It was supposedly the next boxing. But the sponsorships touted by the biggest brand in mixed martial arts, Ultimate Fighting Championship, didn't seem to suggest they were the next anything. The biggest names in the Octagon--Xyience energy drink and Amp'd Mobile--both filed for bankruptcy. But things are changing.
In January, UFC signed Harley Davidson to put its name in the Octagon and today, UFC announced a deal with Anheuser Busch , as Bud Light will become the new exclusive sponsor for the UFC. The brand will be featured on the Octagon center mat and on the vertical bumpers beginning with UFC 84 in Las Vegas on May 24.
Now that is huge. First of all, they are the biggest advertiser in sports, spending 80 percent of their total national TV spending dollars ($141 million of $171 million) on sports from January to Sept. 2007, according to Nielsen. And some go as far as to call them the greatest advertiser in all of sports--if you believe the USA Today Ad Meter for the Super Bowl, which they won for the 10th straight time this year.
For all that UFC was--the pay-per-view dollars and the merchandising--it wasn't for blue chip brands. Well, that's not the case anymore. And for all its critics, the bottom line is that this is proof that the UFC got too big to ignore anymore. Especially for two stalwart brands that seem to be in the same boat. The bottom line is that when Harley reported in January U.S. sales were weak and growing beer share, especially of Bud and Bud Light, is a tremendous challenge as people have shifted to craft and international beers.
The bottom line is UFC fans are, at the very least, prospective Harley Davidson riders and Bud drinkers. And the reality is that the UFC provides more annual buzz than boxing does. So it's fitting that Bud Light will first appear in the Octagon in Las Vegas, where boxing has made its name. Mark this date down: May 24. Because of this deal, the UFC finally becomes the next boxing on that date.
Watch "Squawk Box" tomorrow at 8:50 am ET, as we'll have Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, on the show.
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