Ring Of Sports Marketing

Sponsorships / UFC

UFC Signs First Official Airline Partner with AirAsia

The UFC has announced a new partnership with AirAsia.  The sponsorship agreement is for multiple territories, leaving open the possibility for other airline partnerships in different parts of the world.  AirAsia will do their first activation on November 25th when the UFC has their first event on mainland China.

AirAsia was founded in 1996 and is a low-cost carrier based in Malaysia.

UFC Vice President of Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang said in the press release:

“This deal is an indication of how much UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts have grown in Asia and around the world… AirAsia is an innovative and fast-growing brand, we thank them for the support and we’re looking forward to creating engaging branded content for fight fans and AirAsia customers to enjoy.”

CEO of AirAsia Tony Fernandes said in the press release:

“In many ways, UFC’s rapid rise as a global phenomenon parallels AirAsia’s… The UFC expanded from their first event in Denver to the rest of the US and then to Asia-Pacific and the world, while AirAsia grew from a small domestic airline into Asia’s largest low-cost carrier that now flies to the US. Opposite directions but chasing the same dream, and we are thrilled to team up with a brand that shares our drive and vision.”

Ringside Analysis

The UFC sponsorship with AirAsia signals two things.  First, it shows that a company in Asia believes that the UFC is going to be in Asia for the foreseeable future and will have some success.  Corporate sponsorships are a sign that corporations are taking a company seriously enough to view them as an effective channel to market to possible consumers.  That’s why Bud Light’s sponsorship was such a watershed moment.  Bud Light was a sign that one of the largest companies in the world believed that the UFC would translate to a broad audience, not just a niche audience, in the country.

Second, the sponsorship shows that the WME-IMG partnership has pushed the UFC to another level.  The UFC has already signed Modelo to a regional sponsorship.  The focus on regional sponsorships continues because now the UFC is able to sign airline sponsorships in different parts of the world.  This deal doesn’t exclude Emirates, LATAM, or Southwest as regional sponsors outside of Asia.  Also, this agreement is another level of sponsorship that was unlikely to occur when the UFC was under Zuffa LLC.

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