❤️The Challenger We Loved This Week
📈 Following their merger with the WWE recently, the UFC is now worth $12 Billion dollars. For a brand that was purchased for $1 million dollars in 2001, that’s an incredible amount of growth. Below, we explore the 5 core strategies that have allowed combat sports behemoth to actually deliver this spectacular growth through its marketing and brand initiatives.
1. The UFC's marketing and content strategies are heavily data-driven, allowing them to make informed decisions based on fan engagement, social media trends, and performance metrics. They use these data points to not only double down on social interactions with fans via polls, quizzes and live streams, but they also programme fights based on what fans are demanding on social media. For example, whilst the UFC have official fighter rankings which determine who the champion and contenders are, they have been known to host “superfights” or “special belts” like the BMF belt between Jorge Masividal and Nate Diaz which was based solely fan demand and ended up being hosted at Madison Square Garden and drawing a gate of $6.5 million dollars.
2. The brand tagline is “as real as it gets” and they do everything they can to ensure that the marketing, content strategies and messaging reflect this core value.
Dana White (President of UFC) is infamous for his "no holds barred" post fight interviews which have become a fan-favorite and the UFC's content strategy includes intimate, behind-the-scene looks at fighters lives' and training. This approach adds to the brand's authenticity and further deepens fan engagement whilst making them feel more invested in the brand
3. The UFC has evolved over time to stay relevant in the ever-changing sports landscape continuously adopting new marketing mediums. The first big break for the UFC came from a reality TV show on Spike TV with “The Ultimate Fighter'' on Monday nights. This allowed them to gain their initial audience and realize that fans loved watching content surrounding the fight, not just the fight itself. They doubled down on this insight as the brand grew, but realized platforms were shifting in the late 2000’s and were one of the first sports brands to invest in original content on YouTube. They also launched UFC Fight Pass, a subscription service full of old fights. They acquired competitor organizations simply for the content libraries - i.e. brands like PRIDE and WEC were bought so UFC would have more content to put on Fight Pass. Most recently, UFC has realized that fans want to actually train and be part of the brand and have launched their own physical spaces by way of UFC Gyms across the globe.
4. The UFC's approach to promoting fights also sets them apart from other sports organisations. Instead of relying solely on traditional media like TV ads and billboards, the UFC places a strong emphasis on social media and digital marketing to reach younger and more diverse audiences. They also realized very early on that they needed to ensure the fighters were amplifying the content through their personal accounts. Every year, the UFC hosts a fighter media training to ensure that the fighters know how to build hype for a fight and use the social platforms properly. This time investment, though not loved by the fighters, has turned many of them into household names which is a stark contrast to the world of boxing. In one final step to solidify their brand, the UFC instituted a uniform for the fighters, signing a deal with Reebok first and now Venum to formalize the way the brand looks.
5. The UFC is anchored in solving a need for its audience, which is a desire for high-quality, exciting fights. The UFC's fans are passionate about MMA and crave the thrill of seeing the world's best fighters face off against each other. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the UFC was one of the only professional sports leagues in the world which did not stop producing events. They signed a deal with Abu Dhabi to create a “Fight Island” which was secured from the rest of the world where fighters could come and compete in a safe environment. As a result, their fan base grew during the pandemic simply by remaining relevant in a time when people wanted entertainment more than ever.
💰The UFC’s growth seems far from done, and becoming a $12 billion dollar brand can be attributed to their strategic approach to marketing and branding. By constantly evolving and innovating, the UFC has proven to be a true contender in the sports industry and their future looks promising - watch this space!