Affliction Taps Out; Back as Sponsor of UFC
Last night Affliction, the edgy clothing brand with deep ties to the MMA world, announced they were canceling their heavily promoted, GoDaddy titled-sponsored August 1 card (Trilogy), and would become an official sponsor of rival MMA powerhouse, UFC.
Apparently short memories make for good sponsors. Check out what UFC's president Dana White had to say a few months back on Affliction, and one of their key stars Tito Ortiz, launching their own MMA promotions business: (WARNING: Not Sufficient for Work)
Looks like Dana White was right.
Last year, UFC banned its fighters from wearing Affliction clothing at official events. Up until that point, Affliction had been a major clothing sponsor of many UFC fighters. Depending on whose story you believe, UFC banned them after learning about their plans to start a rival promotions business or Affliction started the rival business because they were banned.
Today's announcement could add fuel to the MMA fire. On one hand, a competitive league was great for the fighters, but on the other, the prospect of adding top rival fighters to a UFC card could be a huge boost for the sport. Tito Ortiz has an on going feud with UFC, which could make for some interesting story lines and the prospect of Fedor coming to UFC means the russian superstar could be matched up against Brock Lesnar in a dream MMA match-up.
Outside the octagon, this deal sets up a big fight between existing UFC clothing sponsor, TapOut, and Affliction. Tap Out's sales have skyrocketed from $3 million in 2005 to a projected $225 million in 2009, largely on the back of their UFC sponsorship. How will Affliction's re-arrival affect that? Go Daddy can't be pleased either. Just two weeks after coming out with a major announcement about their title sponsorship of Affliction's August 1st fight, Affliction Entertainment folds? This is the second time this month a major sponsor has gotten a black eye courtesy of MMA (first, Bud Light and now Go Daddy) and this won't help UFC in gaining sponsors with broader appeal.
Lesson: it's not just properties, but also sponsors, that MUST do deep due diligence on the financial fortitude of the partners they are sponsoring, prior to signing the deal. This can in no way be seen as a positive for Go Daddy, can it? With that said, this could set-up an even bigger payday for existing UFC sponsors.