Top MMA agent breaks down his view on fighter sponsorship

by Jason Genet | source: The Underground

From: Magnetic
Magnetic Marketing Associates, President
Member Since: 9/6/06
Posts: 1905
To sponsor something is to support it. In our sport (MMA) we are talking about athletes, events, and possibly gyms. Since the down turn of the economy you have seen more and more of the main MMA sponsors disappear or change their sponsorship terms.

What is happening today is brands are calling themselves sponsors to Ambush a particular event. We are hearing more and more that sponsor dollars are tied to TV exposure and if a fighter is not on a televised card there is no money available for him or her. Yet the fighters have no control over televising the fight or not. They control the training, the preparation and of course the execution of the fight,

It takes the average top level cycling team about 8-14 million dollars to have riders qualified enough to place at the top of the biggest races in the World. These sponsors invest in equipment, training, physical wellness, and coaches to help there athletes reach the top. Yet only one rider can win the Yellow Jersey. There is no guarantee that the team they assemble will win, challenge or even make it to the top. It is a risk and the reward could be your Team Winning the Tour De France.

NASCAR Teams usually take on a few exclusive brand sponsors that again agree to pay for tires, testing, best pit crew money can buy, engine and aerodynamic science to go faster and win some races. Being in the top 10 is often a goal because the owners and sponsors know that is who the crowd gets behind and that that where the TV Cameras are going to be. These Teams can cost sponsors upwards of 2-5 million per race and no guarantees of TV time, exposure etc.

I can give example after example but this is combat sports and that means most everything is pay for play. Fighters, trainers, training partners live in a Pay for Play world. If they can reach the biggest stage they can then trade placement on their shorts for money. If they get hurt while training for the “bigger stage” they make nothing. If their opponent gets injured and a fight can’t be rescheduled they make no money. If they end up on the un-televised portion of the biggest stage they make less or no money.

There is no support system for building better fighters. Imagine if NASCAR still used 1970 Monte Carlos and never evolved to the speed rockets they have today. What if Coke told its top racer we will give you 8 million if you win and nothing if you don’t make it on TV.

That is what is going on in MMA. You can’t call yourself a sponsor or a supporter of the sport if you are buying patches on fighters that are televised. To be a true sponsor you have to support the fighters through training, through winning and loosing. It is an investment in the fighter’s future and your brands future. If you are just paying when he or she has a televised fight then are you not just stealing exposure from the promoter? The fighter does not own that television time paying them for it and not the sacrifices made by him, his trainers and training partners is a disservice to the sport.

If you’re a sponsor rep and your trading televised spots for money, are you really doing your client any favors? What happens when all organizations charge a sponsor tax? What about when the sponsors refuse to pay because the promotion decided to bump the fight from televised to dark?

Many fighters show up to fight for the money, the show money and the sponsor money. Then they have to collect AFTER they perform. No credit for the training, no credit for the training injuries and the sacrifices in the gym that helped the fighter reach this spot.

Sponsors are not the problem they are operating in a world created by others. Brand X wants to be affiliated with this fighter because this fighter will be on TV. As Managers, Agents, fighters etc we need to look for ways to give the sponsor more then a patch next to their competitor. We need to develop marketing solutions that include activating the brand into the sport and marketing platforms that allow the sponsor to have exposure points when the fighter is not on SOMEONE’s TV show. The fights and ambush branding should be secondary to the overall campaign.

Developing marketing platforms that involve the fighters and brands. Help the brands reach the fans of the sport and stop relying on the UFC or some other organization to build your fighters name and thus allow you to do more sponsoring dollars.

We have been bringing in over $250,000 a year in sponsorship money as a result we have increased sales for companies and opportunities for fighters. We don’t treat the fighter like a commodity that creates opportunity for us. We work for the fighter and the brand. We help them determine goals and build a program that helps them reach those goals. Marketing in this new economy is about delivering results. If you get a brand on the UFC other agents will call that brand, but have you reached or touched the consumer? Converting sales and reaching a measurable return on investment is what brands want. If sponsor reps really believed that merely putting your logo on the ass of a fighter will spur sales wouldn’t they be putting their companies logo and not Tapouts.

As a fighter invest in yourself and your coaches. Build a brand for you. Only fighters and trainers know how hard they work to get to the fight, I think MMA fighters train harder then any other athlete in the world. The Ultimate Fighter tells you that lots of people are interested in seeing no name fighters train and live the fighter lifestyle on that road to greatness. Don’t wait until some promoter or MMA news site say’s you are great, make yourself great and brand yourself like you are the next Fedror. Act as if.

