Pettis wins Wheaties box cover

September 2, 2014

Anthony Pettis has won the Wheaties cereal box cover according to his Instagram account.  Pettis won a vote as part of the cereal maker’s contest.

This was a great promotion although it received a critique from sports business guy Darren Rovell who indicated he had not heard of the 5 athletes competing for the cover:

For those wondering, Pettis was up against motocross star Ryan Dungey, track and field para-athlete Blake Leeper, lacrosse player Rob Pannell and women’s soccer player Christen Press.

Payout Perspective:

It’s likely that Pettis took advantage of his social media account and his UFC fame to propel himself to the win.  The Wheaties box is another accolade in the champ’s (remember, he’s the lightweight title holder) sponsor portfolio.  Now, if he just stayed healthy enough to stay in the Octagon.

UFC 171: Payout Perspective

March 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time well be taking a look at UFC 171 at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.

Hendricks wins vacant title

A scare with not making weight did not matter for Johny Hendricks as he defeated Robbie Lawler in the Fight of the Night.  For Hendricks, it was redemption from a controversial loss to GSP last time out.  Lawler was impressive in defeat but just didn’t have enough to win the title.

Hendricks was the top welterweight of the night as he will now look to a smorgasbord of challengers to the title which may include a couple fighters (Lombard, Woodley) on the card and one (Nick Diaz) that was in attendance.

UFC_171_event_poster

Woodley upsets Condit

Tyron Woodley may have moved to the top of the contender’s list for the welterweight division with his victory over Carlos Condit.  While the knee injury to Condit caused the stoppage, it should not take away from the fact that Woodley was impressive and can argue he is next in line for a title shot at Hendricks.

Attendance and Gate

As we reported on Sunday, the UFC announced its attendance at 19,324 for a live gate of $2.6 million.  The numbers reflect the largest U.S. crowd to see a UFC event.  The numbers bested the UFC’s last event in Dallas which did 17,428 for a $2.4 million gate at UFC 103.

There were no information yet on comps and the Texas Department of Licensing will confirm the numbers later this week.

Bonuses

The bonuses were awarded to Hendricks-Lawler, Ovince St. Preux and Dennis Bermudez.

Fight of the Night – Hendricks-Lawler

Performance of the Night – OSP (Von Flue!) and Bermudez.

Each fighter earned an extra $50K.  In addition, Harley Davidson ran a promotion in which one of the bonus winners could win a Harley Davidson based upon a fan vote on the UFC’s Facebook page.  Hendricks won the fan vote and a new motorcycle.

Sponsors

The usual suspects were in the Octagon including the official UFC sponsors of MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Alienware, Corn Nuts as well as Bud Light taking the center of the Octagon.  Fram Auto Filters was the latest addition to Octagon signage.  In addition, Robbie Lawler’s sponsor, the Air Force Reserve also had signage in the Octagon.

The most notable sponsor for Hendricks was Reebok. Hendricks wore a shirt with the hashtag Reebokzquick.  Hendricks co-starred in a commercial featuring the Reebok fitness line in a recent commercial It was the second time that the clothing brand has sponsored him in the Octagon.  With Hendricks as champ, we can expect that Reebok will extend its sponsorship deal.  Hendricks was also sponsored by two official UFC sponsors: Corn Nuts and Alienware.

reebok-johny-hendricks-ufc-171-shirt

Diego Sanchez had a product tie-in where he wore a Training Mask during his workouts on the UFC Countdown show.

Myles Jury was sponsored by a Panini America and Dee Zee truck accessories on the front of his shorts.  According to its web site, Jury will be making an appearance for his Panini sponsor.

mylesjury_headshot

Tyron Woodley signed on with Affliction Clothing prior to UFC 171 (via FighterxFashion).  He also snagged a deal with Monster Headphones.

