November 3, 2011
UFC Lightweight Joe Lauzon has signed a sponsorship deal with Gamma Labs. Coming off of winning one of the UFC’s first twitter bonuses, the supplement company is looking to capitalize on Lauzon’s rising popularity and social media saviness.
The sponsorship deal will go beyond the normal fight short placement and focus on viral videos, social media and Lauzon’s interest of video games. According to Lauzon’s manager, Oren Hodak, Gamma Labs will do some cross promotional gaming spots with Punch Drunk Gamer, another one of Lauzon’s sponsors.
Via Gamma Labs press release:
This partnership will utilize Lauzon’s rapidly growing fan-base through new media platforms and will support Gamma Labs’ new Pre-Training Formula through special appearances, making an immediate impact with new consumers.
“Working with an athlete like Joe who is very active on social media brings incredible value to a sponsor. As a top ranked fighter and video game competitor Joe is a perfect fit for Gamma Labs,” said Lauzon’s manager Oren Hodak of Knock Out Representation. Hodak continues saying, “Joe’s been using Gamma Labs’ products for several months and is benefiting from the increased focus and energy that he gets from PTF.” A number of unique viral videos, social media and online gaming contests will feature Joe in 2012.
Lauzon boasts a twitter following that just surpassed 44,000 followers.
This is a win-win for fighter and sponsor. The deal includes Lauzon’s interest of being a gamer which helps his personal brand. It also goes beyond the normal one-off sponsorship on fight nights. We’ve seen a rise of more fighters and sponsors engaging in promotions outside of the octagon which is key for the growth of the athlete-sponsor dynamic in MMA. While it may not be the lucrative endorsement contracts of other sports such as the NFL or major league baseball, its a start. We’ll see how many more of this will happen as the UFC-Fox partnership evolves.
October 12, 2011
TMZ broke the news that Brock Lesnar would be a character in the new WWE video game, WWE ‘12. Dana White told TMZ that he was “fine” with Lesnar being in the game.
Lesnar indicated that he would not have agreed to the WWE video game unless gave him the ok. In addition to the news, Lesnar told ESPN in an interview to promote the game that he could see himself back in the WWE for one match.
Brock Lesnar Via ESPN:
I think I will. I think under the right circumstances I will. I think if Vince McMahon and I were able to sit down at the same dinner table and break some bread that we could come up with some kind of game plan. At the end of the day, I’m an ultimate fighter. That’s who I am and that’s who I’ll always be. I was an entertainer but at the end of the day, I’m still as real as it gets. I think a lot of things have to fall in the right places for something like that to happen.
Here is the Brock Lesnar trailer for WWE ‘12. Notably, the video comes courtesy of Paul Heyman.
And here is Dana White being asked about Brock Lesnar in WWE ‘12:
WWE ‘12 will be available November 22nd – just in time for the holidays.
White dismissed any notion of confusion between UFC-WWE by having Lesnar in the WWE video game. He did state that it would be an issue if Lesnar wanted to wrestle while still under UFC contract. This is interesting considering Lesnar’s comments to ESPN. Of course, the Lesnar interview could be part hype for the video game. It could also mean that one day, after his UFC contract expires, Lesnar would go back to the WWE.
For White, granting Lesnar the opportunity to appear in the video game takes nothing away from the UFC business-wise right now. However, Lesnar’s appearance in the WWE video game may mean his departure from the UFC in the not too distant future. Lesnar has been the UFC PPV draw the past three years garnering over 1 million buys each time he fights. Without Lesnar, only Rashad Evans has had PPV success of over 1 million buys since 2008. (source: MMA Payout Blue Book). With Evans on the shelf again and Lesnar scheduled for a showdown with Alistair Overeem for UFC 141, the UFC might be concerned about its PPV business after 141. Certainly a Lesnar-Overeem matchup will do over 1 million buys. But, if Lesnar decides to leave in 2012, who will step up as the draw that could garner over 1 million PPV buys.
Notwithstanding the 1 million PPV buy threshold, the UFC may be concerned with its PPV business. With the UFC falling back with its scheduled time for PPVs, it hopes that the 2012 PPV business will be much more successful than this year.
October 10, 2011
Anderson Silva will be on the cover of THQ’s latest UFC game, “Undisputed 3.” The Spider was picked over UFC champs Frankie Edgar, GSP, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez in an internet fan vote.
Via Business Wire:
More than 110,000 votes were cast by fans from around the world, with Silva garnering the largest percentage among his fellow competitors.
