McGregor, Joshua top social media adds for 2019

November 30, 2019

The Sports Business Journal unveiled its Combat Sports Special Issue this past week which included several interesting tidbits about the changing landscape of boxing.  One of the points it reported on was the importance of social media among combat sports athletes.

MVPIndex compiles the reach, engagement and conversation among 90,000 athletes.  This year, Conor McGregor took over the top spot in MMA from Khabib Nurmogomedov while Anthony Joshua retained the top spot among boxers.

Notably, McGregor has the most followers as well as earning the most added followers from the November-November timeframe in which this was tracked.

After McGregor’s gain of 4,324,629, Khabib Nurmogomedov gained 3,760,387 earning him second on the list for 2019.  Nate Diaz’s return to the Octagon earned him an additional 2,362,301 for this year.  Diaz is followed by Rose Namajunas and Israel Adesanya respectively.

Anthony Joshua drew over 4.6 million more followers this year despite his upset loss this past June to Andy Ruiz.  He’s followed by young, up and coming star Ryan Garcia with over 2.7 million followers.  Canelo Alvarez, Joseph Parker and Manny Pacquiao followed Garcia.

Payout Perspective:

I’m sure you are asking why does this matter.  Certainly, none of the followers or engagements (i.e., likes, favorites) are verified as actual followers.  It could be one’s social media team for all we know.  But the data compiled is a sign of the times.  In looking at social media, you are looking how much of an “influencer” you are for your industry or demographic.  One might think of this as the Kardashian effect in which a huge following (no matter what you do), could be monetized into something.  For personal brands, the number of social media followers along the multiple platforms such as twitter, Instagram and YouTube would be appealing to advertisers looking to have a single tweet from an influencer about a product or service could be much more revealing (depending on engagement, likes, responses) than a static ad.  For folks like McGregor and Joshua, its a great way to monetize your brand.  McGregor has advertised his Proper Twelve Whiskey on his social media channels.

For MMA, McGregor’s legal troubles outside of MMA may have been the cause for so many followers.  Khabib’s philanthropic efforts in addition to his one fight in Abu Dhabi this year probably helped with his following.

While social media may be an objective way of viewing popularity and marketability of an athlete, its clear that companies are viewing this metric when basing decisions.

ONE CEO & Founder talks U.S. expansion and how it will be different from UFC in SBJ interview

July 12, 2019

In an interview with the Sports Business Journal, ONE Championship’s Chatri Sityodtong talked about the company’s inroads into the United States.

The company’s Founder and CEO described ONE as the power in the Eastern hemisphere and the UFC as the power in the Western hemisphere to comprise of a global duopoly in the field of MMA.  However, he distinguishes his product as more than just MMA as it also includes boxing, kickboxing and other forms of martial arts.

ONE Championship believes it can differentiate itself from other MMA promotions by focusing more on the spirit of martial arts rather than the violence and controversy.  Notably, Sityodtong stated that even if Conor McGregor were a free agent, he would not sign him.

With the company opening satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles, the speculation is that a stateside card will occur sooner than later.  Sityodtong stated that they are searching for a U.S. president to head ONE Championship operations.  As far as an event in the U.S. the company is taking “baby steps” per Sityodtong.

Payout Perspective:

We may have to wait a while to see how the ONE expansion has done in the U.S.  Certainly, doing a slow roll-out may be prudent considering the competition in the market and gaging what will work with U.S. audiences.  It’s clear with the money they are investing into the U.S., the plan will be to market something as an alternative to the UFC.  Will it work with the U.S. audiences and will it appeal to a particular demo.  Time will tell.

Sponsors gear up for Summerslam this Sunday

August 14, 2017

The biggest WWE event of the summer occurs this Sunday as Summerslam will take place on Sunday, August 19th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The  Sports Business Journal reports on the sponsors that are using the event as an activation for its brand.

The event will be co-presented by KFC and Cricket Wireless.  Also, eSports property Rocket League makes its first appearance at Summerslam.  The property had been present on WWE broadcasts and recent PPVs.

