A Kinder, Gentler UF.

The UFC has been a textbook example of brand growth using both the digital and traditional space in the past five years, even getting profiled by Mashable on their social media platforms. They have followed a playbook first se (and then abandoned) by boxing and then by the WWE in using traditional TV and media as the driver for large gate pay-per-view events and following that with a very unique experience in-arena. It has been a solid run for the UFC and their fans, who are more fans of their brand probably trhan the overall sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Still with all the success, the UFC model still has not brought in many new sponsors outside of brands like Bud Light and Harley Davidson, who came on several years ago and gain the great benefits of partnerships overall with Spike TV. The UFC continues to go to new markets with one-off success, and always returns for the bigger name shows to Las Vegas for experiential weekends. The company talks about more overseas expansion and continues to do well in the gaming and product sales area, so what's nex.? how does one gain more mainstream exposure, not in news coverage but in consistent larger viewership and gate, and does the UFC need another company to step up as a legitimate, consistent international competito.? Is the market big enoug.

One example may have been tipped in recent weeks, with UFC head Dana White appearing in print ads ala American Express commercials, talking about some of his “softer side.” The ads have White talking about skateboarding and his kids in the surf in California, all in script and black and white. These trade ads are an outreach to the buying community to try and show businesses that there is a solid business behind a man who loves to be edgy and drop “F bombs” in interviews, but will it wor. Will it alienate those who love the edgy and have kept the UFC niche thriving, or does the UFC need to go this way to get to more mainstream, which could be a sign that they have maxed out the dollars they are getting from their core consume. The WWE (witness Linda McMahon's run for Senate in Connecticut) did do a masterful job in having both Vince and Linda McMahon show their business side and grow their business and gain credibility in the mainstream over time, but the WWE is a public coproration with a board and stockholders to answer to. Even though recently UFC has sold some of its equity to outside investors it remains a privately held corporation, so it does not have Wall Street to answer to. Actually those on Wall Street who follow UFC probably enjoy White's edgy play, so why make the attempt, especially if it is not genuin.? Make no mistake, the UFC is very savvy as it is edgy, and they know how to play the cards. However, as NASCAR has learned in recent years, trying to grow business can mean alienating your core, and that risk sometimes may not lead to reward that fast. It can be a difficult spin to reach the mainstream unless there is a need to do so. Were the ads a jok. Is White again toying with the medi.

Is it a sign that the UFC bandwagon may be slowin. Perhaps. Is it a test to see if there is interes.? Probably so. One thing is for sure though, MMA at the top level remains a violent and brutal sport that is about fighting. The fighters have good stories and work hard and their fans are passionate. Making it into some kind of kindler, gentler sport has not worked, even with all the “Chess with Blood” analogies. It is what it is, and UFC has been successful. Trying to be something one is not can lead to bigger issues in the long run, and losing that core is very hard to bring back when people have discretionary dollars to spend. A story worth following still.