UFC signs multiyear sponsorship deal with Aurora Cannabis

May 21, 2019

Sports Business Daily reports that the UFC has signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with Aurora Cannabis of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

As part of the deal, the parties will pledge fund research on “CBD products and athlete wellness and recovery, with a view to accelerating CBD product development and education.”

The sponsorship will become visible next month at UFC 238 in June.

According to a report from Forbes.com, CBD sales in the U.S. will surpass $20 billion by 2024.

Payout Perspective:

It seems like every fighter on a major MMA podcast pedaled some CBD company and the UFC finally came aboard.  As a growing industry, it is clear that the UFC wanted to take advantage.  As for the research it will do, one may only suggest that it will look into how it will help athletes without altering its current anti-doping policy.  The deal also shows the continued expansion of the UFC sponsorship portfolio as it is signing up more deals for otherwise untapped industries.

Monster Energy drops Dillashaw

May 9, 2019

Monster Energy has cut ties with former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw as the energy drink company is no longer a sponsor of the fighter.

Ariel Helwani first reported the business decision by the Orange County-based company.  Dillashaw is serving a two-year suspension from the UFC after USADA tests discovered EPO in drug tests.  Dillashaw did not appeal the ruling and in an Instagram post expressed regret for his mistake.

Monster Energy, a UFC sponsor, also has individual deals with several UFC and Bellator fighters including Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone, Joe Schilling and Rory MacDonald.

Payout Perspective:

Despite Jones’ past issues with USADA, Monster has not flinched with its support of Jones.  Of course, Dillashaw was found guilty of using EPO which many consider is worse than Jones’ past USADA indiscretions.  The business move makes sense considering Dillashaw’s brand needs some repair and time away from the spotlight may rehabilitate him.  So, it would make no sense for Monster Energy to continue to sponsor a fighter on the sidelines.

PFL and iHeartMedia announce new partnership deal

May 3, 2019

The Professional Fighters League and iHeartMedia announced a marketing and content partnership deal “designed to promote fight events and enhance the fan experience through the fusion of music and MMA.”

The PFL begins its second season in its “sport-season format” of Regular Season, Playoffs and Championships next week. iHeartMedia touts itself as the “umber one audio company in the United States with subscription-based (and free) options for users to listen to live broadcast stations across the nation.

Via press release:

iHeartMedia on-air hosts and talent will make appearances at select events, kicking off with New York’s Hip Hop and R&B station Power 105.1’s DJ Suss-One spinning live at the first event of the PFL 2019 Season May 9 at Nassau Coliseum. Promotional opportunities continue with DJ Envy of The Breakfast Club, the popular morning show syndicated on Hip-Hop and R&B stations nationwide, to drive tune-in for the events.

The partnership also includes creating music experiences in connection with each fight night and providing fans with access to PFL “in the life” fighter interviews. Fans will gain insight into what happens behind-the-scenes during fight week through the lens of iHeart and PFL influencers. Promotional contests will run across iHeartMedia stations throughout the country and on iHeartRadio, the all-in-one digital live streaming radio service.

Payout Perspective:

The partnership looks to help the in-arena experience while infusing music into the PFL programming. One has to believe that this partnership was aided by PFL’s new platform on ESPN. How this helps each side? We will see.

UFC 236: Payout Perspective

April 15, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at UFC 236 which took place at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia where fans were witness to two of the best championship fights in recent history.

Poirier earns lightweight title with win over Holloway

Dustin Poirier was too big for Max Holloway and it was clear that his power overwhelmed the 145-pound titleholder.  Poirier hurt Holloway several times in the first round and despite the featherweight champion’s heart, could not fight his way back into the match.

“Paid in full,” was the mantra Poirier proclaimed about his win.  Poirier had made his way back from losses to Conor McGregor and Michael Johnson on his journey to the championship.  He finally got his chance and now has a chance to unify the titles against Khabib Nurmogomedov in what is rumored to be September in Abu Dhabi.

Holloway will be influenced to return to his Featherweight division and the UFC is likely hoping that Alexander Volkanovski can defeat Jose Aldo next month to secure a date between the two for the 145 title.

Adesanya takes middleweight title from Gastelum

In what was a back and forth fight (and likely 2-2 going into the last round) Israel Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum to win the interim welterweight title and a shot at to unify the middleweight title with a showdown against Robert Whittaker sometime in the future in likely a big stadium on the continent of Australia.

