09 Aug 2016

Ultimate fighting and social media money magic

The wonder that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) mesmerises me… along with its revenue successes.

The UFC recently agreed to a $4 billion acquisition offer in what may well be the largest transaction in the history of professional sports. The Ferrita brothers, who invested $2 million in the business in 2001, have made over 2000 times their original investment. Yowser…. Ultimate fighting just keeps on keeping on.

Social media has been crucial to its success. The UFC embraced and invested in social from its early days, and now has around 47 million followers across all social platforms around the world. In 2011, a Twitter bonus programme saw quarterly cash rewards for competitors who actively engaged fans and increased follower numbers. The sport started out as another low scale fighting trend, and now offers major league global entertainment, with an ever growing fan base on social.

UFC on Facebook has almost 20 million likes. Very vocal UFC president Dana White is active on social media, with his ever growing Twitter follower base now at 3.7 million. Fans like him. They engage, react and often agree with (or are persuaded by) White’s excessively frank opinions on the sport, competitors and officials alike. Five years ago he famously said we will “never” see women in the UFC. Last year he said bringing women into the UFC was the best (financial) decision he ever made. Ronda Rousey, the first female fighter to sign, has 2.76 million Twitter followers.

In June, the organisation agreed a multi-year deal with Snapchat, opening up its events to Snapchat’s Live Stories. The partnership was launched at UFC 200, held last month (09 July) in Las Vegas. Two women - Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes - battled in the main event after the shock of Jon Jones’ failed drugs test. Tate in particular has a decent Snapchat presence.

Fans on Snapchat were more involved in the action and enjoyed an even more visceral experience, with behind the scenes moments prior to each fight, and clips from inside the octagon shared on Live Stories. Fans across the board engaged with the new platform relationship, some sharing clips with their followers on other platforms. Canadian actor Will Sasso’s tweet referencing Snapchat, with a video of former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on the night, saw over 500 retweets/likes.

Snapchat is the new wave. With its more personalised, intimate feel, Snapchat marketing is proving an exciting opportunity for B2C brands in particular. With the platform expected to overtake Twitter and Pinterest by the end of 2016, we, and plenty of PR and marketing agencies, watch with interest.

In the meantime, I look forward to UFC 202, Diaz and McGregor the rematch. It’s going to get crazy.

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Celina Bublik

Editorial Director

Celina’s experience includes marketing, journalism and B2B communications. She was previously at De Beers, where she oversaw communications for global marketing teams and developed a suite of online and marketing services. She has experience as a journalist and editor across a variety of trade publications.

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