When you are a disruptor sport like Mixed Martial Arts, you should always be looking for unusual places to insert yourself into a positive national conversation. On Sunday night, Academy Award winner Meryl Streep helped open a door for engagement, an unlikely one, that MMA was able to step through by using the platform that the sport has embraced as well as, and better than, most professional sports; social media.
During her speech after accepting the Cecil B. DE Mille Award, Streep took a long swipe at President-elect Donald Trump, and in it, jabbed MMA… “So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” Streep said. “And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
The response from fans, not sure how many were watching the Golden Globes, was fast, but the real nugget came from Bellator MMA head Scott Coker, who took not just to twitter, but penned a thoughtful open letter to Ms. Streep outlining the growth of the sport and inviting her to check it out for herself. It was a smart, quick, measured and thoughtful response from Coker, who has long played Avis to the UFC’s Hertz, be it at Strikeforce or now at Bellator, the attacker brand in an attacker sport.
While UFC president Dana White did get his time in as well pretty quickly, Bellator’s tact got them a strong voice into the national conversation by aggressively sharing the letter far and wide, and getting the brand much deserved play amongst all the voices shouting support for the sport. While it was sure that the UFC would get media calls about the statement, Bellator’s aggressive stance and well-worded response put them in a place where media may not have thought to look; front and center for a very fluid 24 hour news cycle.
In the end will Streep take up the offer? No. Does it matter? No. What matters is Bellator, thinking fast and quick, was able to push a positive agenda to media and to fans. It introduced the brand name to an audience that did not follow MMA who may now look for it, and it provided assurance to all in the MMA world that Bellator doesn’t just get it, but they are always thinking positively and creatively.
Nice strike for the challenger.
At least she didn’t call it cage fighting.