November 26, 2015
The Sports Business Journal reports (subscription required) that UFC sponsors Bud Light and Monster Energy Drink will roll out major national promotional campaigns for UFC 200 starting early 2016.
Monster Energy drink, the current sponsor of the center of the octagon, will kick off a national promotional campaign in January in approximately 45,000 retail outlets. The “Win a trip to UFC 200” promotion will be supported by digital and social campaigns as well as promoted on PPV broadcasts.
But Light, the prior sponsor of the center of the octagon, will start a “Road to UFC 200 Sweepstakes” in approximately 5,400 Circle K Stores with displays within the stores.
The promotions will run for three months and feature Ronda Rousey in their displays/materials. The Bud Light promotion will also include Conor McGregor.
The promotions make it clear that it does not promise Rousey or McGregor at UFC 200 although it’s likely that one or both will be on the card. The campaigns focus on the historical mark of UFC 200. The article notes that sponsors that use sports properties in national retail promotions like long lead times and recognizable athletes. It points out that the nature of combat sports makes this uneasy. Rousey is the prime example. Despite losing at UFC 193, she will still spearhead the campaign. No word if Holm would be a late replacement although it might be hard to do so at this late date. If McGregor were to lose in December, the campaign would start off flat as it would feature two fighters coming off losses.
November 19, 2015
In light of the Holly Holm victory over Ronda Rousey on Saturday, one of Holm’s sponsors, Intel Pharma wished her congratulations. The company sells supplements containing substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and federal law.
According to MMA Junkie, the company has offered products it claims contain prohormones and a steroid alternative known as Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMS). It appears on the WADA banned substance list.Anti-doping experts have sounded off against this business relationship as not looking good for the new champion. Holm’s manager, Lenny Fresquez, indicated that they were aware that the company sold products containing banned substance prior to signing the sponsorship deal. “Holly didn’t really use them so it’s not a big deal,” Fresquez told USA Today, “I’m sure she didn’t use any of them. She might have taken a picture with one.”
Fresquez indicated that the sponsorship deal was for just one-fight and they have not decided whether to extend the deal.
Intel Pharma CEO, Landon Suggs, stated that his company stopped producing and selling products with SARMs “no later than June” before the sponsorship deal with Holm. Suggs stated that it issued a recall for the products as well.
The company also updated its Facebook page on November 17th congratulating Holm. It had not updated the page since October 9th.
We, at Intel-Pharma, wanted to create an innovative supplement company that customers could trust to provide the best products and personal service in the industry. As a new company we have learned hard lessons along the way, but those same lessons have reinforced our initial stated mission, which is to be the most innovative sports supplement brand on the market. Long before UFC 193 was announced we were interested in partnering with Holly Holm’s to be one of our featured athletes because she shares our values of faith, family and hard work. That hard work is what was on display Saturday in Melbourne, Australia. There is no other “secret” to Holly’s success other than that hard work, along with an incredible team of coaches, sparring partners, family support, and just plain crazy athleticism. As unbelievable as it may have seemed to the greater population at large, Holly’s success was not a shock to those of us who knew of her talent long before Saturday. And we couldn’t be more thrilled for her that the world now knows what we always believed.
One would think that Holm will not continue the relationship with Intel Pharma since winning the women’s title from Rousey. Certainly, her win should open up more doors for sponsor opportunities. Also, the price for her name probably went up with the win. Her accomplishment should not be sullied by this association despite how innocuous it might be. The fact is that the company is associated with banned substances that Holm, as champion, should not be associated with even if Holm never took the product.
November 16, 2015
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. In this edition, we take a look at the happenings taken place down under in Melbourne, Australia as Holly Holm upset Ronda Rousey to win the women’s bantamweight title.
Holm, game plan takes out Rousey
No one would have thought this would have been the ending. But, a headkick knocked out Ronda Rousey and the aura of invincibility was over. Holly Holm, who hovered around an 8-1 to 12-1 underdog depending on where you looked, outclassed Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. Holm’s game plan trumped Rousey’s athletic ability. Moreover, Rousey’s boxing was exposed and it was clear that she was exhausted at the end of Round 1.