You don’t f*ck with #TheChosenOne Tyron Woodley (<href=”https://twitter.com/TWooodley”>@TWooodley)! Let’s get that title shot, eh? #UFC171 #MonsterOctagon pic.twitter.com/c1VZnFJSLV

— Monster Products (@MonsterProducts) March 17, 2014

The UFC had a “Vote for the T” Contest where fans had a chance to design a t-shirt for the UFC to market and sell for $30.

Post-UFC171 Headlines

Who’s next for Johny Hendricks?  A lot of debate swirling that Woodley, Hector Lombard or even Nick Diaz should face Hendricks next.  Diaz, who flew to Dallas courtesy of the UFC, was featured on the company’s Instagram account mocking Hendricks when it appeared he had missed weight and needed to retry.  Despite the showings of the other welterweights on the card, the appeal of Diaz is that he can sell a fight without even trying (i.e. we’re not talking Wolf Tickets).  But, the bottom line is that the show revealed that the welterweight is a very competitive division with many challengers to face Hendricks.

Odds and Ends

Unfortunately, the UFC 171 Prelims were on FS2 due to college basketball tournament action as the prelim fights were probably the best in recent memory.

The Von Flue Choke will be the most demonstrated move in BJJ gyms across the nation this week.

Hendricks marketed “BeardHeads” riffing off of his trademark facial hair. There was a sponsor giveaway associated with the gimmick as well.

I am not clear why Diego Sanchez was eating quail egg and steak tartare before a fight.  It seems very suspect.

The top cities that searched the name Johny Hendricks on Google were Oklahoma City and Montreal.

Google trends revealed that Johny Hendricks was not getting as many searches as when he fought Georges St. Pierre but UFC 171 was getting significant traffic.

If GSP does come back against Hendricks, it could be the Cowboy Stadium show that the UFC wants and a 1 million PPV buy event.

Conclusion

While the attendance and gate numbers are impressive for a show not featuring GSP/Anderson Silva or Cain Velasquez (note we excluded Ronda Rousey based on her last outing), it’s hard to conclude a big buy rate.  There was nothing that stood out in the promotion of this event despite it being for the vacant welterweight title.  Still, the Hendricks win puts him in a position to be groomed to be the next big draw for the UFC.  With the lack of a big name at the top, and the minimal buzz for the event, a buy rate of 300,000 would be solid.

Mayweather chooses Maidana over Khan for May 3rd

February 25, 2014

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will fight Marcos Maidana on May 3rd in Las Vegas per a tweet sent out by Mayweather on his birthday.  It will be Mayweather’s third fight for Showtime Boxing.

Mayweather engaged with his twitter followers by asking them to go to his web site to vote for who he should fight.

 

According to this Kevin Iole story (via Lockerdome), Khan won the unofficial fan vote.

Payout Perspective:

The “Cinco de Mayo weekend” fight has become tradition for Mayweather.  Maidana as his opponent is somewhat surprising as most had Amir Khan as the frontrunner for the shot.  Khan would have drawn a lot of British fans as he is from the United Kingdom. He also has argued that he would have brought in a lot of interest from the Middle East as Khan is of Pakistani descent.  Yet, Mayweather chose Maidana which is likely due in part to his upset victory over Adrien Broner.  Maidana, who is from Argentina, made a strong case for himself as he knocked Broner down twice and his style could bring a much more fan friendly, exciting fight than Khan.

Mayweather is master of social media strategy.  He implemented the use of his followers to engage with him on twitter as to his next fight and created traffic for his own web site.  Regardless of the opponents he listed on the poll, the goal of creating traffic appears to have worked.

UFC 168: Payout Perspective

December 30, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at the last UFC event of 2013 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Weidman retains belt after Silva breaks leg

Corey Hill. That is what went through my mind as Anderson Silva’s shin was shattered on a Chris Weidman leg check.  Many may recall the lanky TUF competitor breaking his leg on an eerily similar

Leg checks are gruesome as it is and Silva’s kick that broke his leg looked like it was right on Weidman’s knee.

