Reebok signs Rousey, Jones to sponsorship deals

December 16, 2014

The UFC announced that Reebok has signed Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey presumably as spokespersons for the brand.  The announcement comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Reebok would be the official global outfitter of the UFC.

The deals appear to be individual sponsorship with the brand and both will have the opportunity to provide a measure of input to the new UFC apparel as well as “a new collection of footwear and apparel specifically created for the more than 35 million people around the world who participate in combat training to stay fit,” according to the press announcement.

No financial terms were provided.

Both fighters announced their new sponsor deal on social media.

My girl @rondarousey and I are about to smash this @reebok game!! We’re about to take fitness apparel to a whole new level!

A photo posted by Jon Bones Jones (@jonnybones) on

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting sponsorship deal considering that all UFC fighters under contract will be sporting Reebok by July. We assume that Jones and Rousey will take more active roles promoting the brand based on the information provided in the announcement. Certainly, these are two of the most high-profile fighters that Reebok could sign on the UFC roster. Currently, Jones and Rousey join Johny Hendricks and Anthony Pettis as UFC fighters with individual Reebok deals.

Schaub loses 6 sponsors in light of Reebok deal

December 10, 2014

According to a recent podcast by UFC Heavyweight Brendan Schaub, he has lost 6 sponsors due to the recent UFC-Reebok uniform deal.  On The Fighter and The Kid podcast this week, Schaub claims that he had made twice what the UFC pays him from sponsors.

Schaub lost to Travis Browne at UFC 181 this past Saturday.  Schaub made $32,000 as disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

If we are to believe this to be correct, Schaub would have made six figures with a win plus his sponsorship money.  Even without the win, Schaub would be making close to six figures.

(h/t:  MMA Mania)

Payout Perspective:

We might see more stories like Schaub’s in the coming months as the Reebok deal goes into effect in July.  Certainly, current sponsors may seek to leave the UFC as they might revisit their respective marketing budgets and either find fighters in other organizations to sponsors or leave the MMA landscape altogether.  MMA Fighting has an interesting perspective on the Reebok deal from managers with UFC clients.

The obvious concern about the Reebok deal is that fighters will lose money from sponsors without knowing what they will be earning through this new arrangement with the UFC.  Furthermore, managers are not able to say whether the Reebok deal will be better or worse than their current earning potential.

UFC 181: Payout Perspective

December 9, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 181 which took place at the Mandaly Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

CM Punk signs with UFC

Usually we start off with the main events, and there were two very good ones, but the big news coming out of the PPV was the announcement that Phil Brooks (the artist formerly known as CM Punk – the WWE owns the trademark and we’re not sure if terms of his settlement included continued use of the name) has signed with the UFC.  Brooks is 36 and has no formal experience in MMA unless you count his training in BJJ and Kempo.  Recently, Brooks talked about a variety of health issues he had while in the WWE as well as the indication he has had a lot of concussions (12 or 13 per the Cabana podcast).  The concussions do not even count the ones that were not medically recorded.  We will definitely talk about this more but as it relates to business, this is a calculated risk for the UFC.  It should bolster a UFC for the sheer curiosity from former WWE fans.

Lawler edges Hendricks for UFC title

Robbie Lawler started and finished the second fight with Johny Hendricks in a flurry.  And it might have been the last flurry in the end that solidified the win for Lawler.  Maybe Hendricks fell into the same trap of confidence as he did when it appeared that he had defeated GSP.  Hendricks had turtled up in at least two rounds allowing Lawler to seemingly pound away at him.  Even if the blows did not hurt, the appearance made it seem that Lawler had the advantage.  In the end,  Matt Hughes had the opportunity to put on the belt for the new champion.

Although a third fight would make sense, Rory MacDonald was in attendance and should be the next in line to challenge for the belt.

Showtime crisp in title defense

Anthony Pettis is good.  That’s an understatement.  Despite a shaky first round against Gilbert Melendez, Pettis took advantage of a shot from Gil and quickly secured a guillotine.  He’s now subbed Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez with ease.  It’s clear that Pettis is the tops of this division.  Pettis is athletic and quick and if he avoids significant injuries (wrote this before news of his hand), he can be a force in the UFC.

Up next for Pettis should be Khabib Nurmogomedov who showed up at the press conference to ensure Showtime knew who he was.

Attendance and gate

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and gate at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The attendance announced post-event was 9,617 for a gate of $2.488 million.  The last event at the Mandalay Bay was UFC 170 in February 2014 for Ronda Rousey-Sara McMann.  That event drew 10, 217 for a gate of $1,555,870.

