Whether you love it or hate it, the UFC has perfected the product offering. When fights are announced, they’re done so in a manner that excites diehard fans, casual fans, and can attract people who don’t know a thing about fighting.
Founded in 1993, the UFC struggled to get off the ground and create a profitable product. After eight years of flirting with bankruptcy and a lack of growth, the UFC brand was purchased for $2 million by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. Once the brand was purchased, the Fertitta brothers installed longtime friend Dana White as president. Since the move, Dana White has led the UFC to be one of the most profitable sports and brands in the world.
How does a brand that was on the verge of bankruptcy and purchased for $2 million turn into a $4 billion enterprise? It starts with Dana White. Dana started his fighting career in boxing by fighting, teaching, coaching, and training anyone he could. From local housewives to up and coming boxers, Dana sought to make a name for himself in the boxing industry. When things took a turn for the worst, he headed to Las Vegas where he became reacquainted with his old friends, the Fertitta brothers.
Once in Vegas, Dana switched his interests from boxing to MMA and began representing UFC fighters. After some time, he learned that the UFC was in trouble and suggested to the Fertittas that purchasing the league would be a tremendous opportunity and they could take a somewhat unpopular sport and turn it into something much larger.
It Starts With Promotion
In 2005, the UFC took its most popular fighters, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, and featured them on a reality-TV show called The Ultimate Fighter. Hosted by Dana White and Willa Ford, the show featured up and coming MMA fighters competing for a UFC contract and $250,000.
With a large audience in the United States and the United Kingdom, the show helped put UFC in everyone’s home and gave them a front-row seat. This move gave people a taste of the UFC and when they wanted more, the UFC would be there to welcome them with open arms.
At the time, the only way to consume the UFC product was through pay-per-view (PPV), and in its infancy, PPV sales were only around $30,000. The UFC wanted an exclusive product and if you wanted to watch, you’d have to buy. The Ultimate Fighter allowed people who were still somewhat new to MMA or unaware of who fighters were to get unparalleled access to the sport without paying.
We all love getting something for free, especially when the product is exclusive. The UFC created a separate product that generated revenue while also guiding consumers directly to their main product offering.
Commercials for The Ultimate Fighter ran on traditional cable, UFC fights promoted the show, the show promoted the UFC, UFC fighters became more recognizable, apparel was created for the show and the UFC. All of these avenues helped further promote the UFC to create a more recognizable brand and product, something it was unable to originally do.
Keep Them Waiting
For every UFC main event, there are undercard fights that include title contenders and somewhat unknown fighters. So although the main event may say it starts at 10 pm, it won’t actually start until the several undercard fights have completed.
The UFC takes its finished product, the main event, and gives customers free products while they wait. This free product includes other fighters who may be making their debut, someone who’s notorious for knockouts, someone making a comeback, and gives it to customers while they wait for the main event. It’s essentially paying for an entree and getting a free appetizer while you wait.
This strategy further builds the brand because relatively unknown fighters become known. People are consuming more products which means the next time, they’ll be more inclined to do it again (a repeat customer). The UFC is notorious for giving away its product for free, just not the finished product.
The UFC turned a $2 million investment into a $4 billion enterprise in less than 20 years. Fights take place around the world on a monthly basis with the PPV sales in the millions. It all stems from perfecting its product offering.
They know their finished and best product is the main event, but they’re going to give away other products to help keep you entrenched and yearning for more time and time again. They understand their product may not be for everyone, but if someone wants to tune in, they’ll give away their product for free to help grow their brand.
In sales and marketing, we’re always trying to push products onto consumers and once they purchase, how can we do to make them do it again? Car dealerships often throw in free oil changes, tires, or car mats with the purchase of a car to help create a sense of getting something for free.
Not all products or services allow customers to get something for free. What added value can you add to your product to grow sales and keep customers coming back? It all comes down to value. What’s the biggest bang you can provide for a customer with just a buck?