It appeared that Weidman may have knocked out Silva in the first but Silva was able to survive round 1 and even bloodied Weidman.  Although Weidman likely won round 1, the fight was still up in the air before the kick despite folks concluding that Weidman would have won the fight.  Weidman did look much improved from July and solidified his standing as the division’s champ.  It appears that Vitor Belfort may be next.  The question is will it be in Vegas or Brazil?

As for Silva, it’s likely the end to his career.  At 38, Silva has had a successful run and should be financially set for the rest of his life.  We may see him in the UFC in some sort of emeritus role but never again in the Octagon fighting.

UFC_168_event_poster

Rousey armbars Tate to retain title

Ronda Rousey submitted Miesha Tate although the challenger put up a fight and was the crowd favorite throughout.  Rousey refused a Tate handshake at the end which solidified her as the heel.

Tate was a heavy underdog and it seemed that surviving the first round was a victory in itself.  Despite not getting armbarred in the first or second round, Rousey was still dominating the match.  Her Judo was exceptional and one has to wonder why attempt to take Rousey to the ground when Tate scored with shots on her feet.

Rousey has a quick turnaround as she fights Sarah McMann on February 22nd.

Some have speculated that the Rousey-McMann fight was made to coincide with the Winter Olympics.  Both were medalists in the Olympics.  The only problem with this theory was that Rousey and McMann competed in the Summer Olympics.

Browne KOs the Warmaster

Travis Browne used his elbows to KO Josh Barnett in what was a mini-upset.  Browne propels himself to a fight with Fabricio Werdum with the fighter likely getting Cain Velasquez.

Attendance and Gate

As announced at the post-fight press conference, it was the second-highest gate for an MMA event in MGM history with 15,650 for a gate of $6.2 million.

Bonuses

Rousey, Tate and Browne were the recipients of the fight night bonuses.  Instead of the standard $50K each, the UFC upped the bonus to $75K.

FOTN – Rousey-Tate

Sub – Rousey

KO – Browne

As we previously pointed out, Jim Miller should have received the Submission of the Night with his slick setup and eventual arm bar of BJJ Black Belt Fabricio Comoes.

Salaries

The Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed the pay of the top 3 fights on the card (via MMA Junkie).  The rest of the card should be made public later this week.

Chris Weidman received a big pay increase in pay in his first title defense.  He received $200K to show and another $200K for the win for a total of $400K.

Silva received $600K and would have made another $200K if he won.

Rousey made $50K/$50K but with another $150K in bonuses she tallied $250K for the night.  Tate made $28K and another $75K for $103K.

Josh Barnett made $170K and Travis Browne made $56K ($28K/$28K) plus his $75K win bonus for a total of $131K.

Raise in PPV Price

One of the surprises that came before the fight was the $5 bump in price for the last PPV of the year.  UFC 168 was the first at $59.99 (HD) and $49.99 (SD).  White indicated that this would be the only time it would raise its price.  However, there is some confusion as to whether the $59.99 will remain in 2014 as the current prices on the UFC web page list UFC 169 an 170 at $59.99 although there are reports the listed price is a mistake.

There were many promotional commercials leading up to 168 that still promoted the PPV as $54.95 although you were likely made known of the price change when you went to order.

The rise in the price could mean more people went to bars to watch the PPV and maybe more fight parties.

Promotion of the Fight

The UFC went all out for UFC 168 with branding all over the MGM Grand including the key cards, slot machines and gaming felt.  I can attest the UFC has done the gaming felt back in the Tito Ortiz days (circa 2006).  Still, the constant reminders of the fight likely helped out.

ESPN got in on the action as it let Dana White take over its twitter and Instagram accounts on Saturday to hype the fight.  The obvious conflict is that White’s company is featured on ESPN’s newest competitor, Fox Sports 1.  The fact White is allowed to promote on ESPN and that ESPN wants White to promote the UFC infers that MMA is legitimately making strides as a sport that is newsworthy (well, except that ESPN got rid of the over the air version of MMA Live).

