By Barry Janoff
December 2, 2014: Calling it a "groundbreaking partnership" and the biggest non-broadcasting deal in its history, Ultimate Fighting Championship has signed a six-year pact making Reebok the official outfitter of the MMA organization.
The alliance takes effect the week of July 6, 2015, which also is International Fight Week in Las Vegas.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
“This will be the biggest non-broadcast partnership that our company has ever signed, so it is significant.," Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC chairman and CEO, said during a media event in New York today (Dec. 2). "The UFC brand has evolved significantly since we first began."
The deal comes on the heels of Reebok International's acquisition of LUTA, a U.K.-based boxing and mixed-martial arts brand, and a long-term alliance with Fight For Peace, overseen by LUTA, which is a non-profit organization that uses boxing and martial arts to build education and personal development among young people in communities affected by crime and violence.
Among other significant elements of the deal, all UFC fighters will be outfitted with Reebok-branded apparel, with a new Reebok-UFC line of apparel and footwear scheduled to launch this spring.
Unique to the deal, athletes can "continue to maintain their individual apparel and non-apparel sponsors outside all UFC events, and existing or prospective sponsors may use an athlete’s name and likeness," according to UFC. "But they cannot use UFC trademarks unless they have a direct commercial relationship with UFC."
Reebok, a division of adidas AG, already has deals with UFC stars Anthony Petis and Johny Hendricks.
“This partnership is much more than a licensing agreement,” said Matt O’Toole, president for Reebok. “It is a true collaboration between two great brands, which will not only give UFC a new and exciting look, but will harness the global reach of both brands to also benefit young people around the world, particularly those at risk of being involved in crime and violence.”
UFC said it would be distributing the "vast majority of the revenue received from this partnership to the athletes. UFC is investing in this platform to create long-term value in the brand and its athletes." A portion of the sales will be donated to Fight for Peace.
The Reebok-UFC apparel line, which will include exclusive “Fight Week” gear, “Fight Night kit” as well as UFC fan gear, will be developed in conjunction with UFC and its athletes, according to UFC, which is owned and operated by Las Vegas-headquartered Zuffa, LLC.
“We’re bringing our commercial growth — the UFC brand and our athletes together — so it’s a win-win for all of us,” Fertitta said during the media event. “It’s going to help the fighters, because it is going to allow them focus more on their training and not have to run around to get some of these sponsors . . . that aren’t blue-chip, Fortune 500 companies.”
O'Toole said the alliance would not only boost the Reebok brand worldwide but is in keeping with the company's strategy to extend itself in the workout category. Reebok also has alliances with Spartan Race, Les Mills International and the CrossFit Games, in addition to being the official outfitter for the NHL.
O'Toole sees the alliance falling under "tough fitness" and "combat sports" designations.
"More than 35 million consumers worldwide use disciplines like boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts to live a fit lifestyle.”
“Not only is mixed martial arts one of the fastest growing sports in the world, it is also one of the most challenging in terms of the dedication to training, overall fitness level and mental and physical toughness required. And nowhere is this on display more than in the UFC Octagon,” said O’Toole. “This partnership not only further cements Reebok as one of the leading fitness brands in the industry, it will also help us reach a wider audience and become the brand of choice for the more than 35 million consumers worldwide who use disciplines like boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts to live a fit lifestyle.”
According to Dana White, UFC president, the deal was initiated two years ago by musician and record producer Swizz Beats, who felt that the two organizations would work well together.
“Pretty much everybody, the men and women that I’ve talked to, they’re pretty excited about it,” said White. “I really got no negative feedback whatsoever, from anybody."
“We feel like we’ve created a program that will be as much, and in some cases, more than [UFC fighters] are currently making," said Fertitta. "They’re still going to be able to keep their other sponsors, so we look at this as being additive. On top of that, they get a royalty for anything that gets sold that actually has their name on it.
“[This] is going to change the perception of the sport, the perception of the athlete, the level that we are at," said Fertitta. "This is a true game-changer."
Reebok Muscles Into Boxing-MMA With LUTA
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