In an effort to build more buzz around Bellator Fighting Championships, a Viacom-owned mixed martial arts league, Spike has entered into a promotional partnership with Crave Online.
For the collaboration, Crave built a Bellator-based microsite featuring MMA articles, videos, and a fighter bracket for fans to predict weekly winners by weight class.
The custom site encourages users to scroll over fighter pictures to see their stats, use drag-and-click functionality to make their picks, and then share their bracket with friends on Facebook.
Of the 35 million monthly unique visitors that Crave reports reaching, about 10% consume MMA fare, according to John Keefer, GM of Crave Online, and VP of parent company Evolve Media.
But, said Keefer, Crave’s value goes well beyond what he calls its “combat audience. Capturing a huge ‘non hardcore’ fight audience must be essential,” he said, regarding the Spike deal. “You need to take the casual fan, educate him on why he must tune in and keep him with an engaging, educational, interactive and social experience.”
Spike (formerly Spike TV) has a lot riding on the success of Bellator.
In 2011, Viacom -- parent of MTV Networks and Spike -- bought a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships, and just this year began airing its fights on the guy-friendly cable channel.
Spike -- which built a successful franchise around a 6-year partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (before losing the UFC to Fox in 2011) -- is now attempting to repeat the feat with Bellator.
Similar to “The Ultimate Fighter” -- the Spike reality show that featured UFC fighters -- the network is preparing a vehicle for Bellator’s best and up-and-coming bruisers. In an effort to give Bellator a boost over the UFC, Spike has already been using its Viacom muscle to promote the new series with broadcast commercials and out-of-home billboards.
Gaining traction with advertisers, Spike's Bellator partners now include Dave & Busters, Everlast, DirecTV, Paramount, JoS. A. Bank, US Navy, and Miller Lite.
As for advertising on Crave’s dedicated Bellator site, Keefer said it was so far limited to Spike promotions.
“Since Spike is the main advertiser of this custom section, we don’t have any of the advertisers sponsoring Bellator signed on, but we are anticipating this to be a huge success so maybe those sponsors will take note and we can work with them in the future,” Keefer explained.
Spike’s partnership with Crave is scheduled to last 12 weeks.