UFC used FS1 to promote the fight and showed Weidman-Silva I and also aired “Fighting Words” which was an interesting look at the first fight that included audio of the corners that caught what each said to their fighters.  It also included interviews by both fighters and audio from Jon Jones and Urijah Faber at the fight.  While UFC Primetime has been shut down, this show did a great job in recapping events leading up to the rematch.

The Saturday morning edition of Good Morning America did a spot on Ronda Rousey which is a pretty big even if it was the weekend crew of GMA.

Fight Pass

The UFC held a press conference prior to the fights to announce the UFC’s new digital network, the UFC Fight Pass.  More on this later but the sweetener for UFC fans is that it is giving users 2 months free before it charges your credit card $9.99 per month.

Sponsors

Sears was the newest “big” sponsor to the Octagon.  Maybe a “one off” but I’m sure the UFC hopes that it can bring it in as an official sponsor.  Tapout, MusclePharm, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Cinemax’s “Banshee”, Peter Berg’s movie, “Lone Survivor”, WarGaming.net, MetroPCS and Bud Light with the center.

UltimatePoker.com had the prep point outside the cage and AXS TV had the official weigh-ins.

Harley Davidson ran a promotion for its Project Rushmore motorcycles in which the winner of Weidman-Silva would win a motorcycle.

MetroPCS also had a unique activation for this event where twitter users could obtain a “personalized” digital photograph of Ronda Rousey.

Interesting sponsor of the night:  Autoshopper.com.  It was on a number of fighters including Miesha Tate.

1Law.com, a law firm out of Utah picked the right fighter to sponsor as it was on the front of the shorts of Travis Browne as he KO’d Josh Barnett.  It has sponsored Browne in the past.

Monster (an official UFC sponsor) headphones are going to be around more and more heads in the Octagon so get used to them having them on and not listening to anything.

Nike was noticeably absent from Anderson Silva.  When asked by Ariel Helwani in a pre-fight interview, Silva told him to ask Dana.  White deflected comment but it was clear that Nike did not pay or would not pay the sponsor fee for Silva this time around.  To be clear, Nike still sponsors Silva, it’s just that he was not on Silva’s shorts, shirt or banner.

Rousey was sponsored by the UFC in what looked like signature gear.  She was also sponsored by Xyience.

Tate had a number of sponsors including Autoshopper.com, Venum, Affliction and Training Mask.

Silva did have less sponsors this go round.  He had Wizard, Burger King, computer maker Lenovo and soccer club Corinthians Paulista.

Weidman had an assortment of sponsors including Bad Boy Club, Oak Grove Technologies, American Ethanol, Monster and investment firm InCapital.

Post-UFC 168 Headlines

The new faces of the UFC.  Saturday we saw the two new faces of the UFC in Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman.  With GSP and Anderson Silva gone within weeks of each other, Weidman should be marketed as the top UFC guy.  Even though Jon Jones has a fair argument here, his last couple of fights have not equated to PPV success.  Weidman took down the GOAT twice and we will see how long he can defend the belt in this division.

Despite being the “heel” against Miesha Tate, Rousey has the “it” factor that draws people to watch her.  She is brash, dominant and that look of determination walking to the ring would have anyone hiding their arms around her.  The question is whether the fame and time obligations may catch up to her.  With her next fight so close to this one and coming off of shooting two movies, we will see if it catches up with her.

Odds and Ends

-The UFC offered closed circuit of the fight at the MGM for $60 per person.  I do not believe the UFC put this PPV in movie theatres.

-There were over 5 million Google searches for Anderson Silva on Saturday night.  Most searchers likely wanted to see an image of his broken leg.

-It was the first time I recall the main event fighters coming out from different sides of the curtain at the weigh-ins.

-Over 14.6K people were on YouTube at the start of the very first fight which bodes well for viewership for the rest of the card.

-Rumors of Brock Lesnar in Vegas during UFC 168 is reminiscent of the two guards that sat in the courtroom that unnerved Colonel Jessup in “A Few Good Men.”  In other words, the UFC could have just flown Lesnar out to Vegas and create a story that wasn’t there.

