After Brock Lesnar retained his heavyweight title at UFC 100 on Saturday night, he caused a stir by saying he’d be going home to drink a Coors Light “because Bud Light won’t pay me nuthin.”
In terms of official sponsors getting blindsided, this one takes the all time cake. When Anheuser-Busch took the risk of associating with the UFC, who ever thought that risk included having its competitor get the nod after one of the biggest fights in the organization’s history?
Although Lesnar got lectured by UFC prez Dana White, he came out to the press conference -– seen by a small fraction of those who actually watched the Pay-Per-View fight –- with a Bud Light in front of him and the Bud Light sign behind him. Although Lesnar apologized, he didn’t exactly do Bud Light right when he said he would be drinking that brand tonight but that he really “drinks any beer.”
The idea of pumping up Coors Light when they presumably didn’t pay him wasn’t a good idea. But the question as to what Lesnar owes UFC’s official sponsors is a good one. Lesnar did what he did because he felt that, as the biggest star in UFC, he deserved his cut of what the UFC was making. This comes at a time when the UFC is now asking those who sponsor fighters to give the organization a cut so it’s harder to ambush official sponsors who don’t chose to sponsor the fighters. From the UFC's standpoint, the brands that sponsor the fighters are getting a cheap deal aligning with the brand without having to pay up. From the fighter's standpoint, any cut the UFC gets could take away from their pay and could restrict the amount of companies willing to still pay the fighters.
For some reason, I’m not as sympathetic to Lesnar’s disguised plea as I am to the plight of Olympians, who, to be honest, seem to be getting slighted more and more with each Olympiad.
According to a memorandum recently sent by the International Olympic Committee, Olympians who are sponsored by non-Olympic sponsors cannot advertise for those companies within approximately three weeks prior to the games and one week after the games.
Now that’s hard to swallow because these Olympians are basically paid in sponsor money. First, it was a moratorium during the games and now it’s expanding out to surround the games. One day it will reach a point where non-Olympic sponsors will have absolutely no interest in sponsoring Olympians at all. This comes at a time when many of the Olympic sponsors rely on their official sponsorship to get the message out and don’t spend a whole lot of money on individual athletes.
Lesnar’s move was outrageous, but it wasn’t an “in the heat of the moment” reaction as he might have you believe. There’s a reason he did what he did. And it brings to a head the question of when companies buy rights to be an official sponsor, what do they get? And what do the athletes deserve? No matter what the answer is to that question, I know this. Bud Light didn’t deserve Lesnar’s “Silver Bullet” surprise.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com