For Holm, it was the culmination of a long-term plan that had her and her trainers preparing for Rousey even before she was in the UFC. Her management fought tooth and nail with UFC management in negotiating her signing with the company. Turns out it was worth it.
As for Rousey, her loss seemed to satiate the thirst of every Rousey hater. Everyone was quick to tweet with glee her loss and KO. As is with most MMA fighters that gain more popularity than the others, MMA “fans” began to despise Rousey. The good news for them is that she lost and MMA fans will turn their attention to Conor McGregor in December silently hoping for him to lose as many have those tweets ready for their timeline.
Joanna Champion still Champ
It was not a dominant performance, but Joanna Jedrzejcyzk retained her 115 pound title with a unanimous decision over Valerie Letourneau. Letourneau came down 20 pounds to fight at 115 pounds and you have to think that it might have played a factor. Overall, it was an entertaining fight with Joanna retaining her title.
Attendance and Gate
It was a record setting night for the UFC as the announced attendance was 56,214 with a gate of $6.8 million (U.S.). It did better than UFC 129 which drew 55,724 in Toronto. However, the gate did not exceed the 55,724.
As Darren Rovell tweeted, there were many comps for the event although the UFC no longer reports on the number.
This was a little curious as Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey and Kyle Noke earned the $50,000 bonuses. Holm won for both Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night. Noke earned a Performance of the Night Bonus. Rousey drew a Fight of the Night bonus although you might argue that she didn’t deserve it for her part in the fight. Certainly, there were other fighters (e.g., Ben Nguyen) that could have received a Performance of the Night Bonus instead of Rousey receiving one for FOTN.
Promotion of the Fight
Ronda Rousey went on Good Morning America in late August to announce her fight with Holly Holm. Originally scheduled for January 2nd, the event was moved up in part to replace the main event of UFC 193 as well as attempt to set a new UFC attendance (and gate) record at Ethiad Stadium.
Perhaps the best video promotion for a UFC event was produced for UFC 193. It debuted on Ellen’s web site which featured a younger Ronda Rousey learning martial arts with the underlying message that women could do anything.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 2, 2015
A lengthier feature was shown after the UFC 193 PPV.
You might recall Dana White announced in a phone interview Rousey-Holm was moved from January 2nd to November 14th on a Friday night on ESPN. The date was moved up due to the usual injury issues.
The event was a reward for the province as a law which prohibited cagefighting was lifted. With opposition still abound in the area, the attendance at the event (albeit with some comped seats) was still strong. USA Today reported on the “stir” in Australia with opposition to the sport of MMA. Rousey spoke with local media about the controversy.
UFC Embedded, the video series, aired on Fox the Saturday before the fight. Usually, it’s online but with a Rousey fight, it seemed to demand more visibility. Also, Ruby Rose was the narrator for the series.
Rousey was also on the front page of the NY Times Sunday Styles Section in October. This was one of several media obligations which catered to women. It will be interesting to see if Holly Holm can continue this trend and appeal.
In the octagon, we had a couple international UFC sponsors as well as the usual mainstays. Unibet, Xbox’s Tomb Raider, DraftKings, Wargaming.net, Bud Light, the upcoming film, “Creed,” Bud Light, Reebok and Monster Energy Drink had the center. Unibet had the fighter prep point. Holly Holm was sponsored by Unibet and announced a new deal with GRRRL Clothing.
Odds and Ends
Since it always comes back to gambling. The betting line on Holm in Vegas and the aftermath:
Donald Trump weighed in on Ronda Rousey tweeting that he was glad that she lost because she is not a nice person. I didn’t know they knew each other.
EA Sports announced that Rousey would be on the cover of its latest UFC game coming out this spring. Was it a video game cover curse?
Should we read into the fact that Ronda’s mother was not at the fight a sign of discontent with her? It is a long plane ride to Australia for sure, but her mother has already been there for her fights.
Rousey’s hang up during a UFC 193 Conference Call was an act of unprofessionalism despite the question asking about Travis Browne. Even worse, the excuse that her “phone died” just insults everyone’s intelligence. You mean, the UFC and/or Rousey’s management could not have given her a phone to finish the call?