-Rousey and Tate are complete opposites and this was most telling in their walkout songs.  Katy Perry (Tate) vs. Joan Jett (Rousey).

-Due to the short fights, there was a lot of downtime and “commercials” and the live fights ended at 9:30pm PT.

-Buried by the main event stories was the second straight impressive win by Michael Johnson on the Prelims.

-Uriah Hall saved his job, while Chris Leben likely heads to retirement.

-Marc Jacobs is selling a Ronda Rousey t-shirt.

-Anyone else notice that the broadcast team kept pumping up the odds including right before the Tate-Rousey fight.  That might not be new, but what was new was that it directed people interested in odds to the UFC web site.

Conclusion

The hype for this fight was the biggest this year and the women co-main event had a lot to do with it.  It may be one of the highest HD PPV buys ever.  There was a lot of mainstream buzz for the fight which not always transfers into PPV purchases. But I think the buzz helped.  Despite the protests about the price increase, it will likely not affect the final PPV buys.  An estimation of around 750K PPV buys should be attainable if not surpassed after all is said and done.

Cigano signs with 9ine

September 25, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that UFC Heavyweight Junior dos Santos has signed on with 9ine.  The Brazilian sports and entertainment company is headed by former soccer star Ronaldo and is backed by worldwide marketing communications firm WPP.

You may recall that Anderson Silva signed on with 9ine in 2011.  It also represents several soccer stars as well.

Via MMA Fighting:

According to 9ine’s CEO Marcus Buaiz, the company will take care of dos Santos’ image, social media and contracts with sponsors. “Cigano” is currently sponsored by Nike, TNT and Corinthians.

“Cigano is a great champion with an image that lots of companies want to work with, and he has a good relationship with the media,” Buaiz said. “9ine’s goal is to increase what has already been done with our excellence of working athlete’s image.”

Payout Perspective:

You may recall that JDS suddenly left long time manager Ed Soares in June 2011 for the Guedes Group.  That occurred months before his KO of Cain Velasquez on the first Fox show.  The latest development is an interesting move by JDS since he has already secured top sponsors.  We will see what his new agency can do for him.

Nate Diaz suspended for tweet

May 17, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that Nate Diaz has been suspended pending an investigation for a tweet in which he made a gay slur.  Diaz sent the tweet in defense of Pat Healy as he had been stripped of bonuses for testing positive for marijuana use.

Diaz used the slur to refer to Brian Caraway, the UFC fighter that received the submission of the night bonus after the UFC stripped Healy of the bonus.  Incidentally, it was Caraway that lobbied Dana White for the raise in bonuses for UFC 159.

We all remember that the UFC suspended Matt Mitrione for statements that he made on The MMA Hour in relation to Fallon Fox.  The suspension was short-lived as Mitrione was scheduled a fight after only two weeks of discipline.

Diaz is coming off his second loss in  a row as he suffered the first TKO of his career against Josh Thomson.  MMA Junkie reports Diaz’s manager, Mike Kogan, advised Diaz not to delete the offensive tweet and that people look up the offending word in the dictionary.  He explained that the word is slang in Northern California.

Payout Perspective:

This probably violates the UFC’s Code of Conduct.  Maybe the UFC should have another Fighter Summit to refresh its fighters on what is appropriate to tweet or say to the media. Even if Diaz believed the name calling to be benign and not a slur against homosexuals, but more of dissing Caraway (something seemingly explained by Kogan), he should have called him something else.  With Kogan supporting Diaz’s stance and choice of words, it will be interesting to see what happens next.  Certainly, the standard way to address issues like this is to apologize for the choice of words.  Here, we are asked to refer to a dictionary. We will see how this works.