There was a point during the fight that Gastelum had Adesanya hurt on his feet but instead of trying to finish him, Kelvin went for the takedown.  One can only assume that Gastelum was tired himself and could not continue on his feet.

But Adesanya poured it on in the 5th round to earn the victory.  One may argue that the ref could have stopped the fight in the final seconds of the fight.  Clearly, Gastelum was in no shape to continue but had the heart to finish.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

It was the first time that the UFC awarded two Fight of the Nights with the main and co-main events drawing the $50,000 bonuses.  There were no Performance Bonuses due to the dual FOTNs.

The attendance and gate for UFC 236 did not break records for UFC events at the Philips Arena but it definitely drew a lot of people for this event.  The event drew 14,297 for a gate of $1,908,721.

Past Atlanta, GA UFC PPV events:

UFC 88 (9/06/2008) Evans-Liddell: 14,736 for a gate of $2.6M

UFC 145 (04/14/2012) Jones-Evans: 15,545 for a gate of $2.2M

Payouts

Israel Adesanya and Max Holloway made $350,000 each for their respective fights.  All of the salaries are compiled here.

Promotional Guideline Payouts (compiled via MMA Junkie)

Dustin Poirier: $30,000
def. Max Holloway: $40,000

Israel Adesanya: $30,000
def. Kelvin Gastelum: $30,000

Khalil Rountree: $5,000
def. Eryk Anders: $5,000

Dwight Grant: $3,500
def. Alan Jouban: $10,000

Nikita Krylov: $10,000
def. Ovince Saint Preux: $20,000

 Matt Frevola: $3,500
def. Jalin Turner: $3,500

 Alexandre Pantoja: $5,000
def. Wilson Reis: $10,000

 Zelim Imadaev: $3,500
def. Max Griffin: $5,000

 Khalid Taha: $3,500
def. Boston Salmon: $3,500

 Belal Muhammad: $5,000
def. Curtis Millender: $4,000

 Andre Soukhamthath: $5,000
def. Montel Jackson: $3,500

 Poliana Botelho: $4,000
def. Lauren Mueller: $3,500

 Brandon Davis: $4,000
def. Randy Costa: $3,500

Sponsorships

For the first time, the UFC released a photo of the Octagon match which featured its core sponsors as well as the Cinemax series Warrior.  In addition, in the Octagon was Pari-Match, the international sports betting site sponsor of the UFC.  Also, convenience store RaceTrac shared space on the Octagon with Monster Energy.

The sponsors on the mat were as follows:

Monster Energy: Official Energy Drink of UFC

Modelo: Official Beer of UFC

P3: Official Protein Snack of UFC

Devour: Official Frozen Food of UFC

Nemiroff: Official Vodka of UFC

BODYARMOR: Official Sports Drink of UFC

Warrior: The new original series from Cinemax, premiering April 5

Poker Stars: Official Gaming and Poker partner of UFC

UFC 236 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the State Farm Arena.

UFC partner, Heed, offered data on the strikes of UFC competitors via sensors in the gloves of fighters. This was explained during a part of episode 3 of UFC Embedded.

The Embedded events were sponsored by the video game Fallout 76.

Odds and ends

It was the first time that ESPN+ became the sole PPV provider in the U.S.  and it came with headaches for many that decided to make the PPV purchase last minute.  Many were directed to a page that indicated they could not purchase the PPV.  Dana White acknowledged the issues and promised that it would be better by the next PPV.  Another critique of the UFC PPV.  No rewind.  Also, if you missed a portion of the PPV, you could not immediately turn back to the beginning.  Instead you had to wait for the full replay to be uploaded on the web site.  Finally, one last critique is that ESPN + was noncommittal about how long you could view a broadcast after purchase.

ESPN ratings for the Prelims were yet to be released at the time of this post but one might them to be north of 1 million viewers.

Kelvin Gastelum actually took off his fight shorts in his hurried rush to take off his sweats for the Octagon and had to put them back on before entering the Octagon.

With the main and co-main event being so good, there were some outstanding performances that did not receive the official bonuses.  This includes Brandon Davis, Khalid Taha, Nikita Krylov and a revamped Khalil Rountree.

