In the ever-competitive world of professional mixed martial arts, the men and women are fighting for more than just the fans and their next paycheck; they’re fighting for survival. When you barely have enough money left for yourself after paying your training partners, coaches, and buying nutritional supplements, it’s time to find another source of income. Most do this in the way of sponsorships — you know, like the Nike deal Jon Jones recently signed, or Anderson Silva’s relationship with Burger King. And if more of these well-known mainstream companies would sponsor a few fighters, the smaller companies that currently sponsor fighters could move to guys and gals who are still making their way up the ranks without anyone losing out. Let’s look at the companies that best suit MMA, how they should be involved, and why it makes sense.
Why it makes sense: Standing 6′ 4″ and weighing 230 pounds, and 6′ 5″/263, respectively, the Frenchman and the Dutchman are the most physically imposing fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Old Spice is known for their funny commercials targeting the same audience watching PPV’s on a Saturday night. In the past, Old Spice has used NFL players Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis as spokesman for their ‘Swagger’ line of men’s body products, as well as jacked Expendables cast-member Terry Crews. And if those guys can do it, why not Kongo and Overeem? In particular, “The Demolition Man” is the type of guy you want your customers to think they’ll be more like by using your product. Alistair could even make his commercial debut by eating the horse the original Old Spice Guy rode in on.
Why it makes sense: The 2013 Chevy Spark may be small, but what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for in heart. The potential to save drivers a small fortune on gas is enough to get most excited, and the 18-34 male demographic includes cash-strapped college guys and new dads — definitely a bunch a dudes looking to save a few extra bucks any chance they can get. Who better to market your product than your Ultimate Fighting counterparts, the UFC’s two smallest and most fuel-efficient contenders?
Both the fighters and the mini-cars are well equipped, fast, and flashy. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the unbelievably high MPG, which means you won’t ever have to worry about running out of gas when you enter the championship rounds. Isn’t it obvious that this is a match made in mini-heaven?
Why it makes sense: From Lunesta’s website: “When you want to sleep, do you lie awake? When you get to sleep, do you wake up often during the night? Sleep is here on the wings of LUNESTA. Some sleep aids are approved to help you fall asleep and others to help you stay asleep. Prescription LUNESTA is approved to do both.”
4 out of 5 doctors recommend you watch a fight featuring Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, or Ben Askren, if you do not wish to use or cannot afford prescription medication. It’s a known fact; these boring wrestlers will put you to sleep before they even break a sweat. While most fans spew vitriol every time these fighters are mentioned, a large percentage of the audience is insomniacs and singing their praises. MMA managers these days tell their guys in the gym to make themselves into a brand. It just so happens that the brands these guys have created have the same tags as Lunesta: sleep, helps me sleep, cures insomnia, best sleep I’ve ever had.
Why it makes sense: Hear me out. Back in 2009, Tampax signed Serena Williams of tennis fame to an endorsement deal during their “Outsmart Mother Nature” campaign. The commercial was clever and effective. After watching it, you believed that one of the best female tennis players to ever step onto a court could go on with life as usual, despite her monthly visitor, with no major adjustments to her schedule. Skip ahead to present day where Strikeforce Women’s champion Ronda Rousey graces the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue, appears on Conan O’Brian, and has a two-part all-access pass look at her life filmed by Showtime. Sounds like Tampax has a fresh face with enough exposure to take home a larger share of the feminine hygiene products sales. Rousey is the perfect example of a woman that demands a lot out of her girlie products. Training for a championship bout consists of running, strength training, kickboxing, and most of all, jiu jitsu — and all of the rolling around that comes with it. Just like there’s no crying in baseball, there are no time outs for leaks. Not to worry, she has Tampax in her corner.
I envision some poor soul getting a text from his girl while he’s out getting snacks for fight night. She asks him to do the unthinkable — pick up some tampons and hurry back. So he makes his way to the pink aisle and scans a ton of pink boxes that may have been written in gibberish. He wants to make this as quick as possible so there’s no time to ask his damsel in distress what kind she wants. He’ll just have to figure this out on his own. *Boom!* “Yep, these are the ones Ronda Rousey uses, so they must be good.” he says to himself. Brand association is a powerful tool — one that makes a deal like this all but certain in the years to come.
Company: Jimmy John’s
Ideal Involvement: Submission of the Night
Why it makes sense: Since Brock Lesnar‘s departure, Jimmy John’s has been absent in the MMA world. This is a shame for all gourmet sammich lovers. The ‘Submission of the Night’ will no longer be presented by TapouT; instead it’ll replaced by Jimmy John’s with the “Subs so fast you’ll freak” tagline. It may seem a little cheesy, but who doesn’t like cheese on their sub?
Ideal fighter to sponsor: Lyoto Machida
Why it makes sense: Remember that thing I said about brand association? The same is true of word association. When you see a picture of “The Dragon,” you immediately think, “That guy drinks his own urine!” At the suggestion of Chael Sonnen on UFC Today, Lyoto buys himself a bottle of Listerine to freshen his breath after his morning constitutional. Listerine, not being one to walk away from cash on the table, inks a deal with Machida. The deal consists of a new commercial, a sticker on his shorts and banner, and a vlog leading up to his fight showing him using the product. Next thing you know, thousands of kids from strip mall dojos are out tossing Listerine in their parents shopping cart.
Seriously though, Listerine has sponsored garlic festivals in years gone by and it’s time they launch a major campaign promoting the mouth rinse’s effectiveness at eliminating bad breath. In such a bleak economy, people are cutting corners at every turn. Sadly, parent company Johnson & Johnson’s consumer products sales fell by 2.4% in the first quarter of the year. To keep the stockholders happy, they should consider helping Machida cleanse his mouth if they want to revitalize their earnings.
Ideal fighter to sponsor: Travis Browne
Why it makes sense: The Heavyweight division is top-heavy and it’s only getting stronger as undefeated contender Travis Browne continues to deliver right on time. UPS is the gold standard for parcel delivery around the world, but they could use help of the MMA community to keep them there. I’ve been told FedEx has gained market share for 54 straight quarters. UPS would be wise to associate itself with a rising star, one that can make a statement in the division. At this stage in the game, “Hapa” is only another win or two before he gets a shot at the gold. Of his 13 professional bouts, 9 have come by way of knockout and two by submission. Exciting fighters tend to have a greater following on social media, which lends itself to contests and giveaways that could endear his followers with the gigantic shipping corporation. Lastly, the play on words at the end of every interview and post-fight speech is perfect: What can Browne do for you?
Company: Dos Equis
Ideal fighter to sponsor: Chael P. Sonnen
Why it makes sense: The gangster from West Linn, Oregon already is The Most Interesting Man in the World. Is there really anything left to say?