Rovell calls out White on UFC numbers

May 1, 2013

ESPN Business Reporter and UFC head Dana White went back and forth on twitter on the state of UFC business.  The UFC drew the scrutiny of ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell.  If you didn’t know, Rovell covers the business of sports and is as active on twitter as Dana White.  Rovell sent a tweet out the following tweet after UFC 159.

This drew the ire of UFC fans, media and eventually got back to Dana White.  And in usual form, he escalates the criticism to make it personal.

Rovell didn’t seem pleased about the “ESPN” remark and defended his reason for inquiry.

After a query to substantiate the numbers that the UFC was still on the rise, White indicated to Rovell that he’d get him those numbers

On Wednesday, three days after the initial back and forth, Rovell received his request.  It appears to either be a cut and paste of a Fuel TV press release, a hastily put together word document and/or both.  You can click on the pic to see it close up.  As you can read, White tells Rovell that Zuffa is a private company.

The following tweet is a lesson in making sure you read what you tweet.  White’s response to Rovell.

Rovell did concede that the UFC had some strong indicators of improvement.

Rovell then addressed the data White provided to a follower that believed White had shown the reporter up.

Rovell did make a back-handed complement about the back and forth with White.

He then makes the most sense in the following tweets in requesting information that most would ask about a company’s financials.

Prior to receiving the data from White, Rovell ran a poll for his twitter followers.  Its something he does periodically to create engagement.  The poll asks whether UFC has mainstream potential.  As you can read, a little over half don’t think so.

You can also head over to Storify to see the original version of this.

Payout Perspective:

Its an interesting back and forth between a mainstream business reporter and White.  Certainly, there are errors on both sides of the conversation.  Rovell frames the questions differently.  He first states that the UFC has lost its “edge” based on the anecdotal evidence that a friend bought a ticket for substantially less than face value.  He then asks about the UFC slowing down financially and would like to see its net profits.  White responds over the top.  Rovell baits him to provide him data that the UFC is doing better and then White gives him something that can’t be substantiated.  Being a reporter, Rovell is upset and White relies on the “private company” safe harbor to protect the UFC from having to release its numbers.

At times, Rovell uses financial information to dampen the mood for fans.  For example, when a player drops in the NFL Draft, he’s the first to tweet how much money that player is losing.  Still, Rovell is being a journalist here and it would have looked better if White could have just said granted him an interview to talk about it or provided him information that did not look like it was a press release.

The Wrestling Post – Wrestlemania Edition

April 3, 2013

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  Its the biggest week of the year for the WWE as Wrestlemania 29 happens this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

New Jersey Area Expected to Receive Huge Financial Upside from Wrestlemania 29

The Bergen Record (NJ) reports that the area can expect a financial impact to the region comparable to last year’s $102.7M economic impact in Miami.  In addition, to the financial boon from wrestling fans from travel, hotels, food, rental cars and entertainment, Miami received $15.3M in local, state and county taxes.  Last year’s attendance at Wrestlemania 28 was 78,363.  First day ticket sales for this year’s event was at a record 52,000.   This generated over $10 million in gross revenue as compared to $6.3 million last year.  The report also states that hotels surrounding the event are sold out.  

Wrestlemania 29

Some interesting demographic figures from the article:

Who goes? WWE.com attracts 12.3 million unique monthly visitors, and 58 percent of them have at least some college education and 46 percent have a household income greater than $60,000, according to a WWE website. The company says 74 percent of its television audience is over 21 years old, and 36 percent are female. It does particularly well with black and Hispanic viewers.

Payout Take:  The wrestling may be fake, but the money is real.  The annual wrestling extravaganza is a destination event for fans and the WWE has supplemented Sunday’s event with an Expo (WWE Axxess), a “Hall of Fame” ceremony and other events this week.  The economic impact to the area is what appeals to cities to have this event in their city.  Despite what you think about pro wrestling, Wrestlemania is one of the biggest economic generators around.  

