MMA: The Next Big Thing for Brands

22 Mar 2012


MMA: The Next Big Thing for Brands
This month saw Chris, Will & Marcus write a Knowledge Bank piece for the Drum magazine on the rise of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC's sponsorship deal with broadcaster Fox.
With our impending launch of One Punch Pickett's new site it only felt right to shine a light on this great sport. Read what we had to say below:
The UFC's recent 7 year deal with broadcaster Fox is a clear indication of a broadcasting giant seeing the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA for short and commonly known as cage fighting), sit alongside the likes of Baseball, NFL, Ice Hockey and Nascar. These are all well-established mainstream sports perceived to be wholesomely All American. The UFC's new deal means their bouts now have the potential to be broadcast into close to a 100 million homes.
The UFC, rumoured to receive $90million per year in rights fees will be the first MMA programming to appear on a major broadcast network and expose the UFC to these same general sports fans. Fox executives said they were drawn to the UFC by their ability to attract the coveted male 18-34 year old demographic.  
With its access to a predominately male audience: how long before mainstream brands jump on the bandwagon? Early indications are not too long; Anderson "The Spider" Silva is the new face of Burger King in his home country ofBrazil. He joins the likes of Yoshihiro Akiyama, Caol Uno and Kazuyuki Miyata as MMA fighters who have recently struck deals with Nike in their respective homelands. Of course there was also the small matter of impressive box office returns for Hollywood movie release 'The Warrior' starring man of the moment Tom Hardy and the MMA world the setting for the story.
With audiences constantly blown away by the UFC's ability for spectacle and production, both in and outside the famous Octagon, it's no surprise that they have carried that ethos into their online offering. Looking at the UFC's marketing credentials they are up there with many othermainstream sports. Their portal,, has recently been impressively redeveloped. Big on social media, the UFC also have a well-honed strategy and dedicated approach to all things social. They use their fighters too, who help with the overall profile of the sport. Fighters get paid bonuses for their use of Twitter: the largest increase in followers in a month or the most creative posts will boost a fighters pay packet. Quite the opposite to how some football clubs here in the UK feel about players using Twitter.
So the end of 2011 saw our agency Tommy take on a rising star on the UFC roster, Brad "One Punch" Pickett. Tommy were appointed to create destination website for Brad which would act as a central hub for the fighter. We wanted to stay away from typical Cage Fighter stereotypes of gothic logos, hip-hop clichés, overuse of wire and cage imagery etc. It was important to humanise the star, position him alongside elite athletes and ensure brand appeal to a wider audience whilst importantly still stay true to his sport and hardcore MMA fans.
Finding the the real person beneath the showman was key in pulling him out of the crowd of fighters. We wanted to stay away from posed, testosterone-fuelled photography and let the user behind the scenes get to know Brad before he sets foot in the famous octagon. With some beautiful, intimate shots of Brad we were able to explain his backstory and show that he isn't just the next in a long line of bland, marketable sportsmen but that he has a fascinating history that people can relate to.
We used long, scrolling pages to tell both the story of the man and the story of the fighter via images and short, skimmable copy. The user is able to extract a lot of information with the minimum number of clicks and gain a complete overview of Brad in a short space of time. The now compulsory image and video gallery contains a selection of clips and shots clearly laid out in albums so as not to overload the user. There is also a news feed featuring articles and observations direct from Brad himself - again reinforcing the idea of the man behind the name.
In terms of the look and feel, we had to create something that could be associated with Brad so the palette was stripped back to yellow and a careful selection of complimentary greys. The overall impression is one of yellow and black which are now firmly his brand colours and can be spread out into other areas such as merchandise and clothing.
We look forward to working more with Brad and the MMA world in general. These are exciting times for the sport and it's great to be offering it our digital creative services from our offices here in London.