Sports sponsorships can be an effective way for businesses to market to a specific audience. Businesses can reap significant benefits by thrusting their support behind a team or player with promotions ranging from billboards atop a baseball stadium to logos plastering a race car. But is the marketing tactic of sponsoring a sport right for every business?
The Celtic-themed sports pub Tilted Kilt found itself asking the same question when it noticed fans of the rough contact sport of Mixed Martial Arts packing each of their locations for televised pay-per-view fights. As a business known for promoting what’s hot and sexy—branding itself “The Best Looking Sports Pub You’ve Ever Seen”—Tilted Kilt saw a connection with MMA since it is one of the hottest sports right now—boasting 31 million fans in the U.S. alone—and because of its edgy nature.
That connection prompted Titled Kilt to consider sponsoring options in MMA as a very sensible marketing model since they share not only the same audience, but the same seductive appeal. This year it announced the creation of the MMA Tilted Kilt Fight Team consisting of 13 fighters, including undefeated star Gray Maynard.
Titled Kilt saw more value in becoming a sponsor of a team rather than the entire sport. For one, research showed the television camera on average is centered on the fighters, who will be sporting Tilted Kilt gear during their bouts, much more often than the mat or surrounding octagon, providing more exposure.
In addition, Titled Kilt recognized that their sponsorship would give the fighters the opportunity to train and fight full time, as many MMA fighters work second jobs to support themselves and their families. In the end, supporting the fighters was more affordable than a league-wide sponsorship, and since full-time training gives each fighter a greater shot at success in the octagon, it also came with stronger chances of paying dividends with a winning team promoting the Tilted Kilt brand.
Ron Lynch, president of Tilted Kilt, provides additional insight into when it makes the most sense for a business to market with a sports sponsorship in this Q&A.
What spurred the Tilted Kilt sponsorship of an MMA team?
The MMA/UFC realm is the perfect fit for us. We were already televising all of the fights and would fill up all of our locations with their fans. It just made a lot of sense to partner with a sport that our patrons love and throw our support behind a team that shares Tilted Kilt’s image.
What are the benefits for sponsoring athletes instead of a whole sport or sporting event?
For Tilted Kilt, since the fighters will be wearing our insignia on their gear, sponsoring a fighting team is an innovative way to get national exposure at an economical price compared to the cost of advertising because the camera is always on the fighters. It also gives our guests their own team to root for and the loyalty of the MMA fan base trickles down to their sponsors much like NASCAR fans.
How did you pick the athletes that you wanted to sponsor?
Beyond athletic excellence, our team is comprised of fighters that are stand-up guys outside the octagon and are the type of athletes fans can look up to and cheer, which is a strong representation of what Tilted Kilt is about.
Did you have any worries about the sponsorship?
In the beginning I worried it would attract a suspect group, but MMA fans are tamer than fans of other sports. They just want to watch a good fight while having a good time.
Now that Tilted Kilt is in the MMA arena, what are some of the ways you are bringing MMA into Tilted Kilt pubs?
We are holding special events over the year at Tilted Kilt pubs in cities where a UFC event is happening. Fighters from the MMA Tilted Kilt Fight Team will be making appearances, signing autographs and giving away merchandise, such as fight gear they wore during their bout the night before. And whenever they are near a Tilted Kilt, team fighters will be dropping in at our locations around the country. All of this information can be found on a website we created for the team, tiltedkiltmma.com, that features event details, photos, news and a members section where fans can make their own profiles to chat with each other and upload cool content. Lastly, we made an exclusive deck of cards that feature each fighter and their stats, similar to trading cards. This marketing plan has created a way for our patrons to bond not only with each other as fans, but also our brand.