Social Media Explosion Supporting Wrestlemania

The WWE has announced a “record social media activation” for Wrestlemania 29.  The number of initiatives going on this week include CEO Vince McMahon joining twitter, Wrestlemania will stream on multiple platforms including Apple, Android and Windows 8 devices. The WWE also will provide bloggers with embeddable content on a new Yahoo! web site. It has included celebrity “social media ambassadors” including Jimmy Fallon, Lil’ Wayne and Charlie Sheen to name a few.  These ambassadors will be tweeting from various events the WWE will be conducting throughout the week.

Payout Take:  The WWE is ahead of the line with social media and the brand activation shows. It has taken advantage of its tech/social media-savvy demo and given them tools to play with which in turn will help promote the WWE brand.  Certainly, the WWE will be trending all over twitter this weekend.  It is interesting that it has not utilized Tout more as it had invested in the video snippet, social media platform.  

Hart Family Settles with WWE

The Washington Post via AP reported that the Hart Family has settled with the WWE in a lawsuit involving the rights to the likenesses and images of deceased WWE wrestler Owen Hart.  Hart died in a staged accident at a WWE PPV.  The Hart Family sued in June 2010 alleging that the WWE did not pay royalties to the Hart Family (or Owen’s estate) for the use of Owen in WWE produced content.  No terms of the settlement were disclosed although it is rumored that the WWE will be able to utilize Owen’s likeness and images again.

Payout Take:  The real in-ring death of Owen Hart was one of the more tragic events in pro wrestling history.  Its good to see that the two sides in this lawsuit have settled and it appears that the sides have come to an agreement on the use of Hart’s likenesses and imagery in WWE content.

Payout Interview: Elie Deshe of VFD Marketing

March 8, 2013

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Elie Deshe, a partner at VFD Marketing.  Deshe and his organization represent several UFC fighters including Leonard Garcia, Travis Browne, Clay Guida and Nate and Nick Diaz.  We covered a couple interesting subjects including the Diaz Brothers, agent regulation and working with sponsors.

VFD Marketing is based out of Miami, Florida.  Deshe (the D in VFD) works on the marketing aspects of fighter representation including brand marketing and emerging technologies.  Deshe also works with sponsors. SafeAuto Insurance (a company he previously worked for) and MusclePharm are a couple of the sponsorship deals Deshe and his company have brokered for their representatives.

VFD consists of 6 employees and the company actually has 3 arms with a sports agency, a modeling agency and a media agency.  VFD manages several fighters and serves as marketing agent for others. One client is Nick Diaz.

The interview came at an opportune time as the Nick Diaz-GSP/UFC 158 telephone conference just ended.  VFD Marketing secures sponsorships for the Diaz Brothers.  They are working on deals for Nick for March 16th.

Marketing for the Diaz Brothers

“I don’t think people realize that they’re different people.  They just get lumped in the same category. Love them or hate them, people have an opinion and so long as they are on people’s minds, it makes them marketable.”

Deshe added that it’s not hard to find companies that will work with them.

“All they do is train.  They don’t care about the limelight or attention.  They’re there to fight.  It’s up to us (VFD) to show sponsors the differences between the two. There has been no scenario where a sponsor has said, ‘I like Nate but not Nick.’”

As for sponsors for next week, Deshe said that they will be working up until Thursday night to secure deals for Nick.  Fighter shorts are turned in on Friday and VFD ensures that everything is in the right place.  For Deshe, ensuring “everything is in the right place” may mean making sure the sponsor logos are in the right place on the shorts or banner to whether the logo looks good on television. “Sometimes we’ve said to sponsors to try a different logo to maximize how it looks on TV,” explained Deshe.

Agent Regulation

We asked what he thought of regulating agents that manage fighters.  “It’s a very loose term.  If the UFC had a vetting process of who is an agent and who is not, we wouldn’t have a problem with it. Some of the agents are friends of the guys growing up.  Does that make them qualified?  They may be good on their own merit.”  Deshe stated that fighters could be hurt, “if someone is in it for the wrong reasons.”
UFC sponsor tax

“We get why it’s in place. But we put sponsors in a position to succeed unlike most.  If it was like in the early days, (obtaining sponsorships) it makes a manager’s job easier, but makes it tougher to distinguish who is good.”