Promotion for the Fight

UFC Embedded was the main driver once again and offered some good background on Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis- Gil.  It also covered the Pettis Wheaties box cover announcement and the Reebok uniform announcement.  Hendricks’ sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, received some exposure as Johny was seen shopping for a rifle at the outdoor sporting goods store.

The UFC released Hendricks-Lawler I online which one must consider was one of the best fights of the year.

UFC 181 sported a comic book theme with the fight poster.  A nice change from the usual face offs.

ufc 181

UFC 181 was slated for movie theaters once again.

Sponsorships

In the Octagon were Wargaming.net, Alienware, Matefit.me, Fram, Musclepharm, Metro PCS, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve (a Robbie Lawler associated sponsor), Toyo Tires and Bud Light in the center.

Johny Hendricks had a new sponsor for the fight, Zak Products, an official NASCAR sponsor.

Hendricks and Pettis, already sponsored by Reebok, wore the brand into the Octagon.  Perhaps the Pettis walkout shirt is a glimpse of what to expect from the brand in July.

Dynamic Fastener made its presence known in the Octagon.  Hopefully, viewers will figure out what it does before it goes away in July.

Harley Davidson had a promotion where the winner of the Travis Browne-Brendan Schaub fight won a Harley.  For those that didn’t watch, Browne won the motorcycle.

Odds and ends

Raquel Pennington-Ashlee Evans Smith ending was a cliffhanger of sorts since FS1 cut to commercial as Pennington had the choke on Smith and it was not clear what had happened.  I recall the same thing happening with Dan Henderson-Shogun Rua.

Great wins for Todd Duffee and Josh Samman, the latter with a great headkick KO of Eddie Gordon. Gordon wore a legalize MMA shirt into the Octagon as he fights out of Matt Serra’s gym in New York.

There was some foreshadowing about 181 by Dana White on the Jim Rome Show.

Another interesting question in light of the Reebok deal.

Urijah Faber took what is becoming a normal spot as the final bout on the UFC Prelims.  It’s interesting that he’s becoming a mainstay in this position but according to Dave Meltzer he chooses to be on FS1 rather than PPV because more people watch.  It makes sense considering he is a name, can draw viewers to the FS1 prelims and is a good bridge to the PPV telecast.

Interesting that they dropped the lights for Pettis-Gil but not for Hendricks-Lawler.

The production for the promos for UFC 182 and UFC 183 were great and showed more of a entertainment edge to them.

A good read on referee Mark Smith, who is a retired Air Force pilot.  Only coincidence that Air Force Reserves was a sponsor on the Octagon mat.

Conclusion

UFC 181 was one of the best cards of the year.  From the Prelims to the main event, it came through with action fights, KOs, submissions and a surprise announcement.  Does that mean it will cash in with PPV buys?  Google searches were high on the search terms UFC and CM Punk in the U.S. as both were trending 3rd and 6th respectively with over 100K searches each.  While this does not necessarily equate to buys (e.g. Manny Pacquiao registered over 500K searches yet scored a reported 300K PPV buys), we should see UFC 181 doing well and above this year’s PPV average.  Look for somewhere between the 400-500K range.

Pettis Wheaties box revealed

December 5, 2014

At a UFC media event this week in lead up to this Saturday’s event, Wheaties unveiled the Anthony Pettis box donning his image.  Pettis won a contest this past summer to determine which next sports star should be the face of the cereal box.

Pettis is the first MMA fighter to have his image on the trademark Wheaties box.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a nice, creative image which takes advantage of Pettis’ GQ good looks yet still puts him in a position where the casual person can tell he’s an MMA fighter. The timing of the event works out as its added publicity for Pettis and the UFC for this Saturday’s PPV.  With the Reebok announcement made on Tuesday, perhaps the Pettis-Wheaties partnership will be short-lived.  But, maybe the UFC could be making inroads with Wheaties to make it an official sponsor.

UFC-Reebok announce 6 year sponsor deal

December 2, 2014

The UFC and Reebok announced the long-awaited fight uniform deal which will commence during International Fight Week July 2015.  The announcement came with many interesting details.

The UFC touted the announcement as its biggest non-broadcast contract ever.  Financial terms were not disclosed for the 6 year partnership which makes Reebok the exclusive uniform supplier and commercial outfitter.

