A New UFC Apparel Deal Could Change Sponsorship, Apparel for Fighters
Rumor has it that after six years of fighters wearing Reebok apparel before fights, the UFC is going to part ways with the apparel company. On the surface, this isn’t the most groundbreaking statement. Leagues and teams change their apparel sponsors all the time.
But, this could actually change the aesthetic of the UFC and the way its fighters handle sponsorship in a huge way.
The $70 million Reebok deal has apparently been a point of contention with UFC fighters, due to the fact that the contract states that they can’t wear other companies’ logos at UFC events. That means they can’t get royalties from their other sponsors. Essentially Sports reported that UFC fighters were also upset that the Reebok deal wasn’t lucrative enough to cover the loss in potential sponsorship revenue from other brands.
UFC president Dana White reportedly hinted that the UFC was “talking to” other brands, in what is a reversal from a statement he made just a few years ago about how fighters were dissatisfied with the Reebok deal.
Here’s a full quote from White, via USA Today:
No, I don’t think we’re screwing our athletes on the Reebok deal. You know, any time we make any type of change here, people go crazy in this sport. It’s a great opportunity. Nobody ever said that these guys couldn’t have sponsors. They can still keep their sponsors, they can have all the sponsors they want. They can even have clothing sponsors. They just can’t wear it in the UFC. How is that different than any other sport? All the other sports, whether it’s hockey or football, baseball, whatever, everybody’s allowed to have sponsors outside the league, and not inside. And, these guys are getting all the money from the Reebok deal. I mean, all the money goes to them.
White’s comment seems to be selectively choosing evidence, though. Yes, an NBA player sponsored by Under Armour obviously can’t wear an Under Armour shirt during a game, but he can wear their shoes. And when sponsorships pay royalties for things like photo incentives before the fight (aka what everyone is watching the fighter do) not letting them cash in on their sponsorships is a way to deny them income.
Also, White has selectively ignored the most sponsor-heavy sport on Earth: NASCAR.
Look at any NASCAR driver’s outfit. They are more logo than human. Golf is the same way, albeit to a lesser degree. The reason for this is that there is prize money for events, rather than the lucrative base salaries of NBA, NHL or MLB players.
Back in 2015, UFC fighter Brenden Schaub noted that he made about $100,000 from sponsors per fight without the Reebok deal. That number would be about $10,000 for his 11 fights.
I've made six figures in sponsorship in each of my last 6 fights 😕 https://t.co/gotToaSDJh
— Brendan Schaub (@BrendanSchaub) May 6, 2015
Since there’s no safety net of a guaranteed salary for UFC fighters, you have to imagine they are going to jump at every sponsorship opportunity. If White decides to part ways with Reebok, pre-match aesthetics are going to be a lot different. Expect more patches, more logos and more company names than you’ve ever known existed.