Cole Miller on new sponsorship landscape


Cole Miller @colemillerATT
The MMA industry must be hurting. Past few fights I've been getting 'offers' to rep companies for free. Tell me others aren't agreeing to this.

Beloved UGer Cole Miller, 29, is 8-6 in the UFC, and after winning just one fight of the last four, finds himself on the Facebook prelims vs. Andy Ogle at UFN 30 on Oct 26 in Manchester, England. In an important story, MMAJunkie co-founder Steven Marrocco profiles the radically changed nature of sponsorships in MMA.

In the earliest days of the sport, you could sponsor the biggest names for astonishingly low numbers. After Tito Ortiz wore an unprintable shirt that earned everyone's attention, the UG paid $1,500 for this walkout shirt the next time.

The the sport blew up, and for a while, sponsorships could be equivalent to the purse. Now they are way, way, way down.

Miller likely will receive around the same base pay to fight Ogle as he did for his recent loss -  $26,000.

He said he probably will make less in sponsor money than he did when he fought on un-televised preliminary cards early in his UFC career. In those days, he said he could count on banking between $4,000 and $5,000 in sponsor money for a "dark" fight. In 2010, he peaked at $23,500.

Against Ogle, he said he'll be lucky to make $3,500.

"It seems like everything has dried up, and the companies only want to commit to a smaller roster for their company," Miller told

"There are these companies that just straight up won't call back right after they hear that I'm on Facebook."

There also are companies that offer him $100 worth of free gear in exchange for a patch on his shorts, or a logo on the sponsor banner.

Miller won't say what these businesses are – only that they are the same ones you see plastered on headliners or co-main event fighters, who presumably receive cash, and a lot more than $100.

"I enjoy the fighting. I enjoy the training. But all the stuff that goes along with it is getting annoying, and I can honestly say that I'm looking forward to a normal kind of lifestyle."

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HITMAN DAN DIAZ site profile image  

10/18/13 7:03 PM by HITMAN DAN DIAZ

external activation is the only answer for brands. think gsp in blank black shorts. fuck i am trying to get ian to rock completely blank gear all black shorts and the white towel tshirt that tyson used to wear. dont think its going to happen but i would be pumped if it did.  under armour has gsp and rhonda they dont pay the tax and dont care about being in the octagon.  mark hunt had no sponsors for his last fight. i have talked to his manager on several occasions. marks just over it. litterally doesnt give a fuck. the ufc shorts he had on last fight didnt even really fit him right and looked like he was handed them back stage before the fight.  tank was the same way. hitman was the only brand that ever sponsored tank. for one fight. after that he was even over it. blank black shorts.     

Ingrained Media site profile image  

10/18/13 2:31 PM by Ingrained Media

mrwhipple - Mr.WhippleThe small guys just need to seek smaller endorsements. Even back in the day Tito and Chuck had Marley Powers, who was allegedly some wealthy guys girlfriend.For national/international stars they can reach out to the bigger brands, for local guys they must reach out to the smaller regional brands. This absolutely can create the scenario Mr. Diaz mentions, where the athlete becomes more popular then the brand can afford. This is why a plan and a contract built around the plan are important. So the brand knows there is an end date and at the same time they know the deliverables. If all parties do their part it is possible they can afford to pay more. The athletes also will need to take into consideration that the brand took care of them when others did not. What Cole and his manager are experiencing is a decline based on placements within an event. His sponsorship dollars are tied to where he falls on that particular card. All I am saying is Cole is a well known well respected name in the sport. if you are a fan or have knowledge of the sport you likely know Cole. Cole has value. If the deals were built around Cole, use of his name and likeness, endorsement, appearance, social media support etc he should be able to earn more. It is likely a lot of the new earning would not be predicated on when he fights. The deals are based on Cole's value. If the company can't have their logo on his shorts he still gets paid.The cost of being a fighter of Coles caliber is not cheap. Say he fights three times a year, that is 9 months of training time. That means locking down trainers, training partners, travel, gear, supplements, first aid etc.. If his opponent is injured or misses weight and the fight is cancelled Cole will not survive from his purse alone. He is likely in debt to get to this point. The sponsorships and win money are what matters. If that sponsorship money was not tied to an approval that Cole and his team can't control (unless dealing with a sponsor part of Zuffa's program) and even if he is healthy and ready the opponent must also be ready. It seems to be a lot of risk for such little reward. Those sponsors miss out on the training camp, they miss out on the media leading up tot he event and usually have no activation around an event, and even if they did they would likely have a hard time finding their voice amongst the Zuffa PR machine. They have 9 months of training, 12 months of Cole being Cole. Why not invest in that? You can can make a plan around Cole and when he fights that is the bonus round.Cole is a great fighter who has always shown great character. He should be an easy sale. IMOSponsorship is 100% about advertising and a ROI should be expected.

hendofanforlife site profile image  

10/18/13 1:58 PM by hendofanforlife

There are several thing that have changed and they aren't going back and those in the game will either adapt or wither.1) UFC is diluting their product. If there are thousands of ad opportunities where there used to be a few, of course it's gonna lower the value of those spots.2) The sponsor tax isn't goin anywhere.You can say its unfair. But it's permanent and managers need to move on. You can still have Larry's car lot sponsor your guy, just not at certain times. It's on your management to get the big guys to care about you. 3) You are now your own promoter/brand manger. Since there is twitter, Instagram, etc, its now on you to make your own hype. We all have smartphones. Be on there all the time! Get on as many mma shows as possible. Post on the UG, post on shitdog, fuck, even lower yourself to appear on cagepotato, just keep yourself out there.4) you need to winYou're only as good as your last fight and until you're super known, you can't lose like wand page and Tito. No one wants to sponsor Ryan leaf. Everyone still wants to sponsor peyton. Unfortunately losing a lot lowers your stock especially when you're still not that well known. All this considered, there's a reason I see Ian McCall on my ads here. He is a warrior, has endeared himself to fans, is active on here and social media, an has a gimmick. Good for him. He's not on here complaining I can tell you that much.