In addition, DiGiorno pizza and video game maker 2K will be returning as sponsors for the event.

Dolph Ziggler will be in a commercial for Cricket Wireless which will premiere during the event which will air on national TV thereafter.  It will also host an anti-bullying campaign.  KFC will do more of an integration with the event as it will be woven into skits during Summerslam featuring the KFC Colonel.

Rocket League, which will be the presenting sponsor for the WWE’s NXT Takeover brand the night before will host a tournament featuring WWE performers on the day of Summerslam.

DiGiorno will launch a new product which will be featured across WWE social platforms.

For video game players, 2K will launch WWE2K18 on Friday in Manhattan at event featuring several WWE performers.

The article notes that the WWE has seen a 25% increase in partnership revenue this year.

Payout Perspective:
The allure of partnering with the WWE for this event is its robust social media presence and its crossover appeal.  These brands recognize the demos of the WWE and are willing to work with them (and vice versa) more than just plastering logos on the broadcast.  Notably, KFC’s use of WWE performers in a skit during Summerslam.  The partnerships reflect the WWE’s continued efforts to increase revenues through partnerships.

UFC median TV audience age is 49 compared to 34 in 2006 according to SBJ study

June 6, 2017

The Sports Business Journal reports that television viewer data for 25 sports, including the UFC, boxing and pro wrestling, reflect that the median age of TV viewers have increased from 2006 to 2016.

The commissioned study by Magna Global, shows that pro wrestling, the UFC and action sports have shown the most dramatic increase in median age from 2006 to 2016.  The UFC’s median age is now 49, which reflects an increase of 15 years which means that the median age in 2006 was 34.  For pro wrestling, the median age is 54 which reflects a 21-year increase which makes the 2006 median age for pro wrestling 33 years old.

Of the 25 sports reviewed, only WTA Tennis, decreased in age demo with it going down from 63 years of age to 58.

There’s been no big change to boxing’s demo as its median age has gone up just 4 years since 2000.  It is 49 in 2016 and was 45 16 years previous.

Notably, the youngest viewing audience according to the study was the Mexican football (soccer) league system, Liga BBVA Bancomer (MX), which has a median age of 32 years old in 2006 and 39 years old in 2016.  Second was International soccer, 35 in 2006 and 39 in 2016.  MLS was third youngest audience with the median age being 39 in 2006 and 40 in 2016.

Payout Perspective:

There were several takeaways from the study.  First, soccer seems to have the youngest audience.  I am not a big soccer fan so I do not really understand the fascination with the sport from a younger demo.

Next, the sports properties with which we think are competing demos have shown the aging in their sports.  The aforementioned pro wrestling, UFC and action sports (median age in 2016:  47, median age in 2006: 34).  Also, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series increased by 9 years in the 2006 to 2016 span (49 years old to 48 years old).  This means that the fans (most likely) have been loyal throughout the years which is a positive.

But, one may argue that this means that the sports are not doing a good job in cultivating a younger demo.  Traditionally, the younger demo, which is attractive to advertisers, has more spending power as they aren’t tied down with kids, mortgages, etc.  There are mitigating factors here.  For the younger demo, there are the cord-cutters and cord-nevers (those that never paid for TV) which would not be captured in this study.  Also, the birth of over the top platforms has happened in the past couple years which would not be registered in the study as well.  Finally, the changing landscape of TV viewership has changed over 10 years which may skew the demos.

In the end, the study may mean that the likes of the UFC and pro wrestling may shift its focus on advertising sales to an older demo.  Or, make a stronger pitch to the younger demo to attract those advertisers.

SBJ 2017 predictions has UFC staying with Fox

December 12, 2016

The Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand offered up predictions for 2017 in sports media.  One of his predictions was how much and with what media outlet the UFC would sign with when its current media rights deal ends.

He predicts that the UFC would re-up with Fox for $300 million per year.  The prediction is $150 million less than what the UFC had hoped.  The UFC made it known that it would be seeking $450 million per year which is a substantial increase from the $115 million deal it signed in 2011.