Silva was unveiled as the cover athlete Saturday night at UFC 136. It may be surprising to some that Silva beat out GSP and Jon Jones. But, Silva is a big draw if you consider that he drew mainstream sponsors (Nike, Burger King, Budweiser) at UFC 134. The timing could not have been better considering Chael Sonnen’s “loser leaves town” post-fight interview which should garner more interest in this possible showdown Super Bowl weekend.
September 1, 2011
UFC Undisputed 3, from video game maker THQ is giving gamers the chance to vote for the fighter they would like to see on the cover. The video game is set to debut January 12th.
The fans can choose from Frankie Edgar, GSP, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez. In addition to voting for their favorite fighter, fans will have the opportunity to win a trip to Las Vegas for UFC 137.
Look here for a promotion video for the game featuring Cain Velasquez.
No Jose Aldo or Dominick Cruz? Unfortunately the snub is another sign that the UFC needs to build up its lighter divisions so that fans will become more familiar with them. With 125ers coming in 2012, it seems like this will be a necessity. Realistically, the UFC needs a major name in one of the major divisions to grace the cover of its new game.
The promotion is a similar to EA’s NCAA Football 2012 where fans voted for their favorite player on Facebook. Its still a good way to infuse interest in the video game and get MMA gamers interested in getting the game.
April 21, 2011
THQ and Zuffa announced a partnership to promote UFC 131: Lesnar vs. Dos Santos using the UFC’s official Facebook game. The grand prize winner will win a trip for two to UFC 131 in Vancouver.
Via THQ press release:
AGOURA HILLS, Calif. – April 20, 2011 – THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI) and Zuffa, LLC today announced a consumer sweepstakes surrounding UFC® 131: LESNAR vs. DOS SANTOS via UFC® Undisputed Fight Nation™, the official Facebook game based on the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship®. Available for download at http://apps.facebook.com/ufcfightnation, players may enter the sweepstakes through an on-screen pop-up display after training moves and competing against others with their virtual UFC fighters to reach Level 5 within the game. One grand prize winner will receive a trip for two to UFC 131, currently scheduled for June 11, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. The trip includes two tickets to UFC 131, roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations and a stipend for meals and/or spending money. One first prize winner will receive an autographed UFC poster and a $250 UFC gift certificate for use on ufcstore.com, while 10 second-prize winners will receive $50 UFC gift certificates for use on ufcstore.com.
THQ is sponsoring the UFC Undisputed Fight Nation sweepstakes, which is open to residents of the United States and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and over. Participants can enter the contest between now and 12:00 p.m. PT on May 6, 2011. There is no purchase necessary to participate, and the sweepstakes is void where prohibited. Further information regarding the sweepstakes, including rules and eligibility requirements, may be found at community.ufcundisputed.com.
“The launch of UFC Undisputed Fight Nation earlier this year provided us with an invaluable way to share the virtual UFC experience in a social networking environment,” said Danny Bilson, Executive Vice President, Core Games, THQ. “Through announcement of the UFC 131 consumer sweepstakes, we look forward to engaging even more players on Facebook as they experience solid training tools, competitive gameplay and tremendous replay value.”
The collaboration between THQ and the UFC integrates its social media (Facebook), gaming component and the promotion of the upcoming UFC PPV. The partnership mobilizes the THQ brand by promoting consumers to play the UFC Undisputed Fight Nation game online at the UFC Facebook home page. Successful players will promote the game via social networks such as Facebook. For the UFC, its another opportunity for fans to go to its Facebook page and attract more unique visitors.
April 7, 2011
XBox announced via twitter that it will release the UFC Personal Trainer game for the Kinect system. Coming this June, the game will take people through a full body controller-free workout via the Kinect. Video game maker THQ developed the UFC Personal Trainer.
The game will be released June 21, 2011 and have a price point of $49.99.
Via THQ press release (H/t Gaming Online Journal):
Set personal goals and achieve real results with an unparalleled mixed martial arts (MMA) fitness program designed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and leading MMA training experts. UFC Personal Trainer provides players with an extensive assortment of effective and challenging MMA-inspired exercises, in both pre-set and customizable routines, to build strength, increase endurance, burn calories and get results. Personalized instruction and tips from the MMA trainers guide players to stay motivated, get fit and track their goals with a helpful in-game journal. In addition, the game’s Ultimate Training Mode enables players to participate in high impact agility drills, with opportunities to earn rewards and have fun with friends in a competitive, multiplayer environment.
- AUTHENTIC UFC FITNESS EXPERIENCE – Designed by NASM with support from leading by leading MMA training experts Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson and Javier Mendez, UFC Personal Trainer will deliver a challenging and motivating UFC fitness experience that includes the best and most effective exercises utilized by today’s renowned UFC fighters.