Negotiation with sponsors

Deshe stated that negotiating terms of a deal on how much their clients are paid is not the hardest thing.  “The bigger part of it is getting the sponsors on board.  Its about selling the sport to them.  UFC is the best value in sports entertainment from a marketing perspective.  Once on board, the budgets will work.  It’s good to get money for one fight, but if they (sponsors) don’t see value, they won’t come back.”

Deshe commented that a part of working with companies is to ensure that the sponsorship is supported through social media and blog articles among other things.  He also seeks out opportunities outside of the octagon.  Four of VFD’s fighters have appeared in Safe Auto commercials. “Being in the ring is great, it can’t be the only thing to do for these guys,” said Deshe.

How much do sponsors pay

“Ranges are all over the map.  Deals range in the mid to high 6 figures and we’ve done deals in the low four figures. We’ve done everything. That’s why we spend time working with sponsors.  VFD has become a company sponsors want to come to.”

Deshe stated that VFD receives inquiries from companies that want to sponsor fighters and come to them to find out how. “They know we can get them on the right guys, make it look right, get social media support and add value.”

Fighter income between fights

We asked Deshe about how fighters maintain income after a fight is over or before their next fight.  Deshe indicated that there are several ways fighters can supplement their income between fights.  One way is negotiating deals with sponsors which would allow the fighter to receive a monthly payment from the sponsor.  For instance, a deal may consist of sponsoring a fighter over the period of a year and the fighter would be compensated monthly.

There are also the usual opportunities to book appearances, seminars and autograph signings.

Deshe noted the limited time for their fighters to supplement their income.  “There’s not a big window to do all of the things in between.”  They maybe take a couple months off but are usually back in the gym training.

Spike TV Launches Bellator App

February 28, 2013

Spike TV launched an iPad and iPhone App to be used while watching Bellator MMA.  According to the press release, the App will give users real time fight data as they watch the event.

Via press release:

When the Bellator cage door closes and the gloves touch, the innovative app works in concert with the live Spike broadcast to supply fans with real-time fight data only available through the app.  Developed from the ground up to make watching live fights more immersive, viewers will have the unique ability to track expansive fighter analytics and participate in the on-air broadcast.  As “The 4th Judge,” fans can score rounds with the help of real-time statistics powered by CompuStrike, a service providing data in 26 categories from arm strikes to submission attempts.

“The Bellator app is truly the first of its kind.  It allows our passionate fans to experience the fight as a virtual fourth judge – creating a level of immersion that’s unparalleled in any sport,” said Jon Slusser, Senior Vice President, Sports and Multiplatform Events, Spike TV.  “We see this second-screen as a game-changer.  The results from the app will actually become part of the on-air discussion.  There’s nothing like that in all of sports television.”

“At Bellator, we continually look for new ways to connect with our fans in a more meaningful way,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “This innovative app will resonate with our first-adopter audience, who will feel closer to the action than ever before.”

As “The 4th Judge,” viewers will be able to have their opinions known during the live telecast.  The Bellator broadcast team of Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock will announce the results of viewers’ polling to see how fan opinion compares to their own as well as the official cageside judges. (“The 4th Judge” voting will not factor in the actual judges’ decisions).

The app features historical statistics for every fighter, pre-fight fan picks, and “Favorite Fight of the Night” polling, which will be sharable via social networks. The Bellator MMA app also gives fans the opportunity to watch exclusive videos, and dig deep into fighter biographies.

Spike TV worked with Omnigon Communications to develop the App.

Payout Perspective:

Multi-tasking is something that most of us do all of the time.  When watching Bellator or UFC, most check tweets to see what others are saying about the fights.  Its a good source of information and social interaction.  Hence, the Bellator App will create a center for fans to go.  The statistics and “The 4th Judge,” feature will create discussion among fans and another way to connect.

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