Payout Perspective:

As Ourand points out, the UFC will likely wait for regulatory approval of the AT&T-Time Warner deal in hopes that Turner Sports makes a run at a deal with the UFC.  He dismisses the likes of NBC, CBS and ESPN as possible landing spots for the UFC.  If the next deal is $300 million, it would more than double its 2011 deal but might impact the value of the company since a portion of the UFC was valued based on its anticipated media rights deal.  Ourand points out that a deal with Fox will not be signed until 2018 so any news on a deal probably would not happen until this time next year.

Emmanuel and Whitesell No. 4 on SBJ’s Most Influential in Sports Business for 2016

December 6, 2016

WME-IMG’s Ari Emmanuel and Patrick Whitesell have made Sports Business Journal’s Most Influential People in Sports Business for 2016.  Emmanuel and Whitesell are key members of the new ownership group for the UFC.

SBJ noted the ascension of these two (last year they were No. 12 on the list) but noted the following in choosing them so high on the list:

Whether you’re with them or against them, you can’t ignore their influence. Their vast access to talent and intellectual property, global reach and forays into content production and distribution give them a seat at the table of virtually every major sports negotiation.

Obviously, the acquisition of the UFC this past year was one of the major shakeups in the sports due to the $4 billion price tag.  Despite the concern over the leveraged purchase by federal regulators, the purchase drew eyebrows from the sports and financial word.

Notably, Adam Silver tops the list at No. 1 followed by Bob Iger and John Skipper tied at No. 2, Roger Goodell at No. 3 followed by Emmanuel and Whitesell.

Payout Perspective:

To put this ranking in perspective, they rank ahead of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred (No. 5), Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (No. 8) and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (No. 10).  With its latest acquisition, the UFC, it has a sports property that is still emerging and find itself with several looming issues ahead including the possibility of fighter unionization, the ongoing antitrust lawsuit as well as an upcoming media rights deal.

UFC looking for $450M per year for 10 years in next media rights deal

November 28, 2016

The Sports Business Journal reports that the UFC is angling to ask potential buyers for $450 million per year over 10 years in its next round of media rights fees.  The company’s current deal, which ends at the end of 2018 is for $115 million for 7 years.

The article also states that the deal will seek to have the successful bidder to produce the UFC events.  In the past, the UFC had produced its shows in-house.  One of the under-the-radar things about Zuffa was the control of the brand for the UFC which included the production of the events.  You might argue that it’s this control that gave it such a strong brand awareness which may have gone to the eventual sales price for the company.

Via Sports Business Journal:

The package the UFC will take to market will include the rights to four annual broadcast windows that Fox now holds, six annual cable events and weekly programming on Fox Sports 1, plus the UFC’s over-the-top Fight Pass service. It is not expected to include the UFC’s lucrative pay-per-view business, which will likely be retained by WME-IMG. But some media executives believe any winning bidder will have more of a say in what matches will be part of the UFC’s pay-per-view events. Whether a network will share in some of the PPV revenue is a deal point that will be negotiated, sources said.

Payout Perspective:

Despite the retraction in spending by networks such as ESPN and the lukewarm ratings for Fox events this past year, the UFC is banking on the allure that its demo of young males with disposable income and the somewhat DVR-proof live sporting event will give it leverage in the new negotiations. But will the UFC be able to broker a 75% increase over its first media rights deal.  The deal would include additional cost to the network that purchases the rights as it will need to provide production costs for the events.  However, the article indicates that the network may have more influence on what events it may have.  This might provide some incentive for potential buyers.  I am surprised that Fight Pass will likely be included in the deal as there might have been opportunity to sell those rights on its own as is contemplated by the NBA’s LA Clippers.

Borris will not name athletes/agents on advisory boards

November 21, 2016

The Sports Business Journal reports that Jeff Borris will not reveal the athletes and agents that have agreed to join advisory boards for a proposed committee that his Professional Fighters Association intends to form.