At the end of Episode 3 of the Embedded series, Rousey uses an analogy about being bankrupt. All the while, it shows her hitting mitts with Edmund. His bankruptcy filing occurred this summer and comes to a head this month. This issue had not been a problem in the past, but with the news surfacing now, it all makes it more of a deal.
Letourneau was informed by USADA that Hector Lombard could not corner her for her fight as Lombard’s participation would have violated the new anti-doping policy. Lombard, who admitted to using PEDs earlier this year would fall under the “prohibited association” rule of the UFC anti-doping policy.
Lenny Fresquez, the agent/manager for Holly Holm, won six figures betting on her client. There’s something that seems unsettling with a manager that is already making off of her client for representation to bet money on her client. Sure, it’s legal and acceptable, but is there a conflict of interest?
Notably, Fresquez said that Holm has 2 more fights under her existing contract.
FS1 could not carry the post-fight show until late due to the Pac-12 game between Utah and Arizona going to double OT. Most of the post-fight was on FS2.
The PPV went over the 3 hour mark which is a rarity.
It was interesting that not much was made of the fact that one of the biggest cards in UFC history and it was headline by two women’s title fights.
In anticipation of a Rousey “vine” like finish, the UFC sent out a reminder to media outlets that you would be in violation of Zuffa’s copyright of the PPV. It appeared as though the Huffington Post Sports twitter feed was allowed to post the finish (as it did). Still, others posted the finish online. In protection of its copyright (and in order for people to buy the PPV), the UFC wanted to deter people from posting their videos.
Certainly a Rousey-Holm rematch seems ripe for July’s UFC 200.
It was interesting that despite Ronda Rousey google searches hitting 500,000 on Friday, there was a slight downturn (note: in the link the google trends embedded link is constantly changing over time which I think is pretty cool) in searches right around the time after the weigh-ins. But, the searches jumped back up on Saturday afternoon. What does this mean about PPV buys? Who really knows? But, if we are to look into the past history of Rousey fights, one might think this still does well. I would predict 750,000 PPV buys.
November 6, 2015
Ronda Rousey has signed an endorsement deal with Monster Energy Drink. The news comes ahead of her fight next week against Holly Holm.
Notably, Rousey sported a Monster logo on her official Reebok kit at UFC 190. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In addition to Rousey, Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier are sponsored by Monster Energy Drink.
Maybe I am the only one to think that there might be confusion from an athlete endorsing both “Monster” products. Then again, the companies might have a working agreement. Only guessing there. As for the agreement, it was just a matter of time before Monster Energy forged a deal with Rousey. With just a week before UFC 193, the timing is probably right for the deal so that Rousey could sport the Monster Energy brand for fight week.
November 5, 2015
Jon Jones has signed a new sponsorship deal with GAT, a sports nutrition products company. It is the first sponsorship deal since Jones was reinstated by the UFC.
Jones will become the first MMA fighter to be sponsored by the company which caters to bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.
You may recall that Jones lost all of his sponsor deals including one with Reebok and a deal with Nike lapsed.
— GAT (@GATSupplements) November 4, 2015
According to the press release, Jones’ manager Malki Kawa approached the company about a potential sponsorship with the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
Via GAT press release:
“I was thrilled when Malki Kawa called me to discuss TEAMGAT expanding to include MMA athletes and signing Jon Jones as our first,” said Mark Post, Vice President of GAT. “I’ve been a fan of his since he entered the sport. Everyone at GAT is excited about signing Jon. The whole world will be watching when he gets back into action. TEAMGAT will be proud to be in his corner.”
No details on the financials of the deal or what the sponsorship deal will cover. Jones cannot wear the GAT logo in the octagon but we assume he will be on its web site and in advertisements.
The sponsorship deal is a building block for Jones as he seeks to make a comeback in multiple arenas. Obviously he is preparing for his return to the octagon. But, he is also trying to rebuild his presence outside the octagon. His last run-in with the law stripped him of everything he had in MMA (his title, sponsors and the opportunity to fight in the UFC). The sponsor deal is not a high profile one but it allows Jones a chance. For GAT, it’s a calculated risk but a good one if Jones is able to keep himself out of trouble.