One of the most compelling details of the deal is that fighter compensation will be tied directly with the UFC fighter rankings.  The rankings are often criticized, and there is no exact science to determine how fighters are ranked.  Moreover, unsaid but inferred from the structure, unranked fighters will benefit, little, if any from the deal.

Via ESPN:

The pay structure will allocate funds per fight, based on a tiered ranking system. Champions will receive the largest payment, followed by fighters ranked Nos. 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and unranked. UFC’s official rankings are voted on by media outlets and are overseen by the company.

Starting with UFC 189, which coincides with International Fight Week, there will no longer be fight banners or any other types of sponsors aside from Reebok.  Fighters will be able to ascertain sponsorships outside of the Octagon but cannot be sponsored by any other company leading up to a fight or during it.

The UFC indicated that aside from “costs associated” with the sponsorship, the money goes directly to the fighters.

Here’s what we should expect at UFC 189 via MMA Junkie:

At each UFC event after the July rollout, a newly established team of UFC equipment managers will distribute to each fighter and cornerman a Reebok gear bag with fight shorts, walk-out jerseys, hoodies, T-shirts, fleece tops and bottoms, headwear, socks and shoes, among other items, which will be used throughout fight week and are intended for the athlete to keep after the event.

In addition, there is a charity component of the deal as a portion of the revenue from the UFC-Reebok line of products goes to Fight for Peace, a nonprofit aligned with the sportswear manufacturer.

The UFC indicated it had reached out to UFC fighters about this deal before it was announced.

The deal does not dismiss other sponsors, but one might assume that agents and managers will have a harder time finding sponsors for fighters outside of a UFC event.  Moreover, one of the prime attractions for most sponsors, the logo on the shirt/shorts, will go away.

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting deal that will certainly garner scrutiny in the days to come.  For top-level fighters and current champions, the deal is favorable for them.  Of course, these are not the fighters to be concerned with as they have always be taken care of from various sponsors.  But, for those fighters that appear on prelims and Fight Nights, this new change could be a concern.  There are many unknowns at this point on what the pay structure will look like and only time will tell to see how fighters will benefit.  How much money will be allotted to fighters?

MMA Payout will have more on this deal.

Hendricks partners with Zak Products

December 1, 2014

UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks has signed a sponsorship deal with Zak Products.  The company is in the automotive performance chemicals business and is an official NASCAR sponsor and it will be its first time sponsoring a UFC fighter.

In addition to the in-Octagon sponsorship, there are potential plans for Hendricks to do cross-promotion at NASCAR events, something that other UFC fighters have done in the past.

Payout Perspective:

The sponsor deal was forged by Hendricks’ agents at KO Reps who also helped him obtain unique sponsors with Bass Pro Shops and Reebok to name a few.  This could be the start of a longer relationship for Hendricks which should include appearances at NASCAR events on behalf of the brand.

Payout Perspect: Pacquiao-Algieri Perspective

November 26, 2014

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at Manny Pacquiao’s latest fight this past Saturday against Chris Algieri at the Venetian Macao off of mainland China.

Pacquiao posts 6 knockdowns in rout of Algieri

Maybe 2 of the knockdowns were due to slipping in Pacquiao’s corner.  Yet, the other four were legitimate and reflects the fact that Chris Algieri was not in the same class of Manny Pacquiao.  Although Pacquiao’s star may not be as bright in the U.S., the Macao fans were fully behind him. Pacquiao could not end Algieri short of the final bell but showed that he still had the speed and power to score some impressive knockdowns.

So what’s next for Pacquiao?  He is contemplating a move back down to 140 pounds where Roy Jones-trained Jessie Vargas, who was on the undercard, may be an interesting match-up.  Of course, there is that long-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather looming.  Then again, everyone has heard these rumors for years.

PAC Algieri

Vargas, Lomachenko and Shiming score victories

Jessie Vargas, Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming scored victories on the undercard of the PPV.  Vargas, now trained by Roy Jones, Jr. defeated Antonio DeMarco, a Freddie Roach fighter, in the opener.  Lomachenko, in his first title defense, defeated Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and Zou Shiming defeated a Thai Manny Pacquiao doppelganger, Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym.

Attendance

ESPN reported attendance a sellout at 13,201 at Macao’s Cotai Arena off the coast of mainland China.   Last year for Pacquiao-Rios was a sellout as well.

