UFC uses Social and Digital to rule Sporting Universe

By: Julia Stowell, December 20, 2011

This post is  written by community friend Karim Kanji.

On the weekend of December 10th Dana White’s UFC settled in Toronto with Sunday’s UFC 140 anchoring their activities. Over the past 10 years, Dana White, his partners the Ferenzzo brothers and their MMA athletes have created one of the most popular and fastest growing sporting and entertainment brands in the world. The reasons are manifold: the demise of the boxing industry and the need for fresh and new programming for this 200+ channel universe being just two of them.

However, their adoption and use of the tools that their target demographic uses has been a case study in action. More than any other sport of league, the UFC has adopted mobile, web, digital, and social tools like no other.

So who exactly watches the UFC’s brand of mixed martial arts?

According to a study done by Scarborough Sports Marketing, “Mixed Martial Arts fans 51% more likely than the average to be ages 18-24; 25% more likely to have a household size of three or more people; and 67% more likely to be male. In addition to their youthful demographics, MMA fans have sound financials. They are 15% more likely than the average adult to have a household income of $75k+ and 10% more likely to own a second home. They are selective investors and six percent more likely to have stocks or stock options in their household, and 33% more likely to invest online.”

The study also revealed that MMA fans represent a high-tech audience. They are well above the national average for current ownership of high-tech household items such as High Definition TVs, Video On Demand service, video game systems and broadband Internet connections.

Howard Goldberg is the Senior Vice President of Scarborough Sports Marketing:

“In recent years, MMA, through UFC and Strikeforce, has moved from being an emerging athletic genre to more of a mainstream, established and competitive sport. In doing so, it has developed a young male fan base.”

So let’s take a look at how the UFC is using social and digital tools to further engage this young fan base.

Web:

Just one look at UFC.com (or UFC.ca here in the home of Georges St. Pierre) and you will understand how important and connected the UFC is to the digital and social world. The UFC’s homebase on the web incorporates every single type of media. There are blogs, articles, videos, tweets, and links to all the official UFC social media outposts. Upcoming PPVs are promoted here as are links to past shows available for download.

The UFC website also has information for those who are part of the UFC’s popular Fight Club as well as opportunities for fans to interact with the brand and it’s fighters.

Unlike every other North American-based league or sports team, the UFC encourages its fighters and ambassadors to interact and engage with it’s fans.

Facebook:

Yes, the UFC has a Fan Page. These days, the question isn’t who has a fan page; it’s now who doesn’t have a fan page. Yet, the UFC uses it’s Facebook presence in innovative ways. Every single PPV event has what is called an undercard. These are matches (fights) that do not appear on the main card of the PPV. Every month, the UFC live streams a number of preliminary matches on its Facebook Fan Page. Next up? Live streaming these, and other matches, on XBox Live.

According to MMAPayout.com, “the partnership with Microsoft is another good sign of mainstream sponsor support for the UFC. Aligning itself with XBox also is another step for the UFC to have its PPVs on a separate platform other than cable. While the service is limited to XBox Live subscribers, its a step into what could be the future of UFC PPV.” For a company that heavily relies on PPV numbers, giving these preliminary fights for “free” is just another innovative way to reach international markets and diverse demographics.

Dana White’s Vlog (video blog):

With over a quarter of a billion channel views and over a quarter of a million subscribers, the UFC’s YouTube channel may be one of the most popular YouTube channels. Besides replays of popular matches and previews there is also UFC President’s popular vlog. Prior to every PPV, White records on video some of his raw thoughts. It’s not highly produced at all. Just raw behind-the-scenes footage of the viewer’s favourite sports brand and it’s athletes.

UFC TV (mobile app):

Although the UFC seems to have “quit” it’s iPhone app , their Android app is something to behold. Their amazing app includes all the basic stuff like videos, fighter bios and blogs. UFC TV also includes all PPV press conferences, the ability to watch the PPV within the app as well as giving viewers the chance to score the fight like a ringside judge.

Personally, I use this app to keep up to date on all things UFC.

Twitter:

Watch just one UFC PPV and you will notice how important Twitter is to the UFC. Every fighter on the main card has their Twitter handle displayed on the screen. According to Yahoo Sports, “At the Fighters’ Summit in June, the UFC promised to hand out bonuses to fighters based on their Twitter activity. UFC president Dana White is a huge fan of the social networking site because it allows fans and fighters to interact easily.”

Sports leagues across North America and worldwide should take the time to study the UFC. Their use of these social and digital tools has enabled them to keep in constant contact with their fan base. And their focus on tools like Twitter show they understand that social media is not just another broadcasting medium. Engagement is king of this octagon.

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