October 16, 2015
The Nevada Gaming Board deemed that Daily Fantasy Sports is gambling according to Nevada law. As a result, Daily Fantasy Operators including UFC sponsor DraftKings are pulling out of the state.
According to the decision on Thursday, a daily fantasy operator must obtain a gambling license in the state of Nevada if it is to continue to operate in the state. None of the sites have a license and all have or will pull out of the state. The decision is just one of the many recent happenings in the unregulated world of daily fantasy sports.
While it’s not immediately known, the departure from Nevada probably has no impact with its UFC sponsorship. There are still many states where daily fantasy sports is legal. We probably will not know if it will still maintain a presence in the Octagon until the next UFC event in Nevada which would be UFC Fight Night 80 on December 10th.
Prior to UFC 182, Draft Kings announced a deal with Jon Jones prior to his title defense against Daniel Cormier. It announced a sponsorship deal with the UFC in late February of this year. The UFC is just one of the multitude of sports sponsors that Draft Kings and other daily fantasy operators have brokered since coming onto the scene.
While the Nevada ruling is a big blow, sponsorship of sporting events, programming, teams and leagues remain intact for the most part. An interesting question to ask is whether the loss of markets (i.e., states where consumers can play legally) will mean the loss of national sponsorships. If there is a nationwide overhaul of this particular industry, we could see the end of the sponsor deal with the UFC. Certainly the UFC-Draft Kings sponsorship deal must have an ending point with the opportunity to renew. We shall see what happens next in this industry. The loss of a sponsor might have some impact to the UFC despite it having a very good financial year.
September 8, 2015
Welcome to another addition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 191 held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena where John Dodson had his second crack at Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson.
Mighty Mouse dominates Dodson
Demetrious Johnson showed his skills in taking a 5 round unanimous decision from John Dodson. Dodson squeaked out (maybe) one round according to judges but tired while Johnson showed his great cardio. It was another dominant showing but once again was not enough to satisfy the crowd. According to some in attendance, people were leaving before the fight. Perhaps that’s the reason Johnson lashed out at the fans that booed in a post-fight interview with Ariel Helwani.
— Dana White (@danawhite) September 6, 2015
The biggest fight in Johnson’s division may be Henry Cejudo assuming he gets past Jussier Formiga. If not that, I would suggest Johnson moving up to 135 to try and get some competition as its clear he’s lapping the 125 pound division. Arlovski edges Mir Maybe this was the reason why people were leaving early. Andre Arlovski defeated Frank Mir in the co-main event of the evening. Mir came in heavy, I mean real heavy, for this fight and it showed as he was almost standing still during the fight. At one point, Mir got position on the ground on Arlovski and just laid on him until it was broken up. Not the heavyweight fight that the matchmakers had hoped to see. Certainly, the forecast was for a quick KO like both had in their prior fights. Even winning, Arlovski looked down about his performance. On a six-fight winning streak, Arlovski puts himself in line for the Heavyweight title although he may have to wait until next summer for that considering Fabricio Werdum wants to wait until March to fight. So, Arlovski will likely get another fight. Maybe a returning Fedor Emelianenko? Attendance and gate It was not surprising that 191 did not do as well as other PPV events this year in Vegas. It drew 10,783 fans for a gate of $1.367M. It was the lowest gate for a UFC PPV since August 2004 at UFC 49.
UFC 191’s reported gate of $1.3 million is the lowest for a Las Vegas-based UFC pay-per-view card since UFC 49 in August 2004. — Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) September 6, 2015
The last time the MGM Grand drew a comparable attendance and gate was last September for UFC 178 which featured Johnson defending against Chris Cariaso. Bonuses The $50,000 bonuses went to Raquel Pennington, Anthony Johnson, John Lineker and Francisco Rivera. Pennington, Lineker and Rivera were on the UFC 191 Prelims. Johnson won a bonus for his KO of Jimi Manuwa. Lineker and Rivera won FOTN for their slugfest which Fox Sports tweeted out for people to see.
