There is still some debate about the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, as to whether it is.ho. and a viable business or just a niche sport whose success is solely dictated by the success or failure of the one true brand in the market on the professional side, the UFC. Those who lean toward the latter received more validation for their point this past weekend when the spor.s latest UFC challenger, the highly successful apparel brand Affliction, announced it too was getting out of the event game and was going back to doing what it does bes.running a very lucrative brand for the male demo that follows the UFC and trains in MMA.
Afflictio.s bold entrance and then departure into the event side of the business is a good example of what happens when companies, especially in a challenged economy, try to be something that is a departure from their core success. They usually find that the barriers to entry are so high and the cost to sustain too much that success in the short term is limited or non-existent. Affliction knows how to market to young me.they have made a sizable business on selling edgy apparel…however the event business and the teeshirt business provide different models for brand success, and just because someone wears your clothes doesn’t mean they will pledge loyalty in terms of dollars for all the other ancillary events you may be running.
On the other side of the MMA equation is the UFC, which continues to be strong as the professional MMA brand of choice for the hardcore followers and the casual observer. This week CNBC will take another in-depth look at how the UFC has built brand around their experience and has made the investment grow by sticking to a formula that works…which is marketing the brand and the experience and fighters in the Octagon. The ancillary UFC activities outside of TV and their successful Spike TV partnership are just that, they are add-ons to the core business. Although they oversee many of those brand extensions they never distract from the message of the fight game and what occurs in and around the event. Now can the argument be made that the investment Affliction made into growing their brand through the cost spent on fights was worthwhil. Perhaps. But to justify the millions spent in production and promotion would mean millions of teeshirts and Affliction-branded apparel sold in that short time period outside of what would normally be sold. Did they put on a quality product and help lift the sport of MMA overal. Yes. Would they have been better off in the apparel business and working with the UFC to move produc. Probably. Sometimes even the best brands will acquire new secondary businesses and experience growth. However the most successful brands who do acquire outside of their sweet spot will have capital and plan to look long term. Sports is so much more of a short term play that those type of ventures usually can be costly and sometimes even deadly for the original brand. Would it have been a sign of a healthy sport to have a viable alternative for the UF. Yes. Does it mean the sport is not growing without a healthy number tw. No. It means that the right competitor has not found the model, if it exists in the space. One thing is for sure…the Afflciation challenge, like all the others before…ProElite, IFL etc etc…was not the right one.