Darren Rovell of CNBC has news that rocked the MMA world today. Less than 24 hours after MMA organization Elite XC closed a deal to air fights on CBS, UFC announced a sponsorship agreement with sports advertising behemoth Anheuser-Busch.
Rovell: “UFC announced a deal with Anheuser Busch as Bud Light will become the new exclusive sponsor for the UFC. The brand will be featured on the Octagon center mat and on the vertical bumpers beginning with UFC 84 in Las Vegas on May 24.”
For those of you not in the sports business know, this is a much bigger deal than the Elite XC-CBS partnership.
In the past, UFC generated big bucks on PPV as a wildly popular underground *sport.* But the massive money in the athletic endeavor biz comes from mainstream advertisers. A-B is by far the largest sports advertiser in the U.S., earmarking $141M for sports ads during a nine-month period last year.
The Elite XC-CBS deal is also a huge move for MMA. But that’s a temporary arrangement that could crater because of bad ratings. And of course, the deal only happened because CBS owns a piece of the governing body.
To us, the Bud-UFC deal, which runs through 2011, truly validates MMA as a mainstream sport in the sponsorship arena. As sports sponsorships go, so goes the sport. UFC is now, as Rovell coins, a “blue chip brand.“