Promotion of the Fight
Notably, the UFC Countdown show on FS1 Sunday drew just 83,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings. Of course this rating must be taken into consideration with the fact that many people are now watching UFC Countdown online at their leisure.
The Embedded Episodes once again followed the main fighters on the card including following John Dodson to the hospital to go see his wife deliver their daughter. It also followed Paige Van Zant during fight week and one can tell that the UFC has plans for her future.
The LA Times also ran a feature on Van Zant. Perhaps the most salient quotes for the article was that Dana White stated that “[s]he has great personality. People and sponsors love her.” Also, Van Zant seemed to infer that some of the other fighters in her weight class may be taking PEDs as she noted that some “have very masculine physiques, and I [PVZ] don’t know if you can get those naturally.”
The “Go Big” press conference was a news event of itself with Conor McGregor once again taking center stage.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about sponsors for UFC 191 was the absence of Xbox as a sponsor for Demetrious Johnson. The Microsoft-owned video game platform had been a long-time sponsor for Johnson. In fact, it was the only fighter it sponsored. With the Reebok-deal, Johnson had to give up the sponsorship although he could still do promotional work for the company outside of the Octagon. However, an MMA Fighting article stated that his deal with Xbox was in limbo.
Notably, Xbox promoted its upcoming version of Halo on the PPV as it sponsored the Fighter prep point, octagon signage and Tale of the Tape.
Aside from Xbox, the Octagon had the usual sponsors including Toyo Tires, MusclePharm, MetroPCS, Bud Light, Harley Davidson, Draft Kings and Monster Energy Drink had the center of the Octagon
Odds and Ends
Google trends had 200,000 searches for “UFC 191” which is pretty good. But does that equate to PPV buys? Notably, worldwide the search term “Demetrious Johnson” fared better this time around than it did for his last fight in April. Same for the search term “Mighty Mouse and UFC.”
An anti-domestic violence group called MMA Watchdog staged a rally on Saturday afternoon outside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in opposition to UFC fighter Anthony Johnson. According to the group, there was a small turnout of 30 people.
The UFC expressed disappointment with Johnson’s actions after a gym confrontation with a woman. Yet, he was not taken off of UFC 191. Johnson agreed to counseling and a donation to a women’s charity to make good on the incident.
Joe Rogan’s dual interview of Ross Pearson and Paul Felder was really weird.
Dana White introduced a promo for FX’s “The Bastard Executioner.” Usually these types of promos are introduced by a fighter. Unless FX wanted White to do the introduction, one would think putting your fighters out there to do this type of work helps prepare them for future sponsorship work.
All of the indicators suggest that UFC 191 will be the lowest output for PPVs this year. Even with 3 more PPVs left in 2015, we can predict that those cards will outdo this one based on the level of fights on each. Are we to blame the UFC for putting Johnson in the main event based on his prior PPV history? Or, is it Johnson, through no fault of his own that lacks the appeal of other fighters? Johnson is trying his best, but fans are not buying his shows. Without another fight on the card that would be of interest, UFC 191 is destined to garner around 150,000 buys if lucky.
September 6, 2015
Despite the new Reebok sponsor era, Microsoft-owned Xbox was in the Octagon. However, it was not on the shorts or t-shirt of long-time sponsor, Demetrious Johnson. At UFC 191, Xbox promoted its upcoming Halo edition, “Halo 5: Guardians” with Octagon signage and sponsoring the fighter prep point outside the Octagon.
Xbox had been the only in-Octagon sponsor for Johnson in the UFC Octagon for years. However, with the new sponsorship rules, his future business relationship with the Redmond, Washington-based company is in question.
Despite not sponsoring Johnson, seeking to capitalize on a target demo of young fans, it had signage at UFC 191. In addition to the signage, it presented the “Tale of the Tape” for the PPV fights
To be clear, we do not personally know that Microsoft paid money for its signage and sponsoring the Tale of the Tape. But let’s review some facts.
- The UFC instituted a sponsorship fee for brands to be shown in the Octagon and on its fighters.
