NY Times writes about the MMA generation

March 17, 2012

The New York Times Fashion and Style section this week had a feature entitled, “The Fight Club Generation.”  The article details the fascination of MMA with youths to young adults.

The article which reports at a regional MMA card in Atlantic City focuses on youth interest in mixed martial arts. The article refers to the movie “Fight Club” which starred Brad Pitt and Ed Norton as the inspiration for many fans of MMA today. Not sure if this is actually true of most young MMA fans as that movie was filmed in 1999.  The mainstream popularity has only occurred in the past few years.  The article later devolves with comparisons to the XFL and “The Godfather.”

But, it also identifies, that in general, most people 35 years of age and older are not fans of the sport. In fact, the NY Times states that horse racing and figure skating are more popular than MMA in this segment.

Payout Perspective:

Getting past some of the minutiae in the article, one of the interesting takeaways coming from it is looking at how young fans get interested in the sport. TapouT and Cage Hero are  just a couple brands that have marketed MMA toward kids.  Last October, Cage Hero rebranded itself with an eye toward kids.  Having just attended a Jiu Jitsu tournament today and seeing so many kids under 10 in the sport one can see that grappling, and to a greater degree, MMA is a growing sport.   With MMA taking off, it will be interesting to see if the UFC begins to reach out, with more targeted campaigns, to the under 18 demographic.

11 for 11: No. 8 The state of MMA sponsorships

December 23, 2011

With the purchase of Strikeforce by Zuffa, sponsors felt the squeeze as Strikeforce imposed the same fee (or tax) as the UFC does with its sponsors.

Strikeforce imposed the sponsor fee starting with June’s Strikeforce event. The fee also applied to Strikeforce Challengers’ sponsors.  As a result, sponsors such as Ranger Up, CageHero and VXRSI are no longer sponsoring fighters in Strikeforce.

While some do not dispute the imposition of the fee, it severed relationships some fighters had with brands since they fought at small MMA promotions. For the sponsors unable to pay the $35,000 to $50,000 fee to have its logo on a fighters’ shorts, it meant revamping its marketing strategy.

Also this year, the state of sponsors in MMA was examined as many sponsors questioned the return on investment.

Recently, clothing brand Respect Your Universe (RYU) became the UFC’s newest sponsor and signed welterweight Jon Fitch. Despite RYU, some have been critical about the UFC’s lack of obtaining new sponsorships. It will be interesting to see how many new sponsors sign on in 2012. With the Fox deal, Zuffa should be able to take advantage of the momentum.

CageHero rebrands itself

October 26, 2011

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with the owners of CageHero, Mark Mastrandrea and Ian Parker as it recently re-branded itself focusing its business to target kids. Once a sponsor of fighters in the octagon, it has a new web site, a new clothing line and its CageHero Kids Team.

“We feel we can be the brand that really brings that innocent image to MMA- help it go mainstream,” said Mastrandrea, “We are re-branding to further target the kids. We feel there is a real need for a new generations Superhero.”

MP: When did Cagehero decide to target kids? What was the basis of your decision? Did you do any market research or look at trends to target a younger demographic?

CH: With the characters we have developed, we knew kids were always the ultimate destination.
We felt the need to educate the decision maker first. The 18-34 Male demo is the target everyone looks too, but we knew the increase in women’s interest-both as participants, and consumers in MMA was important too.  Both parents- the mother and father buy the kids their clothing.  When we looked at the numbers, we also found that the Youth Apparel Market is actually bigger then the Men’s Apparel Market.

MP: How did you find the kids to be in the commercial?

CH: It started with Stevo- the mohawked wrestling YouTube sensation.  When we saw his video on YouTube, it made both of us smile, laugh and really remember the days of Youth Sports. Days later we traveled to see him at a tournament to meet him, and his parents-the family were great people.  We then thought of the concept of the Cagehero Kids Team-  a compilation of the world’s best youth athletes across the world promoting there respective youth combat sports.    We checked out some kids in Vegas, California and then received some help from our friends over at Youth1.com.  In the past 2 days we have received almost 100 emails of new kids applying for the team.

MP: Are you still sponsoring MMA fighters? If so, who. Are they mostly in Bellator? I see that Ben Askren was in the commercial. Is he still sponsored?

CH: As far as the stereotypical MMA Marketing, walking out wearing our logo- Ben Askren is the only fighter in either Bellator/UFC that we will be marketing.  Ben is a great guy who really embodies our brand.  He also deals directly with kids, owning the Askren Brothers Wrestling Academy.  We do some outside signings/appearances with UFC guys, but for the time being we only “sponsor” in Bellator.

MP: How have/will the marketing efforts change as a result of the re-branding?

CH: We will continue to market in MMA-Bellator for now.  We have begun a stronger push with the Kids Marketing with Videos and a number of strategic partnerships with Youth-focused companies.  We are also starting to focus more on a grassroots level with a presence at Youth Wrestling Tournaments and BJJ Competitions.

MP: Are there any concerns that kids may be too young for MMA?

CH: When we started this company, we knew we were investing in the sport of MMA.  We’re passionate about it, and believe that one day it will be the largest sport in the world with acceptance by people of all cultures/ages.  With the UFC on Fox Deal, the recent Bellator-Viacom deal and the constant penetration of new markets- we think it’s only a matter of time.  Like Dana always says “Fighting is our DNA- we get it, we like it.”  Our brand will always have MMA roots.  It directly ties in with our characters as well.
Our Theory:
-In the 80’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took over, representing the fictional art of “Ninjitsu”
-In the 90s- the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with martial arts/Gymnastics.
We are the new Superhero, with ties to Mixed Martial Arts- the new martial art.

MP: How will you try to bring MMA mainstream?

CH: We are trying to bring MMA Mainstream through the Kid’s Team, the characters and the message.  Some people, even if educated, are ignorant to the sport.  When you align it with Kids, Superheroes and a message like “The Hero Comes From Within”- it definitely puts the sport in a more innocent light.

Our full length script and artwork with our finalized characters is also completed.  We are currently taking it to market and attaching the proper people.

MP: What are the future plans for the brand?

CH:  The future plans for the brand is to further develop the Cagehero Kid’s Team with athletes throughout the world.  We are doing our first Youth Combine with Youth1, Ben Askren and some surprise UFC guests in the upcoming months.  Keeping the same comic book aesthetic.  As far as the Adults, we will continue to market in Bellator, and always keep our eyes open if the opportunity is right to go to the UFC. Our new adult line is more geared towards inspirational lifestyle apparel.  The Big Picture remains the same:  A comic book, a movie.  Become this generations Superhero.

Payout Perspective:

CageHero is a unique brand and based on its designs, it was poised to make an easy transition from the young male target demographic to the kids demographic. This is partly due to the comic book designs and partly due to its positive messaging. Certainly, the way the brand is positioning itself in the market, it seems like the most kid-friendly, parent approved brand to wear as opposed to the more adult-themed shirts from other brands.

The Strikeforce merger with UFC may have muted a portion of its fighters due to the UFC sponsor fee. Although it says that it may make a return, the brand has found another way to market itself within the MMA industry. Through outreach and visibility at youth wrestling and grappling tournaments and continutng its sponsorship of Ben Askren, it is making all the right moves in targeting youth with its new campaign.

CageHero also is participating in a campaign benefiting Clothes4Soul, an organization that facilitates the donations of new clothing to those in need. When you buy one shirt, it will donate one to the organization. Participating in this program helps the CageHero brand in showing that it truly is making a positive impression in the MMA community.

CageHero’s new info:
New Website:  www.cagehero.net
Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/CAGEHERO
Twitter:  @cagehero