent Blog wrote an article this week on “Mega Brands” entering the UFC sponsorship landscape.  The post mainly focused on Jon Jones and his deal with Nike although it touched upon the Hendricks and Reebok deal.  The article reads directly opposite to Heitner’s article.  Ironically, Heitner founded the Sports Agent Blog.

Payout Perspective:

Lynch’s quote can be interpreted several ways.  He could be just clarifying Reebok’s role as a sponsor of Hendricks and not an “official” UFC sponsor.  It could also be a note to MMA agents that it is not looking to expand its sponsorship of fighters in the Octagon.

These are two interesting reads that tell us what most MMA fans already knew.  The sponsorship market is tight but for a few fighters that a few mainstream brands will sponsor.  It’s interesting to note Reebok’s strategy of casting its audience very broad as it builds its fitness niche.  While Reebok has been tied to Hendricks and has appeared in the Bellator octagon (Reebok also sponsors Rampage Jackson), its main emphasis is on fitness, not MMA per se.  Both Hendricks and Jackson have starred in Reebok commercials promoting its sportswear line.  Those commercials emphasized fitness and exercise although the Hendricks commercial emphasized the fact he was a fighter.  But the question is whether these brands would sponsor athletes in MMA like a Dynamic Fastener?  It appears not.

The sponsor issue is one of the reasons Dana White has proposed a UFC uniform.  But, we probably should cross off Reebok off the list of potential suitors as the uniform maker.

8 Responses to “Forbes.com reports on “lean” UFC sponsor market and Hendricks/Reebok deal”

  1. saldathief on March 20th, 2014 4:47 PM

    Reebok makes crappy athletic shoes that fall apart after 6 months! Any serious athlete that has to actually pay for their own gear avoids this garbage.

  2. Tops of on March 21st, 2014 2:33 AM

    UFC nearing mainstream?lol

  3. N2 on March 21st, 2014 5:16 PM

    The huge, omnipresent Dynamic Fastener ads make UFC look cheap, low rent, and 2nd class.

    We all know that a major league sport doesn’t have to stoop to taking ads from no-name sponsors like that.

    UFC should stop this. It’s hurting their brand.

  4. Cheap MMA Gear on March 21st, 2014 5:47 PM

    I think the UFC should make a standard of shorts in a few different cuts. Give it the UFC branding and reserve spots for other sponsors. Sometimes a fighters shorts can look tacky or they might have just been purchased at the store hours before the fight.

  5. BrainSmasher on March 21st, 2014 7:12 PM

    N2

    How do they stop it? Prevent them from sponsoring those fighters and listen to those fighters and fans bitch? They have been down that road before. Fighters and fans are to stupid to know what is in their best interest. The UFC tries to make the UFC and the fighters more appealing to sponsor and everyone is to short sighted and ignorant to play along.

    That said Dynamic Fastener deserves major props from supporting the sport and the fighters when other brands are to tight, show not respect for the sport, and are to worried about their political correct image. Also I don’t think it makes the UFC look cheap. Most people have no clue who this company is and what they do. They also have no clue what they pay for their sponsorships. Fans not knowing who a company is isn’t the same as looking cheap. Doesn’t carry the same positive weight as a Nike. But doesn’t have any negative effect either. There is lots of sponsors in other sports I have never heard of. I don’t think less of the sport. The problem is having known low class sponsors.

  6. steve on March 22nd, 2014 6:11 AM

    I guess Nascar is hurting their brand also oh ya they are on ABC and ESPN every week MY BAD.

  7. Cheese on March 24th, 2014 8:39 PM

    An article from a Forbes.com “contributor” means nothing and I get sick of websites reporting their articles content without pointing out that it’s not actually from Forbes itself, but basically a blog Forbes will host. The contributor model (described as “incentive-based, entrepreneurial journalism.”) is truly despicable from a journalistic standpoint, though I’m sure it works out financially for all involved. Forbes.com gets free content (or cheap content once articles hit a certain traffic threshold) and the contributor gets a forum for self promotion that gives them the veneer of legitimacy despite never submitting to editing or fact-checking. If you see “contributor” on a Forbes.com “article” it has only slightly more vetting than a Youtube comment.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, and I’m not saying anything this entertainment attorney said is wrong. I think the sponsorship landscape for fighters is weaker than in the past. But “Forbes.com wrote a piece” and a person “told Forbes” make it sound like this is coming from the Forbes staff. It’s not.

  8. Diego on March 25th, 2014 9:49 AM

    “Fighters and fans are to stupid to know what is in their best interest.”

    Yes, that’s right. Only Zuffa know what’s best. Everyone else is an idiot. Just do as Zuffa says everyone and you’ll be alright.

    Cheese,

    Good point on the sourcing. It made me look again, and you’re right that there does not seem to be any editorial control from Forbes (or at least not much). It’s a good disclaimer to keep in mind.

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