Promotion

Conspicuous by its absence, were the HBO 24/7 three part episodes.  Instead, we were given just one 24/7 but it was probably for the best.  While we could have been introduced to Algieri more, I’m sure HBO execs were unsure about how much to invest in the boxer still living with his parents.  Algieri had a good backstory and the first 5 minutes of 24/7 did a good job in drawing parallels between Pacquiao and Algieri. Also, I’m sure it’s becoming harder to find interesting stories for Pacquiao.  This time around they followed him around making the rounds as a politician and captured him playing for a basketball team he now owns.

Although Pacquiao and Algieri made the normal rounds to promote the fight, it felt like this fight did not have the usual Pac Man buzz.

Sponsorships

Sponsors in the ring included Tecate, the upcoming Fox series Empire and Philippine paint company Boysen.

Probably the best promotion for this fight was Manny Pacquiao’s Foot Locker commercial which played on the reaction of Manny Pacquiao when he mistakenly believed that Floyd Mayweather had accepted a fight with him.  In that commercial, Pacquiao sported a Nike, “Black Mamba Training” t-shirt.

Pacquiao-630x355

Pacquiao had his usual sponsors including Nike. Ricoa, Café Puro and mobile app company Viber.

Algieri wore a Nike-sponsored Stony Brook (his alma mater) jersey to the weigh-ins and was sponsored by the swoosh for this fight.  Similar to Tim Bradley, the company made a logo for him.

Cerritos and South Coast Mitshubishi patches were all over boxers and corner men throughout the night.  It is the Dynamic Fastener of boxing.

Odds and ends

Dionesia Pacquiao, Manny Pacquiao’s mother was once again a part of the show. Notably, she was going around the ring post-fight with her rosary.

Having an annual event in Macao appears to be part of the plan for HBO/Top Rank as it seeks growth in the Chinese market.

Busy night for Freddie Roach with multiple fighters including Zou Shiming and Pacquaio on the card.

Possibly the fight of the night was the PPV opener with Jessie Vargas defeating Antonio DeMarco.  Vargas could be someone on the radar for Pacquiao.

Notably, comedian Dave Chapelle, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were all in attendance.  Chappelle had made the trip last year for Pacquiao’s fight.

Conclusion

There were over 500,000 google searches for Manny Pacqiuao Saturday.  Is that good?  Yes, but I am not confident that the amount of searches for Pacquiao would equate to PPV buys.  Pacquiao’s Macao fight last year against Brandon Rios did only 450K-550K PPV buys depending on who you asked.  It felt like there was less promotion done domestically and we may see this hurt the buy rate.  I would expect the same PPV range as the Rios fight last year.

UFC 180: Payout Perspective

November 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 180 from the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.

Werdum wins interim Heavyweight title

It was to be Cain Velasquez fighting in Mexico City against Fabricio Werdum.  However, an injury to Cain allowed Mark Hunt the chance to step in and seize the title.  Hunt looked good until a well-timed knee spelled the beginning of the end for Hunt.

Werdum wins the title and will eventually get to face Cain Velasquez to unify the titles.

UFC 180

Gastelum ascends while Ellenberger descends

Kelvin Gastelum defeated Jake Ellenberger with a rear naked choke in the first round.  The win should propel the former TUF winner into the top 10 of the welterweight division while it showed the Ellenberger maybe a broken fighter.  Gastelum secured a rear-naked choke with ease as it appeared that Ellenberger did not defend his neck despite his back being taken.  The win should mean a step up in fights for Gastelum while Ellenberger is teetering on the cusp of being cut.

Attendance

Initial reports in August had UFC 180 a sell out in just 8 hours after the announcement of Velasquez-Werdum and the launch of TUF in Mexico (which drew 7 million viewers on Televisia according to Yahoo! Sports).  The announcement made post-fight had the attendance at 21,000 although no official gate was given.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K were given to Werdum, Gastelum, Henry Biones and Guido Cannetti.  Briones and Canetti put on the Fight of the Night.  White indicated that Ricardo Lamas would also be given a bonus although that was unofficial.

Promotion of Fight

Once again one of the main drivers of the promotion was the UFC Embedded series which followed the fighters on the main card.  It caught the best moment of the pre-fight hype with Werdum-Hunt singing together.

The UFC also did a photo op with the NBA as the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves played a game in Mexico City earlier in the week.

The UFC and Fathom Events put the event on movie screens across the country hoping that the event would gain more eyes.  Unfortunately, if we look at the tweet from Mike Bohn, it did not.

Sponsorships

The Octagon sponsors were without UltimatePoker.com, the Stations Casinos online poker site which was closed down last week.  Notably, one of the Octagon sponsors for UFC 180 was Costa Rican online gaming company, BetCris.  The sponsors included the UFC Network, UFCStore.com, UFC Fit, MateFit.me, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, video game FarCry 4, the aforementioned BetCris and Bud Lite in the center of the Octagon.