From December, Max Holloway has his own Reebok, “It is what it is, headband.”

Shaq was a notable attendee at UFC 236 as he was shown in the crowd during the PPV.

There were over 1 million google searches for UFC 236 although the number may be misleading as some of these numbers are likely due to the inability to order the PPV.

The UFC marketed the co-main and main event with a Game of Thrones-inspired theme with the popular HBO series returning.

Rich Franklin was announced as heading to the UFC Hall of Fame this July.

Conclusion

We would normally give a buy estimate for this PPV but it’s highly unlikely that ESPN releases any numbers related to the buy rate of UFC 236.  If one had to give an educated guess, I would suggest that despite the buy problems for many fans, it still draws 425,000 PPV buys which is very good.  Adesanya is a rising star in the company and Poirier will get more notoriety as he should face Khabib this fall.

UFC releases photo of sponsors on the canvas for 236

April 12, 2019

The UFC has released a photo of the canvas for UFC 236 on Saturday.  Buffalo Wild Wings is the only non-Official UFC sponsor on the Octagon mat.

Per the UFC release:

Monster Energy: Official Energy Drink of UFC

Modelo: Official Beer of UFC

P3: Official Protein Snack of UFC

Devour: Official Frozen Food of UFC

Nemiroff: Official Vodka of UFC

BODYARMOR: Official Sports Drink of UFC

Warrior: The new original series from Cinemax, premiering April 5

Poker Stars: Official Gaming and Poker partner of UFC

UFC 236 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the State Farm Arena.

Payout Perspective:

It is Devour’s first time as a sponsor for a UFC PPV.  Also, Buffalo Wild Wings gets a slot on the mat.  One would expect similar signage on the posts of the cage which may include Monster Energy sharing a post with a convenience store.  The release of the sponsors pre-PPV is a new thing by the UFC and it seems like another way to help support its sponsors.

PFL secures global partnership with Anheuser Busch In Bev’s Estrella Jalisco

March 13, 2019

The Professional Fighters’ League announced a multi-year global partnership with Anheuser Busch In-Bev’s Estrella Jalisco brand. It will be the Exclusive Beer Partner of the PFL.

Via PFL press release:

As the Official Beer of the PFL, Estrella Jalisco has global rights to use PFL logos and “Official Partner” branding for advertising and promotional usage, including pass-through branding rights for promotions with on-premise and retail channel partners. ABI and the league will also collaborate on exclusive content across digital platforms.

Estrella Jalisco logos will be featured in and around the cage and on signage in and around the arenas. PFL regular season action returns to New York and New Jersey, with mini residencies for PFL 1-3 at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, and PFL 4-6 at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. This season, the PFL will be introducing the PFL Cageside Club, a new VIP floor level experience for fans, which will prominently feature the Mexican beer.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting sponsorship development when you consider that the UFC and Modelo forged a deal for it to be a sponsor for the promotion.  Anheuser-Busch In Bev is the parent company of Modelo.  Thus, the company’s beers will be seen on ESPN through the two MMA promotions.  The partnership with the PFL was likely secured with the ESPN deal.

Report: UFC sponsorship revenue up due to new deals with companies

March 12, 2019

Last week’s Sports Business Journal included a report by Terry Lefton about the UFC’s 25 percent increase in sponsorship revenue largely championed by new deals signed by the company.

Coming in with a heavy debt load after WME’s acquisition of the UFC for approximately $4 billion, the new owners felt pressure to produce.

In speaking with the UFC’s senior vice president of global partnerships Paul Asencio, the UFC’s partnerships with Modelo, Kraft Heinz (for its Oscar Mayer P3 “official protein snack” and Devour as “official frozen food”) a global rights deal with Nemiroff Vodka, an official poker partner in PokerStars and a large renewal with Monster Energy have helped the company with the increase in sponsor revenue.  In addition, it has forged deals with Motel6, Trifecta Nutrition, Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum, Van Heusen and BodyArmor all since the company was purchased by WME.

Certainly, the UFC has worked on brokering more partnerships with bigger brand companies and segmenting some of its sponsors to cater to different regions across the globe.

Payout Perspective:

There are still more categories for the UFC to fill with sponsors including automotive, insurance and gambling/sportsbooks which all should garner lucrative deals for the company. In addition, the report includes the possibility of looking into the CBD oil category from cannabis business as that industry is starting to grow. The partnership with ESPN will help attract new partners as well.

