Mixed martial arts, having grown so fast and continuing to do so, is fulfilling its potential for media content.

More shows, in new countries, on grander networks are a testament to that. China, Russia and the Philippines are some of the major national markets embracing the new sport, while globalised networks including the internet and social media enable viewers from around the world to indulge in the product.

It is a great feeling for the MMA fan. The sport has endured hard times, notably when Pay-per-View would not even air the UFC. Now we, the viewers,m are spoiled for choices every week.

With MMA’s explosion onto cable television and other mainstream mediums, larger audiences and target markets have created the demand for more promotional material in the social mainstream, which permeates through the advancement of technology. New mobile interfaces, like smartphones and tablets, are being integrated into the daily lives of their consumer-owners. The access granted by 24/7 screen-time and wireless internet services through social media platforms like Twitter, free video sharing sites like YouTube, and online subscription networks like Fight Pass, is having a profound effect on the shape and success of marketing strategies.

Using Q&A sessions, podcasts, and general interaction, MMA talent are more accessible than any other athletes of previous generations. In a sport that highlights the accolades of the individual, the option of a personal social media account not only allows talent to profile their sport or ‘home’ organization, but enables fighters to establish their own brand. Touchscreens today offer a window into the daily lives of athletes and this new degree of exposure offers a wealth of opportunity; providing it is effectively capitalised on.

Dynamic variables including the ease of sharing information and the creative diversity of engaging online content have raised the quality of content available around the sport; a notion evidenced by my ‘Taking MMA to New Heights series’. With a wealth of content, the time a viewer (and potential consumer) dedicates to mentally digesting a marketer’s message has been minimised. The ultimate result? Target market consumers are less receptive to overt, blatant and lazy promotional tactics than at any time before.

When this outlook on content marketing is applied to the field of MMA, the sport’s audience is one of the most loyal subcultures in sports today, rewards MMA talent with their attention on the merit of the athlete’s accolades inside, and outside, the cage. Joseph Benavidez is one such example. The former UFC flyweight title contender developed a comprehensive model for using content marketing to build his individual brand. The Jobe Awards combines humour and a working knowledge of the MMA industry to endear the sport’s fans. The benefits of catering to a loyal community of fans range from more social media followers to media exposure and a permeation into the casual fan’s awareness.

On the flip side, a failure to capitalise on this interest without consistent engaging content is punished by the nature of social media. Too many profiles, not enough time. It is inevitable that the mis-users and abusers of these platforms will fade into the background. Marketing departments, agencies and individuals within MMA are not only competing with one another, they are competing with the wealth of distractions offered by this new digital environment. Changing the channel, opening a new tab, hitting the ‘skip’ button or switching to a new application are just some of the instantaneous reactions digital users adopt, consciously or subconsciously, to avoid a feed or campaign that lacks attractive or engaging qualities. The days of sponsor shout outs resonating with an audience are now gone. The only thing these monotonous sound bites achieve is the tuning out of attentive viewers who are ready to be entertained.

The new digital landscape brings us full circle to David Ogilvy’s outlook in 1973, when he suggested: “What really decides consumers’ ‘to buy or not to buy’ is the content of your advertising, not its form.”

The term ‘buy’ is flexible. It could translate into merchandise sales, ticket sales, seminar attendance or even something as abstract as a viewer’s genuine interest. The sentiment behind Ogilvy’s message is still shared today. In the US alone, business marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend by 64% over the next 12 months.” (Content Marketing Institute, 2013)

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.