Anyone who is a fan of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) will have most certainly known that one of the world’s fastest growing sports – Ultimate Fighting Championship – has recently landed in the UK. Nottingham hosted the global phenomenon this weekend and I was lucky enough to have tickets to go and experience the sport myself.
Having been founded in the 1990s, UFC has only really come into its own in the last decade. Along with the physical nature of the sport itself, I’ve been fascinated by the impact of Social Media on the brand, fighters and fans. The company would not be in the position it is today if it had not strongly implemented social media throughout the sport. The use of Twitter and Facebook has helped UFC transform itself from a small niche sport into a mainstream and global entertainment event, enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
UFC president Dana White told Fox Sports in a recent interview:
“Social media has been huge for us, Twitter is the greatest marketing tool in the history of the world, and it is free. You can talk directly to your fans instantly. There’s no filter or delay; it is all real time. It’s incredible.”
The success of UFC comes from a social media buy-in right from the top. For example, UFC President – Dana White – has more followers on Twitter than any other sports institution president or leader, with over 2.2 million fans tuning in to his tweets.
The UFC are so encouraging of their fighters to adopt social media that in November 2011 they introduced a Twitter bonus scheme. The program encourages creativity, engagement and growth in followers. The encouragement of creativity should be highly commended considering that amount of rules and guidelines that prevent most sporting celebrities from embracing the social media platforms.
Below you can see the stats for #UFCnottingham demonstrating just how many fans get involved with the social media in the run up to and during the actual event:
At the actual event I wanted to see just how well the social media was implemented and how it encouraged fans to get involved in a very real time environment. Unfortunately, the internet connection was quite a big oversight as I was unable to get 3G on my phone and wifi was only provided for the press. The big screens around the arena allowed fans to view the statistics about each fighter as they walked in a long with their twitter name:
Even the referee Herb Dean and official announcer Bruce Buffer have their own Twitter profiles you can get involved with – particularly after contentious decisions! The only thing that could have been improved is an official hashtag to track the event and enable fans to get involved in the conversation. Instead, fans seemed to get mixed up and use two different hashtags – this is how the conversations weighed up:
Social Media has helped boost UFC into the public eye and has helped make the sport increasingly popular on a global scale. Fans can get to know the real personalities of the fighters and know they are just being themselves – giving the brand a very authentic feel. Kristin Adams, the UFC’s Social Media Manager said recently,
“Social media is very important to us moving forward, you can reach anyone, anywhere in the world and we have fans everywhere. The more we grow and go international, the more people we’re going to want to connect with and keep up-to-date on the cool stuff going on with UFC.”