UFC announces “Official Frozen Meal of UFC”

February 28, 2019

The UFC has announced an “Official Frozen Meal of UFC” with Devour joining the company’s stable of sponsors. The press release included the official announcement that Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack as “Official Protein Snack” of UFC.
Both sponsorships are new and mark exclusive sponsorship categories for the UFC.

P3 made its debut as a UFC sponsor in 2018 and has since been in signage during UFC events as well as on fighter kits.

Via UFC press release:

DEVOUR™ launched in 2016 with the mission to shake up the frozen aisle by taking an unapologetic stand for mouthwatering, craveable frozen foods. Over the past 3 years, DEVOUR™ has successfully built awareness with its bold and disruptive approach to communications, which has fueled its rapid growth in popularity with consumers. The brand offers frozen meals, frozen sandwiches, and instant bowls, which are widely distributed in retail grocery and convenience stores across the country. Similar to Oscar Mayer P3’s strategic partnership with UFC, DEVOUR’s™ collaboration with UFC will focus on reaching the loyal MMA fan base that comprises key demographics, including millennials, early adopters, and trendsetters.

Under the terms of the expanded partnership, both Oscar Mayer P3 and DEVOUR™ will be integrated extensively into select UFC live events, highlighted by a branded presence inside the world-famous Octagon®; custom integrations throughout UFC’s telecasts; in-venue activations; unique social media campaigns; custom content pieces, and Fight Week and Fight Night integrations.

In 2019, both Oscar Mayer P3 and DEVOUR™ will launch dedicated UFC products at select participating retail locations across the country. An exclusive Oscar Mayer P3 product line will feature co-developed product nutritionals focused on workout performance, certified by the UFC Performance Institute®, along with the integration of UFC-themed packaging. DEVOUR™ will also leverage UFC marks on various product offerings.

In addition, the Oscar Mayer P3 and DEVOUR™ brands will be further integrated with UFC through dedicated custom content pieces. Oscar Mayer P3 will leverage UFC fighter talent within an original series produced at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, highlighting the importance of protein in an athlete’s preparation and daily routine. DEVOUR™ will integrate into Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight program, featuring unique DEVOUR™ marketing placements and mentions.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC is making a big push in populating categories of sponsorship that never existed. We will certainly see Devour this Saturday at UFC 235 as the brand makes its debut. P3 has been a part of UFC events as well including on the Reebok fighter kits. One can expect more activation from sponsors as the UFC events continue throughout this year.

Modelo chooses Brian Ortega for “Fighting Spirit” commercial campaign

February 28, 2019

Brian Ortega will be the featured UFC athlete in Modelo’s “Fighting Spirit” commercial campaign.  Despite coming off a loss to Max Holloway this past December, the official beer of the UFC chose T-City to be a part of their latest marketing drive.

Heavyweight Stipe Miocic was featured in the first “Fighting Spirit” campaign this past summer.  It was the first activation by Modelo with a UFC athlete.

And if you follow social media, you can see UFC fan Halle Barry likes Ortega too.  She has asked him to train her for an upcoming movie role according to the actress’ twitter.

Payout Perspective:

The featherweight is said to be eyeing a matchup with Jose Aldo later this year which would be a really exciting matchup.  The new activation spot reflects how the UFC is seeking more of an active role with its sponsors and contracted athletes.  Notwithstanding his loss, Ortega’s backstory which was outlined extensively by ESPN (another UFC partner) likely helped secure the spot for T-City.  You might describe this as corporate synergy.  Or…something else.

Payout Perspective: UFC debuts on ESPN

January 22, 2019

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  We take a look at the UFC’s debut on ESPN and ESPN+ this past Saturday at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Cejudo KOs TJ in R1

Henry Cejudo may have saved the UFC Flyweight Division as he knocked out T.J. Dillashaw to retain his flyweight title.  Cejudo stunned Dillashaw with unassuming punch which knocked the bantamweight down. From there, Cejudo swarmed Dillashaw and the ref stepped in.

From first look, I thought that this was a quick stoppage as they usually allow a little more action for the fighter to recover in championship matches.  But after watching again, with less than a minute gone by in the round there was no way that Dillashaw could have held on and/or recovered.

