This past week, I attended the Sports Networker Summit in New York City (run by our friends Lewis Howes and Amy Martin) and came away with a feeling that fighter marketing in the UFC has only scratched the surface of its potential. As mentioned above, the event was co-hosted by Amy Martin of Digital Royalty, a company that develops digital integration and social media strategies for corporate and entertainment brands, professional athletes, sports teams and leagues. Digital Royalty also provides customized education programs which include strategic and tactical social media training. So far, Digital Royalty has worked with and developed a social network presence for the likes of Shaquille O’Neal as well as the UFC and UFC president Dana White among others. Digital Royalty held a fighter summit to educate the fighters and employees of the UFC about the opportunities that building a social network can open up for them and Dana White followed up the lesson with a plea for the fighters to tweet their (expletive) butts off. This is in direct contrast from other sports organizations such as the NFL and NBA who see websites such as Twitter as distractions to the game when it could be used to grow their brand and to further connect with fans.
Once again, I have to believe that the UFC is ahead of the curve on this front. Fighters, in addition to working for the UFC, are their own brand and websites such as Twitter can help the fighter to directly grow their own personal iamge and receive more exposure. There are different, creative ways for a fighter to use Twitter and other social networking sites to actually make money for themselves. A fighter can tweet about their sponsor or hold sponsored contests through their Twitter account as an incentive for people to follow them and to pay attention, leading to increased value for the fans, the fighter, and the sponsoring company. UFC hall of famer and former champion, Chuck Liddell has even taken the next step and has developed MMAJacked.com a site specifically designed to connect Mixed Martial Arts fighters to their fans on a more personal level. Dana White frequently participates in “Twitter Tag,” an idea that was developed for Shaquille O’Neal by Digital Royalty that allows fans to find you in a public place such as a mall, or restaurant based on your tweets, usually for a prize, or in Dana White’s case, tickets to a UFC event. Georges St. Pierre’s Twitter account isn’t personally run by him, but his handlers had the idea to have fans e-mail Georges during his training by clicking a link that required you to sign up for his fan site before sending the e-mail, which ultimately attracted thousands of new fans.
The UFC is now more accessible than any other sports organization on a personal level. Everyone from the ring girls, to the announcers, to the fighters, to ownership all have highly personal Twitter accounts that are more than just company fluff and that actually give you insight into their lives and opinions which helps us, as fans, relate to them. As social media technology grows I am confident that the UFC will always be at the forefront and it will be interesting to see different business plans develop around these websites.
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