— Reebok (@Reebok) December 2, 2014
The UFC has entered into a big time brand partnership with Reebok, making the sports apparel company the official provider of the league. The company says it’s the biggest “non-broadcast” contract in its history.
“The announcement is a landmark in mixed martial arts and the first of its scope in combat sports. The deal will eliminate independent sponsorships in the UFC’s Octagon, which athletes have long relied upon to supplement fight purses,” says ESPN. All fighters will be outfitted in Reebok with the initial profits of the deal going directly to the “500 rostered athletes.” Other financial info about the deal is undisclosed. The contract goes into effect July 15, 2015.
Many of us can remember a time when the UFC and MMA in general was kind of like Fight Club, an underground thing that a few seeming outliers were into. Now, it’s more and more a part of the mainstream airing on television and getting play on various reality shows. And nothing says mainstream like a deal with a major clothing and accessories brand.
Dana White, president of the UFC, emphasizes in the ESPN interview that the fighters will get most of the benefit of the deal. While there are certain restrictions on what athletes and their crew can wear and who can sponsor them, it sounds like there’s going to be some decent money involved.
For the UFC, not only is this a reputation booster, but it also makes the league more attractive to up-and-coming fighters who now have a financial incentive to try and make it with the league. Getting star talent will be key to further growth.
And Reebok has taken this step towards building “a bigger stake in what it calls the tough fitness business,” which includes fitness areas like CrossFit. Reebok is creating a line of clothing and accessories for mixed martial arts fighters, in the hopes of tapping into what it says are the 35 million people who practice MMA.
By making the commitment, the company hopes to reap the rewards of an early partnership. It’s a risk; there could be a low ceiling for a sport that is so violent and bloody. (And yuck! That nasty, sweaty mat they fight on!) But there’s loyalty among fans, which is significant.