Gastelum wore the UFC Network logo as did Werdum during pre-fight activities and but wore Bad Boy to the Octagon.

Hunt wore his own clothing brand Juggernaut on his shorts.  It’s interesting that Hunt does not have more sponsors.  You may recall he had zero as a fill-in when he fought Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.  Werdum most prominent sponsor was clothing brand Torque.

Doritos was a prominent sponsor for this event as it banked heavily on the Werdum-Velasquez matchup including producing in-store placement of 2.5 million bags with the fighter likenesses on them.  It was described as a “360 degree activation” around UFC 180.  With Cain falling out, the campaign likely fell short of its goal.

Post-UFC 180 Headline

Werdum-Velasquez should be next although White indicated that if Cain were to have another injury that forces him from action, he could be stripped of the title.

Odds and Ends

  • The WWE collaborated with the UFC during the UFC Prelims on FS1. To be exact, a 2K Sports commercial for the WWE video game, WWE2K15, infused images of the video game and UFC action.
  • The main event ended at 8:50 pm on the west coast. Only about an hour and a half of fights before the UFC showed the prelims to fill the time.
  • Bellator used the footage of Melvin Manhoef knocking out Mark Hunt from 2008 during its pre-fight hype package to put over Manhoef.
  • Jessica Eye almost took Leslie Smith’s ear off but Smith still wanted to fight.
  • Google Trends revealed that the top countries searching for UFC 180 were Mexico, Canada, Brazil and the United States in that order.
  • The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) ran a story on the Fertittas and Dana White and their ties to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School in last week’s Sports Business Journal. It was placed “below the fold.”  Prominent placement for a rather evergreen story during UFC 180 week.
  • Chael Sonnen began his duties with ESPN as an analyst.

Conclusion

It was a good night of fights but the lack of brand-name power was one of the detracting factors about this event.  When the Werdum-Velasquez fight was initially announced and the two were TUF coaches, there was much hope that UFC 180 would be one of the bigger PPVs of this year.  Entering a new market and the quick sell out appeared to be good signs for the PPV.  But, Velasquez’s injury was a significant blow to any hopes that this PPV would do well.  Without a good undercard, the UFC was placing its hopes on Cain’s drawing power.  Based on Google Trends, we are looking at a buy rate comparable to UFC 174 or 177 which drew between115-125K PPV buys.

Ultimate Poker closes due to lack of profitability

November 15, 2014

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Fertittas have closed down Ultimate Gaming and thereby shutter Ultimate Poker.  After 19 months, the company indicated lack of profitability for closing down its business operations.

The article stated that Stations Casinos is the majority owner of Ultimate Gaming.  Online poker revenue “fell far short of once-lofty projections,” stated Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling in the article.  Only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware allowed online gambling and for Ultimate Poker to accept wagers the players must be physically in the state.

UltimatePoker.com was a sponsor of the UFC.  It launched in May 2013 but with the limited amount of potential players, the once novel idea, turned to out to be a dud.

Payout Perspective:

The news of the closure comes the week before New Jersey hears oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by sports leagues (i.e., NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB) seeking a temporary injunction from passage of a law allowing the state to accept bets on sports games. Although the NBA opposes the New Jersey law, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week supporting legalizing and regulating sports betting.  As for the closure of Ultimate Poker, expect Zuffa to look into other ways to monetize the future of gambling.  In the meantime, it means one less UFC sponsor in the Octagon.

More future crossover promotion for Bellator-Monster Energy?

November 3, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator MMA and Monster Energy may be doing more combo events together in the future.

A couple weeks ago, Bellator held fights outside a Monster Energy motorcross event at Sam Boyd Stadium.  According to a recent report, the two companies could plan more collaborations in the future.

Bellator head, Scott Coker is “on board” with another collaboration with Monster Energy.  According to the Junkie article, Coker indicated it could “commit more resources to more cross-promotional opportunities.”

Payout Perspective:

The term “sideshow” came up in the article and it comes to mind when thinking about holding a Bellator event at a motorcross event.  Notably, the fights were not televised and no known fighters participated.  Even if it is spun in terms of a “festival” atmosphere with thousands of people gravitating to a motorcross event and seeing an MMA fight, what does this do for the Bellator brand?  While collaborating with a sponsor is understandable, holding fights as a compliment to another event does not seem like the end game for Bellator.

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