Martialed Forces: A-B Links Ad Deal With UFC
THe UFC said it has inked a deal with Anheuser-Busch in which Bud Light will become the exclusive beer sponsor of the mixed martial arts (MMA) league. The country's leading advertisers have shied away from MMA due to its often violent, few-holds-barred nature.
Separately but related, there has been some discussion of whether UFC is a sport--a point amplified when a Pepsi marketer raised the issue at an industry event last fall. On Thursday, Dana White, UFC president, said in a statement that the A-B deal "definitely cements UFC as a major player in sports business."
Under the deal, Bud Light signage will appear during 10 high-profile events on the mat where the fighting takes place. It will also appear on the bumpers on the sides of the eight-sided cage. Years ago, A-B was a pioneer in a similar vein when it cut deals to place the Budweiser brand on the mat and corner bumpers during boxing matches--now commonplace.
Also Thursday, CBS said it would air MMA specials on Saturdays four times a year from UFC competitor ProElite. The multi-year deal for two-hour live broadcasts covers EliteXC fights, which were on CBS Corp.'s Showtime channel last year. Another MMA venture, the International Fight League, was recently dropped by MyNetworkTV.
The three-year A-B deal with UFC-parent Zuffa, LLC was announced on the same day that the beer giant's head of global media and sports marketing, Tony Ponturo, told an industry gathering that A-B still places a premium on sponsoring sports telecasts. At the same time, A-B is also moving more aggressively into entertainment programming on cable. UFC programming appears on MTV Networks' Spike.
Under the agreement, Bud Light will also serve as the official beer sponsor of the Zuffa-owned MMA World Extreme Cagefighting broadcasts on the Versus network.