- INTENSE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS EXERCISES – Learn over 70 MMA and NASM-approved exercises, including moves from disciplines such as wrestling, kickboxing and Muay Thai, that are designed to improve strength, endurance and conditioning through use in a variety of routines. Each in-game routine is specialized to target specific muscle groups, as well as factor individual skill levels and fitness goals.
- CUSTOMIZABLE WORKOUT ROUTINES – Focus on specific fitness objectives by building personalized routines with up to 12 different exercises. Each custom routine can also be modified to increase or decrease intensity of the game’s pre-set pace, enabling players to fully maximize their training experiences based on individual preferences.
- PERSONALIZED TRAINING TOOLS – Receive additional guidance and encouragement throughout the fitness journey by choosing a goal and working with an MMA trainer for personalized instruction. Players will learn MMA-inspired exercises, as well as authentic training techniques and healthy lifestyle choices, enabling them to burn calories, build strength, lose weight and meet goals through a comprehensive fitness experience.
- ULTIMATE TRAINING MODE – Hit the mitts against several popular UFC fighters with a variety of challenging rhythm and timing-based agility drills that utilize punching and kicking sequences. Players can unlock a variety of different drills to earn rewards, each with increasing difficulty, as well as compete against friends and issue challenges in a multiplayer environment.
- DEDICATED PROGRAM SYSTEM – Focusing on three distinct target goals – losing weight, building strength and improving performance – players may select a pre-set 30 or 60-day program that best meets their fitness needs. The selected program populates the in-game calendar with daily routines for players to follow, as well as tracks user performance.
- PROGRESS TRACKING AND MOTIVATIONAL SUPPORT – An in-game journal enables players to view a comprehensive calendar of their fitness activities, including specific routines, time management and more. The calendar continuously tracks progress and provides recommendations to help players meet their desired results.
The UFC Personal Trainer will also be available on the PS3 Move and Wii video game consoles.
This game should garner a lot of interest. There have been many workout DVDs and online training systems featuring MMA workouts. Many professional athletes and regular people have turned to MMA as a way to get a good workout. It was only a matter of time before the UFC chimed in with a full body workout system for the Xbox, Playstation and Wii consoles.
April 1, 2011
University of Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray is campaigning to be on the cover of EA Sports newest version of its NCAA Football game. Murray has stated that he will wear a UFC logo on draft day if he wins. As a result
EA Sports is running a contest where people can log on to EA’s Facebook page and vote for one of four college football stars entering the pros. The players are University of Washington’s Jake Locker (my choice), Auburn’s Nick Fairley, Alabama’s Mark Ingram and Murray. Voting ends April 4th.
After finding out about this, the UFC is getting behind Murray’s campaign. Dana White announced on his twitter for his followers to log on and vote for Murray. A reminder to vote is also on the UFC’s Facebook page.
(H/t: MMA Mania)
Good PR for the UFC, for EA’s NCAA Football game and good personal PR for Murray. Murray is a UFC fan that is a Las Vegas native. According to MMA Junkie, he has trained in MMA (or at least used MMA conditioning).
Via MMA Junkie:
“I love training MMA,” Murray told UFC.com. “It’s definitely a lot different than what I do on the football field, but some things you can translate into your game. I spent three, four weeks in Las Vegas training with [striking coach James Gifford] at Lorenzo’s gym, and that definitely helped me out a lot with my hand coordination and speed, along with working muscles that I’ve never worked on in football.
I think the EA idea to include fans to vote on the cover using its social media platform is a great way to get people involved in the process. From Murray’s personal branding, reaching out to UFC fans was a creative way to open up a segment of the audience that would not have necessarily voted for the cover. For the UFC, its another way it sees an opportunity and capitalizes on it. Certainly, the UFC could have let this slide, but it took the initiative to campaign for Murray. If Murray wins, it will be a success for the UFC and free PR. If he doesn’t, there won’t be too much lost since nothing really was invested.
Of course, with the NFL labor issues, its not clear if Murray will be in attendance in New York City. Second, its not a guarantee he is a first round pick which could give him a prime spot to show off a UFC logo.
February 3, 2011
THQ Inc. and Zuffa, LLC today announced the latest edition to their sports videogame franchise with the launch of UFC Undisputed Fight Nation, the first official UFC Facebook game.
The interactive experience, developed by Embassy Interactive and available on Facebook at apps.facebook.com/ufcfightnation, allows players to take control of their virtual UFC careers in a fun and engaging environment by training moves, competing against others and sharing their results on Facebook, as well as enabling them to successfully manage their progress for the opportunity to compete against many of the UFC’s most renowned fighters.