Borris stated that he does not believe that nothing will be gained from releasing the names of the people.  Initially, Borris said he would introduce two advisory boards: one made up of MMA agents and the other with UFC fighters.  He said he would like to have 4 agents and 9 fighters on the boards.

The Sports Business Journal writeup includes a quote from MMAFA’s Robert Maysey which applauds the effort but does not know if a union will be successful.   The article does point out that if Borris is successful, the antitrust lawsuit filed in Nevada (Maysey is one of the plaintiff lawyers) would be moot as a unionized sports entity would have antitrust labor exemption.

Payout Perspective:

Concealing the names of those on the advisory boards at this time makes sense as Borris likely weighed public relations versus possible retaliation for those named.  At a point when Borris has the number of UFC fighters willing to sign up for the possibility of an NLRB election, we’ll probably see the names of the fighters and agents.  But, at this time, there could be some (subtle) backlash from the UFC if the names are revealed.  Also, fighters and agents might be weary as they will need to work with the UFC before an election.

Study finds more involved in MMA training

September 3, 2016

A new study per the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s annual State of the Industry Report places mixed martial arts as a rising fitness activity among the U.S. population.

According to the study, more than 72% of Americans (6 and older) were active in at least one sport or activity in 2015.  The nationwide online survey taken in 2015 by 32,658 Americans gages athletic participation habits.

Over a three-year participation range, “MMA for competition” was third in growth activity among U.S participants.  Per the study it had grown 72.3% with 749,000 participating in 2012 and then 1,290,000 participating I 2015.  According to the survey “MMA for fitness” was 13th on the list with 1,789,000 in 2012 and 2,498,000 in 2015.

“Boxing for competition” came in 7th on the list.

The number 1 sport/fitness activity in 2015: Stand up paddling followed by adventure racing and then MMA for competition.  Fourth was Triathlon (nontraditional/offroad) followed by Rugby.

H/t: Sports Business Journal

Payout Perspective:

The key here is the activity habits of Americans as opposed to their favorite sport.  Thus, these are the fitness activities of the people taking the survey.  Although no definition in the article “MMA for competition” means and actual training in the sport of MMA (striking, grapping) as opposed to “MMA for fitness” (I tend to think this is a non-contact kickboxing class).  Why the popularity in MMA?  Perhaps the fitness benefits of the activity.  Participating in MMA is a calorie burner which mainly younger people are interested in trying.

Harley Davidson renews sponsorship with UFC

February 29, 2016

Harley Davidson has renewed its sponsorship deal with the UFC according to the Sports Business Journal (subscription required).  While no terms were disclosed, the agreement is being reported as being a multi-year deal.

The motorcycle maker has been a mainstay with the UFC since 2007 and it is the third time that Harley Davidson has renewed with the UFC.

The article notes that the UFC does not designate differing levels for each sponsor but customizes its partnerships.  The two sides have worked for several months on the new deal which includes “new components.”  The new deal with the UFC includes showcasing Harley Davidson across multiple UFC platforms as well as sponsoring the arrival of fighters on PPV and other broadcasts.  It also includes the presentation of a UFC fight to be held on a U.S. military base.

In a unique move by the two sides, the sponsor deal will include showing UFC PPV events to motorcycle customers at 600 Harley Davidson dealerships across the country.  The dealerships will receive the PPVs at a discounted rate.

Recently, Toyo Tires re-upped with the UFC.  DraftKings ended a 1-year partnership with the company.

Payout Perspective:

The news of the renewal comes at an appropriate time as UFC 196 will air this weekend.  The most notable part of the sponsorship is the ability for Harley Davidson to show UFC PPVs at its dealerships. One would think that this move would help promote sales for Harley Davidson as customers could feasibly come in for the fights and leave with a new motorcycle.  Also, the sponsorship at a UFC base helps promote the Harley brand to many U.S. service men and women.  This deal appears to be most beneficial to the Harley brand while continuing an existing relationship with the UFC.

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