In the world of mixed martial arts, most fighters have a general idea of what a business is looking for when they sponsor a fighter, or at least they think they do. Most athletes realize that a business is interested in getting their name out there but not exactly sure what they can do to increase their marketability. Though it seems simple, if you really understand what a business tries to do in marketing, you will have a competitive advantage when marketing yourself as a professional athlete.
Most fighters think that the recipe for success as a fighter is to simply be the best. This is anything but true. The best fighters in the world are probably people you and I have never heard of because they have done a poor job of exposing themselves. I bet there’s a Tibetan Monk out there who’d beat the crap out of who we consider the best of the best. So in turn, others who are far from the best are some of the most commonly known fighters in the business. Any purist mma fan knows exactly where I’m going with this logic. The example that embodies this is Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson. Kimbo became an internet phenom by pounding out nobody’s in strange backyards on the streets on Miami, FL then posting videos of himself doing this on Youtube. Everyone knows now that he is not the touted leader of the heavyweight MMA world, he’s more like the best marketed and newly exposed, most overrated MMA heavyweight fighter in the world. What no one can deny though is that he made a lot of money by marketing himself and finding his niche in MMA.
So, what can a fighter to increase marketability?
1) Expose yourself. If you have video of yourself fighting, get in online. How else is anyone going to effectively match-make you in a fight? The media is your friend. Like they say in business, all press is good press. People want to see the villain get smashed just as much as they do the heroes prevail. If you don’t have video, get some made. Even if it’s you training in your garage with your buddies. Make yourself known through video and tell everyone you come in contact about the videos.
2) Have a website made. I tell this to fighters all the time. Link your videos to your site. You have to think of yourself as a small business if you want to be successful. If I told you about my company and didn’t have a site, you may not put as much merit in my operation, and rightfully so.
3) Find your niche and brand yourself. If you’re a big boy, be Big Jon. If you have quick hands, everyone should know you as the Fast Fingers Freddy. You get the drift. You don’t have to be a gimmick but it’s not a terrible idea to have something that sets you apart from other fighters. Look at Kimbo and guys like Phil Baroni. Enough said.
4) Look to the people who you spend your money with; these are your targets for sponsorship dollars. If you go to Phil’s subs everyday, you are in essence sponsoring Phil. Phil needs to give a little love back, but it can’t be viewed as a handout.
5) Add Value. You have to do everything you can to make your sponsors happy. Put them on your site. Put them on your shirts, shorts, and even business cards. Do promotions with them involved. At the end of the day, everyone wants to make money. Make sure your relationship makes business sense for everyone involved.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask. You give people money all the time. Be a salesman. Sell yourself. Believe in you as your product. If you don’t, no one else will.
7) Ask for product instead of money if that will make sense for you too. Companies may be more willing to trade out product over cash for obvious reasons. Take it.
So there are a lot of ways to generate exposure. It is also helpful to know how a corporation thinks about their marketing and what they are looking for when the spend money. A sub shop owner may take the following perspective. If 500 people are going to be at your next fight, they need to know that statistic. People love numbers. Businesses want to see a return on their investment. If its Phil’s subs, Phil may think about how many subs he has to sell to get his money back from a sponsorship. That’s where you back into the number of how much you charge him for a sponsorship. So if you want a $200 sponsorship, take that $200 divided at $7 per sub, which means Phil has to sell 28.5 subs to make his money back on you. If there are 500 people at your fight, he may think that he can sell 10 subs from your exposure so an investment that makes sense is closer to $70- $100. You get the idea. That’s why car lots are great. They have big profit margins on a single transaction. Now if those numbers don’t seem to make sense to your potential sponsor, let them know that general marketing without a direct correlation to sales is good for product branding. Let your sponsor know that getting their name out there to the masses takes time, a lot of energy, and that you are a bargain. The sport is very popular and you will make people remember their logo.
These strategies should help you as a fighter in the always challenging adventure of making money. Good luck out there and be sure to stand out. You’ve worked too hard now to not let everyone know how good you are and how entertaining you have the ability to be as a fighter.