As a sponsor, get involved with your fighters. Make them a part of your brand. Look at Moto for a great example of how to harness the athletes and fans into a billion dollar industry. You wont see riders wearing Yamaha Jerseys riding a Suzuki. You see brands trying to connect with the consumer they want by supporting and developing the future leaders of the sport. Fighters have no control as to when they will be on TV but if you help build the best fighter in the World you will be on every media outlet you could ever had dreamed for,

Support the Sport and those that make it great. The only guaranteed TV time is to buy a commercial or sponsor the event itself.

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Recent Comments »

BirdWatcher site profile image  

12/21/14 11:21 AM by BirdWatcher


HITMANDANDIAZ site profile image  

12/17/10 12:16 AM by HITMANDANDIAZ

congrats to anthony petis for tonight his gear looked very good and he was wearing a great example of single catagory sponsorship.

HITMANDANDIAZ site profile image  

12/16/10 1:02 AM by HITMANDANDIAZ

agree to dissagree. their is a wide open field outside of the ufc for companies to study and learn.

shlever site profile image  

12/14/10 12:50 AM by shlever

BTW Dan - I wasn't implying that UFC owes startup anything because they don't. I am saying it is unwise to try to excercise to much control at the expense of start ups who would ultimately be future customers of the league.... Take apple for example, they used to regulate third party apps on the iphone to try to keep it all in house. When they allowed 3rd party apps it made their product 10 times stronger, plus they have all theses people working now to make revenue that also falls back into the iphone and makes their product better....this is why competition is good. It spurs innovation. When you control everything you limit the development. UFC should foster these startups and sheppard the rough diamonds into the company along with all the money they create and new fans they reach. Right now they ignore them or outright discourage them working towards the league.   

Dougie site profile image  

12/13/10 5:54 PM by Dougie

Awesome way to put it.

mcq site profile image  

12/13/10 1:49 PM by mcq

So in your professional opinion with your experience, small brands can make it if they grow slow and smart? Sorry if this is addressed earlier, but damn just saw this and am feverishly trying to play catch up...

mcq site profile image  

12/13/10 1:36 PM by mcq

Man, I wish I would have seen this thread earlier. Subbed to read front to back later. Quick thanks to Hitman Dan for the insight and info sharing.  Got a guy at our gym that was wearing Hitman (possibly sponsored) like 5 - 6 years ago. 

HITMANDANDIAZ site profile image  

12/13/10 1:18 PM by HITMANDANDIAZ


Shane Carwin site profile image  

12/13/10 10:54 AM by Shane Carwin

I will try to get Magnetic to get back in this thread. His response to me was "what I wrote was old news a year ago. It continues to get worse."What Dan is saying has truth. What Jason is saying has truth and I know what I have lived. In my early days I was all Grudge all the time. One brand head to toe and that brand did not get sales from it. What it comes down to is marketing is not a patch on shorts. Coke and pepsi do not share the same ads, Ford and Chevy don't either why should MMA brands? Right now this is how the majority of the fighters eat, they sell patches on the shorts and collect after they perform. They are for the most part responding to the current market place.Dan and Jason are saying the current market place is the reason so many marquee brands wont get involved. I know the guys Dan are talking about and he knows the brands that I am talking about. Fighters are commodities right now as are televised spots on shorts. Fighters and managers are the only ones who can change that. Yes that means we have to kick some nasty habits and learn a lot about marketing ourselves and this sport. With the time I have invested in the gym it only makes sense to put the rest of the time in. Being a great fighter without the marketing is like having the fastest pinto on the drag strip. At the end of the day it is a pinto.To me that is the magnetic difference. He has never said lets go hit TCB because everyone seems to be getting paid, he said lets build your value and people will pay you for what you can bring to the table. Performance in and out of the ring is what it takes. We should all try to own a little bit of our rise to the top. They have sold marquee brands on the athlete not the sport, they have done single sponsor head to toe, they have taken me from a eat what I kill to a salaried fighter. I have never been so blessed and its the fact that he is willing to call sponsors ambush marketers and still earn for me is proof that his team is sifting through the forrest to find partnerships.It is your job (as an athlete) to give your sponsor a measured ROI. That is the only way he or she can pay you more. How will you do that?