With a great deal of media attention rightfully turned towards the UFC’s exclusive sponsorship with Reebok and the implications it will have across the sport, this piece looks backward to four of the most effective sponsorship agreements with fighters in UFC history.

Each example is effective for different reasons, which range from geographical convenience to brand messaging and harmony with a fighter personality.

 

1) Demetrious Johnson – Xbox

Arguably the most notable example of an exclusive sponsorship between company and fighter in MMA, the UFC flyweight champion’s agreement to wear Xbox branded apparel in the Octagon positions the Microsoft affiliate in a positive light before the MMA audience.

As Xbox vies for a dominant market share in the video game console industry against the likes of Playstation and Nintendo, the company’s decision to align itself with a champion who has dominated his weight division reinforces the perception that Xbox is the elite entity in its own industry among the MMA subculture that the sponsorship caters to.

In Johnson, an avid gamer himself, Xbox not only has a prevailing champion but also a fruitful, yet stable PR ambassador for the brand, with the flyweight’s dynamic physical athleticism and family friendly demeanour recreating the “fun for all ages” tagline that Xbox looks to attach to its own brand identity; a message that is also carried in parent company Microsoft’s mission statement:

“At Microsoft, our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. Microsoft is one of the industry leaders in accessibility innovation and in building products that are safer and easier to use.”

As a sponsor carrier, Demetrious Johnson is not only an asset of exposure through his accessibility to a global audience, the flyweight champion also resides within a few miles of Xbox’s headquarters near Seattle, Washington. The partnership also gives Xbox an opportunity to promote its support of local assets such as Johnson and endear the company to a localized audience and stakeholders as well.

2) Vitor Belfort – RVCA

By reading RVCA’s mission statement, it is clear that the clothing company identifies itself as waving the flag for people living vicariously through their passions, a clever concept that makes the company relevant to any dream pursuit a potential consumer might have:

“PM Tenore’s intention from the very beginning has been to create a platform for RVCA, which combines art, music, fashion and a modern lifestyle in an original way. At the forefront of this vision has been RVCA’s artist network program (ANP) – a venture established to showcase the talents of accomplished as well as unknown artists who inspire our generation and push the boundaries of creative excellence.”

In the realm of mixed martial arts, Vitor Belfort arguably best represents the synergy between art and lifestyle that RVCA aspires to represent through its clothing.

Dedicated to his craft from the tender age of 18, Belfort’s personal and professional successes and failures have been somewhat entwined with his career. Having competed for the UFC since 1997, the Brazilian has transformed from a naïve young man into the destructive force that is poised to contend for the UFC middleweight championship before our eyes, an accomplishment that reinforces the benefits of passionate commitment to overall lifestyle that RVCA supports. Through dedication to his craft, Belfort has embarked on an outstanding career littered with spectacular finishes and main events that has proved to be financially rewarding, while establishing the Brazilian’s legacy in MMA for years to come.

3) Cain Velasquez – BSN

Who better to serve as an ambassador for performance products than a man who has earned the reputation for keeping a frightening pace over 25 minutes?

As a fitness supplement company Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition, Inc.quite logically embraced the most well-conditioned athlete in perhaps all of mixed martial arts. While the agreement between BSN and Cain Velasquez appears to have ended, the rationale remains strong.

Velasquez defies the logic of limited endurance at heavyweight, a freak athlete whose genetic gifts can be adopted to strengthen the consumer’s perception of BSN and its products. This effect is also compounded by Velasquez’s ability relative to other heavyweights, which accentuates the Mexican-American’s ability and further promotes the effectiveness of the BSN brand behind him.

Furthermore, Velasquez’s title as the UFC heavyweight champion and the ‘baddest man on the planet’ moniker that accompanies it created exposure opportunities that 99% of the UFC’s roster are not privy to. In these settings, BSN could maximize the value of their sponsorship to reach not only MMA fans but also mainstream sports viewers.

An added benefit for nutrition supplement companies opting to sponsor mixed martial artists is that the athlete in question offers a tangible end product for interested consumers. Potential buyers see a competitor in the Octagon at their physical prime, often combining an athletic physique with functional performance to appease some reservations, which helps buyers envision themselves in a similarly successful position with the help of BSN. This applies not only to Velasquez, but other partnerships such as Rashad Evans’ affiliation with MusclePharm.

4) Tito Ortiz – Punishment Athletics

As the days of independent sponsorship in the Octagon come to an end with the Reebok deal, it is fitting that our attention turns to one of the sport’s pioneers. Tito Ortiz is an individual who used the opportunity for independent sponsorship to develop his own business and brand, Punishment Athletics, better than anyone else in the sport.

Using a lack of sponsor regulation at the time, Ortiz used marketing intellect to publicize the various aspects of the MMA industry that his Punishment Athletics brand penetrated, from profiling the Punishment Athletics Training Center on countdown shows and wearing Punishment Athletics apparel to the Octagon, to even integrating the name into his appearances on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, where the Huntington Beach Bad Boy changed his team’s name from Team Ortiz to Team Punishment. Through consistent presentation of the brand across different mediums, Ortiz attached Punishment Athletics to his own name until the two effectively merged.

A symbol from the Wild West days of mixed martial arts who continues to carry a substantial following with him today, Ortiz embraced the freedom of the sport’s formative years to create a brand he remains synonymous with. In exchange for his efforts, Ortiz remains a huge part of the sport, serving as one of the most recognizable faces of Bellator while Punishment Athletics’ Twitter page remains prominent with over 42,000 Twitter followers.

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.