mrwhipple site profile image  

10/18/13 1:34 PM by mrwhipple

<blockquote>Macedawgg - <p> Ingrained (jason) is correct--endorsements (not sponsors) are needed now more than ever.  Brand in and out of cage is vitally important--especially given the current bargaining reality.</p><p> That reality should and need be challenged.</p>This is probably the reality, that, as Genet has mentioned, fighters have to focus on selling themselves as brands outside the cage. The question is how realistic is it for most fighters who are not at the top of the division, who have never headlined, to think they can get much in the way of endorsements when they're just 1 of 400 fighters. For years, fighters have depended on sponsors to make ends meet . For years we were told that it was as high as 50% of all fighters income, and made up for the low purses we found in mma. If pay has gone up, say 20%, but sponsor dollars has plummeted, then what can the run of the mill fighter do to make up for that loss revenue? A Darrell Montague is not going to be able to line up big, or even any, endorsement deals.

Ingrained Media site profile image  

10/18/13 1:14 PM by Ingrained Media

We just ended negotiations with one of the top guys in the sport. 100% outside of the UFC endorsement deal. His starting price is $100,000. While my client cannot afford that much it was great to see his people laying down a big number and standing firm. If we wanted him we had to pay, while we could not others will. Our client has paid the sponsorship tax already so that was not an issue. In the end the brands have to have a plan. If the cost for permission is starting at $15,000 per athlete the price for the logo placement should be worth more.There are a lot of brands that are not affected by the tax, yet you rarely see anyone pitching them. The current model is managers watch the last fight to see who was on the shorts and they contact that company for support.The demographic for MMA is now mixed. That is what happens as a the sport matures. The 18-35 year old males that watched UFC 1 are now 38-55 year olds. The new fans are made up of Millennial Males. the one thing about the new demographic is that they are much more elusive than the previous male demo. They need to see an ad 23+ times for the message to sink in, they grew up being able to get content when and where they want. They are the first adult male demographic since cables inception that rejects cable.This sport holds those demos captive, that means as a brand you have a chance to connect. That means if you reach the UFC and build your personal brand you can leverage that brand with brands that need to reach the demographic you have influence over. Yet for most fighters they just want to fight and get paid. They hire managers to work for them and the next thing you know these fanagers are back stage, in pictures with the fighter and doing interviews with Ariel. Meanwhile the fighters who hired them have little to know real presence. Yes they have social media but having a Myspace account with a million friends is worth what today? Fighters do not own that platform either and when it becomes less popular they lost all efforts invested. If those efforts did not convert to money then they failed. Where are the branding efforts for the fighters? Even leading up to 166 you have seen little to no activation around the main card fighters, not counting what the UFC has done to promote the event. Until the fighters come first things are only going to continue to spiral downward.Jason

Macedawgg site profile image  

10/18/13 5:56 AM by Macedawgg

Ingrained (jason) is correct--endorsements (not sponsors) are needed now more than ever.  Brand in and out of cage is vitally important--especially given the current bargaining reality. That reality should and need be challenged.

HITMAN DAN DIAZ site profile image  

10/17/13 3:38 PM by HITMAN DAN DIAZ

hahaha exactly. i can remember when the ufc announced they where going to have ....... wait for it 12 events in a year BOOOM whats up now ! ad to that the fact that they easily added a zero to the end of all the ticket prices since then also. you know why you used to see me rollin with 10 or 12 hitman promo models and all my friends at the weigh ins and events ? its because tickets where fucking $35 to $50 for where the $350 and $500 tickets are at now. and weigh ins where a ghost town. and i am glad that the fighters and the ufc are making money. but cmon. pay the tax plus sponsor 1-2-3 fighters per event plus ads plus travel plus the ufc expo (not optional btw oh you didnt know that lol) ad in meals and your daily operational costs lol. wake up mma apparel is dead. the only people in the game are losing money or only working with a 3 man fight team.  the x games are 2x a year with no tax.       

Ingrained Media site profile image  

10/17/13 3:11 PM by Ingrained Media

I really do not think the issue is the amount of work. It is the fact that the UFC created the platform and they will continue to lock it down. Protecting their interest and the interest of their partners are important. You can see it in other sport orgs.. The WNBA has team sponsors and every player competes with a logo on them. The athletes are not paid more if they wear that logo, the athletes are not allowed to have sponsors while playing. There is a company that is about the IPO an athlete. Fantex is the the name of the company. Fans/Investors will be able to participate and trade athletes future values. They intend to raise 10.5m, 10M goes to the athlete, 500k is used to service the account. Investors will earn a % of money based on the athletes future earnings to include contract, endorsements, and other business ventures. The system is similar to fantasy football where a player improves his stats becomes more valuable.MMA athletes are not focusing enough on "endorsements" so when the UFC moves to the NFL/NBA model there will be no tax and logos on shorts will not be a part of the athletes earnings. It is critical be build your brand value in and out of the cage. Mace has been saying that this was coming for years.

luctaro site profile image  

10/17/13 1:37 PM by luctaro

Sure for 20 events a year, now they are making like 40. Next year the Boldfather wants 13 events in Brazil only, plus the international TUF finales, the international FN, the national FN, the FOX fights, the PPVs.Over 400 fighters in their roster fighting2-4 times a year, likely to reach 500 if they keep expanding. Its not the same game.

ThickS0lid N Right site profile image  

10/17/13 1:27 PM by ThickS0lid N Right

TTT for hitman Dan