- On July 1, 2015, Reebok became the official clothing sponsor of the UFC. As a result, a new policy was instituted that no other sponsors (outside of official UFC sponsors) would be worn by fighters during promotion of the fight, fight week and on the night of the fight.
- MMA Fighting indicated that Johnson’s Xbox sponsorship was in “limbo” due to the Reebok policy. Johnson remained upbeat about the new company policy despite losing out on his sole in-Octagon sponsor.
- At UFC 191, Xbox had in-Octagon signage and sponsored the fighter prep point as well as the “Tale of the Tape.”
- Johnson did not have an Xbox logo on his shorts although champions such as Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor sported an additional logo (both Monster Energy Drink) with their Reebok kit.
It’s plausible, but not possible that the UFC allowed Xbox to promote its new game without paying for it. But, in my opinion, I doubt it.
It’s like taking your long-time girlfriend to a work party and she leaves with your boss. Unless Zuffa and Microsoft are working on a sponsorship deal to make Xbox the official video game platform of the UFC and Johnson can continue his relationship with Xbox, DJ may have unknowingly handed over a blue-chip sponsor to the UFC without an official finder’s fee. Maybe DJ is getting unreported additional compensation but on the outside looking in, this has to be disappointing for Johnson from a business perspective. For Xbox, the brand is just executing its promotional campaign in reaching out to its target demo. It’s hard to find fault in sponsoring the UFC.
September 3, 2015
MMA Fighting reports that Demetrious Johnson’s recognizable sponsorship with Xbox is in question as a result of the UFC-Reebok deal. Although the Microsoft-owned video game platform has not necessarily severed times with Johnson, there is nothing currently on the horizon for the 125 pound champion.
Johnson was the only UFC contracted fighter to have an exclusive deal with Xbox prior to the new sponsorship rules implemented by the UFC on July1. Johnson’s trainer, Matt Hume, brokered the deal between Xbox and Demetrious Johnson. As many know, Johnson’s home gym, AMC is in Kirkland, Washington and Microsoft headquarters is located not too far away in Redmond, Washington (as an aside, Google has an office down the block from AMC but that’s here nor there).
Johnson indicated during a UFC media event in Los Angeles that Xbox was pleased with the sponsorship and liked the fact that he fought on Fox. One might infer that the Xbox brand was seen by more viewers during the network cards on Fox rather than when Johnson fought on PPV. Johnson has fought on 3 UFC on Fox cards and 2 UFC on FX cards. Per the MMA Fighting, Johnson seemed to infer that he made more money from his Xbox sponsorship when he fought on Fox than he did when he fought on PPV.
Although Xbox has not officially severed ties, it appears that Johnson will not be involved in any out of the octagon promotions by the company but he indicated that he’s “still in touch.”
Being the company person, Johnson lauded the new sponsorship policy indicating that he’ll be getting $40,000 from Reebok (per the champion payout). He also brought up the prior issues he had with sponsors in the WEC and the fact that he no longer has to seek out sponsors. Of course, he had been sponsored solely by Xbox for over 4 years.
We wrote about the relationship Johnson had with Xbox back in February 2011. Xbox had been the only sponsor for Johnson and now the relationship seems to be put on ice. It was a blue chip sponsor in the target demo for the UFC. Yet, due to the arrangement brokered by the UFC that opportunity is over. The ending of the relationship likely hurts Johnson financially more than he is willing to talk about in public. One would hope that there are opportunities down the road for Johnson to make out of Octagon appearances for the company. I
August 28, 2015
Ronda Rousey has made her first commercial with her new sponsor, Carl’s Jr. The commercial is for the fast food chain’s Cinnamon Swirl French Toast breakfast sandwich.
Unlike previous Carl’s Jr. commercials which focused on selling sex, the commercial focuses on Ronda’s persona in the Octagon. It also includes her taking a big bite of the sandwich – a staple for Carl’s Jr. commercials.
The commercial should be the first of many for Rousey as the brand’s pitch woman. Based on the estimated PPV buy rate of UFC 190, Rousey’s brand is bigger than ever. The Carl’s Jr. sponsorship should expand her mainstream awareness going forward.