“We are excited about the tremendous opportunities available in the social networking space to deliver key franchises to our core audiences in unique and compelling ways,” said Danny Bilson, Executive Vice President, Core Games, THQ. “UFC Undisputed Fight Nation delivers a great combination of gameplay, competitive spirit and replay value, making it the perfect fit for millions around the world to enjoy on Facebook.”
In UFC Undisputed Fight Nation, players train with guidance from UFC President Dana White to master moves from multiple mixed martial arts disciplines, compete against friends and other Fight Nation members inside the virtual OctagonTM and share their results on Facebook as they progress from student to professional in their virtual careers. Players are given access to a number of mixed martial arts camps to build their arsenal of moves, including wrestling, kickboxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as the ability to decide which moves are taken into each fight.
Through successful management of fight experience and training, players will “level up” their fighters to reach new career milestones, unlocking access to items such as new training camps and more skill points to build fighting and training needs, including energy, health and stamina. Players will also earn Cred for their achievements, enabling them to acquire items from the in-game store to train specific moves, access new camps, replenish health and increase stamina. A UFC Points system is available for those who wish to progress their careers faster and purchase the items through monetary transaction, while a Gifting option lets players show respect to their friends by sending them complimentary boosts of energy, stamina or health to aid their progress.
As part of the UFC Undisputed Fight Nation experience, the accomplished player will earn opportunities compete against and learn moves through Pro Fights from a number of today’s most prominent UFC fighters, including current champions Cain Velasquez, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and Frankie Edgar. As well, players will have access to a live Twitter feed, keeping them up to date on the latest UFC news and events.
The UFC has shown a great deal of focus on social media as of late, mostly directing fans to access their Facebook page to watch live prelim fights and now, in conjunction with THQ, releasing UFC Undisputed Fight Nation. I’ve stressed what a powerful tool social media has become to MMA promotions, and the UFC is taking full advantage of the reach Twitter and Facebook gives them.
The UFC is hoping to create an interactive community here, one where fans can come to watch fights, play games, and interact with other members which they are able to track and collect information to analyze and further improve attacking their target market and demographic, not to mention the interaction the game will create between their audience and their brand. Facebook reaches over 600 million people and is one of the fastest growing social entities in the world. Heavily focusing on the social media platform now appears to be the priority for the UFC at this moment, hoping to cash in on the investment in the long run as it sets itself apart from other sporting leagues around the world.
December 13, 2010
On December 8, 2010, Zuffa, LLC filed a complaint against Ubisoft, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada alleging trademark infringement based on the packaging for the Ubisoft video game, “Fighters Uncaged.” (hat tip Robert Joyner).
According to Zuffa, the “UFC® names and logos are trademarks that are owned by Plaintiff and registered on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including, among others:
ULTIMATE FIGHTING: Registration No. 2,925,669 for goods and services, namely, compact discs, laser video discs, digital video discs, digital versatile discs and CD-ROM discs, all featuring sports events and mixed martial arts; computer software for programming video games in the field of sports and entertainment; video game cartridges and discs; computer game cartridges;
Zuffa alleges that since 1993 it, and its predecessors, made continuous use of the UFC® marks, including the Ultimate Fighting name and mark:
As a result of the extensive advertising and promotion of the ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP® brand, ‘ULTIMATE FIGHTING,’ either standing alone or in conjunction with the word ‘CHAMPIONSHIP,’ has become and is distinctive and famous for mixed martial arts.” “‘ULTIMATE FIGHTING’ and ‘ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP’ have acquired a special significance and meaning to the consuming public as identifying Zuffa and the UFC® as the source of origin of goods and services, and mixed martial arts in particular, which bear the ‘ULTIMATE FIGHTING’® name and mark.
Specifically, as to video games, Zuffa alleges that it “has entered into license agreements with certain video game manufacturers that have produced numerous mixed martial arts video games lawfully using UFC® fighters, which, in turn, use the UFC® and the ULTIMATE FIGHTING® names and marks,” including, inter alia, “‘Undisputed 2009’ for XBox 360 and Playstation 3 was released for sale to the public on May 19, 2009; and ‘Undisputed 2010,’ the sequel, for XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Playstation Portable, was released for sale to the public on May 25, 2010.”
Zuffa alleges that “‘Undisputed 2009’ and ‘Undisputed 2010’ both note on their respective back covers that the UL TIMATE FIGHTING® name and mark is a registered trademark.”
Zuffa alleges upon information and belief that Ubisoft “recently released for sale to the public ‘Fighters Uncaged,’ a mixed martial arts video game about illegal street fighting for XBox 360.”