Cejudo becomes the first champ to receive the new (and maybe controversial) UFC redesigned belt.  He also received props form Nikki Bella which may have been the biggest payoff. While Joseph Benavidez may be the next in light in the flyweight division, its clear that Cejudo would like to take this momentum and challenge Dillashaw for his 135 pound title.  One would think that Dillashaw will want a rematch as he claimed that the stoppage was too soon.

Hardy DQ’d in UFC debut

It was a controversial decision to have Greg Hardy fight on the ESPN debut.  It drew even more raised eyebrows when the UFC put him in the co-main event of the evening especially when you had Paige Van Zant and Donald Cerrone and Alexander Hernandez on the card as well.  Yet, Hardy faced Allen Crowder in a Heavyweight matchup.

While the imposing Hardy may have intimidated on the regional scene, it was Crowder that taunted the former football player.  But it was a knee to the head of a grounded opponent which, as Daniel Cormier described was “very illegal.”  There was no way for Crowder to continue after the knee and it was a disqualification.

Inauspicious debut for Hardy although the UFC does see something in him.  He is still a controversial figure considering his lack of contrition for his past domestic violence past.  We shall how the UFC books him in the future.  One thinks he will be a “Fight Night” athlete until he gets some more seasoning.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The Barclay’s Center drew 12,152 fans for a gate of $1.23 million.  The last big UFC event at the Barclay’s Center was UFC 223 in April which drew 17,026 for a 3 million gate. Prior to that, UFC 208 in February 2017 which drew 15,628 for a gate of 2.275 million.

In comparison, the UFC’s debut on FS1 on August 21, 2013 drew 12,539 for a gate of $1.53 million at the TD Garden in Boston.  The main event was Chael Sonnen as he submitted Shogun Rua.

Pre-Fight Promotion

Having ESPN as a television partner dramatically increased the marketing and promotion of the event.  The UFC Countdown show for UFC 232 aired on ESPN and starting at the beginning of January you saw the UFC creeping into the network.  The fight library entered the digital platform for ESPN and during Fight Week there was a plethora of fights airing on ESPN2 and other networks.

Dana White did the ESPN car wash and was also on the Jimmy Kimmel Show among other outlets for the event.  ESPN+ also had a very good (if you could find it) shoulder programming featuring Dillashaw and Cejudo.

It was interesting that the criticism of having Greg Hardy and Rachael Ostovich died day during Fight Week.  This could be in part due to ESPN controlling the narrative and the airwaves and the casual ESPN media person not knowing much about the sport.  ESPN Outside the Lines did do a piece on Hardy but outside of that, there was not much else.

Sponsorships

The sponsors in the Octagon included Monster Energy sharing a post with Fastrac, Modelo, Toyo Tires, Nemiroff, Blackheart and Monster had the center of the Octagon.  ESPN+ was visible with signage in the Octagon as well.

UFC sponsor Van Heusen secured signage in the area where the corner stands outside the Octagon.  A new place for sponsors.

The prep point was given a new name and was sponsored by P3,

Also, Body Armor had all the water bottles and corner stools.

Paige Van Zant, who was dropped by Reebok prior to her fight on Saturday, picked up a new sponsor with Liv Body.

Odds and ends

Steven A. Smith on the broadcast was cringeworthy but he was not an embarrassment.  He relied on Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier to do a bulk of the legwork when discussing the fight.  In addition, I thought Trevor Wittman did well as an “expert” chiming in on fight strategy, etc.

The pacing could have been better but it was on par with what the UFC did on Fox.  Notably, there were commercials on ESPN+.

It could have been a little confusing for fans that had to switch from the digital platform to see the early prelims, then watch the prelims on ESPN and then tune back on plus to get the main card.  Hopefully, they will avoid doing this in the future.

We’ll get to see the ratings for this event in the next day or so, although I would think it had to do well over 1 million viewers.

The lead-in to the ESPN portion of the Prelims started 12-15 minutes late.  Fortunately, the college game featured Duke-Virgina, a battle of two of the top 5 teams in the nation.  There was also an early NBA game on ABC which promoted the UFC card too.

The UFC had over 1 million google searches on Saturday which came in second to Chiefs with over 5 million which related to the Kansas City-New England game.  Greg Hardy and Paige Van Zant had over 200,000 searches.  Donald Cerrone had over 100,000.

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