The crux of the complaint is Zuffa’s allegation that “[o]n the back cover of the video game, Defendant invites players to ‘Become the ULTIMATE FIGHTING weapon!’, setting the words ‘ULTIMATE FIGHTING’ apart from the other text by depicting the words in bolded capital letters.”
Zuffa attached a copy of the back of the “Fighters Uncaged” box to its papers, which includes, in part the following:
Zuffa alleges that Ubisoft’s “use of the ULTIMATE FIGHTING name and mark is identical or confusingly similar to the use of the UFC® Marks, including the ULTIMATE FIGHTING® name and mark on Zuffa’s licensed video games.”
Zuffa asserts claims for “trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition under federal statutes, with pendent state and/or common law claims for trademark infringement, and deceptive trade practices.”
Zuffa seeks “damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.”
My quick take on the complaint is as follows. Plaintiff does have a registration for the mark for video games and this video game is directly competitive. I do not think that the fact that Fighters Uncaged involves illegal street fighting – as opposed to the sport of MMA — is determinative.
While the Zuffa mark is weak, i.e. it registered 2(f), there is an argument given the large bold (all capitalized) font for “Ultimate Fighting” that Ubisoft’s alleged use is not purely descriptive and may be infringing. Moreover, Zuffa clearly has an interest in protecting its mark so the lawsuit makes sense from a practical standpoint.
Justin Klein is an attorney at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP in New York City where he concentrates his practice in commercial litigation and represents clients in the fight industry. He regularly addresses current legal issues that pertain to combat sports, including efforts to legalize MMA in New York, at his Fight Lawyer website. He is a licensed boxing manager with the New York State Athletic Commission as well as the founder and Chairman of the Board of the New York Mixed Martial Arts Initiative, a non-profit organization that gives inner city youth the opportunity to experience the emotional and physical benefits of martial arts training. Justin lives in New York City where he trains in jiu jitsu and boxing.
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November 24, 2010
In the spirit of the holidays, I would like to share some great deals for MMA and video game fans who have held off buying any titles until the holiday deals to save a couple of bucks. I will also discuss the recent EA Sports MMA and UFC Undisputed 2010 iPhone/iPad releases along with overall sale figures.
Best Buy Link:
EA Sports MMA and UFC Undisputed 2010 Updates:
UFC Undisputed 2010 was released on the iPad and iPhone by THQ Wireless on Nov 12, 2010 (selling for $6.99) just a few weeks after EA Sports MMA was released by EA Mobile (selling for $4.99) on the same platforms on October 20, 2010. As of today, EA Sports MMA has had 405 customers review the app, while UFC Undisputed 2010 has only had 17 customers review the app.
Both games have received good customer feedback, but it appears that after 12 days of being available on the Apple Store, UFC Undisputed has not taken off with the fans. It is currently not in to the top 50 most popular apps or in the top grossing apps, where EA Sports MMA was ranked in the top 35 most popular paid apps and ranked as the 12th most grossing app for apple a week after it was released. Not exactly sure why Undisputed has not taken off on the iPhone/iPad yet considering the good reviews so far, but the $2 dollar pricing difference between the games could be impacting the sales, along with THQ releasing the mobile version of the game months after the console version was already released.
On the console side, EA Sports MMA has sold roughly 45,000 copies in its first month of release according to GameIndustry.biz. On the other hand, UFC Undisputed 2010 roughly sold 413,000 copies in its first mont of sales, which was considered disappointing due to the lofty expectations Undisputed 2009 created for THQ.
The year has been a tough one for MMA video game releases, where analysts attributed the weaker than expected sales due to releasing the games around the same dates blockbusters like Red Dead Redemption (over 1.5 million copies sold worldwide) and Fallout: New Vegas (over 5 million copies shipped worldwide) were set to also release. GameSpot reports that “… a number of analysts–Wilson included–circulated notes to investors offering their takes on what did and didn’t live up to expectations. While NBA 2K11 and Fallout: New Vegas both exceeded Wilson’s expectations, many of the month’s other high-profile games did not. In particular, Wilson called NBA Jam for the Wii and EA MMA “dismal failures so far.”
THQ’s bottom line was heavily impacted this year due to lower than expected game sales, which include the UFC Undisputed 2010 sales, as the company saw their shares sharply drop from $8.29/share to $5.01/share as it currently stands this year. In response, THQ has pushed out their release cycle from 12 months to 18 months, hoping to get better results on their next release. EA Sports, who reportedly lost over $200 million last quarter, originally announced to release EA Sports MMA every other year alternating with a Fight Night release. At the moment, EA has said that it is too early to make any decisions on a future EA Sports MMA title, as they will wait and analyze the sale numbers throughout the holiday season.