Lesnar KO's UFC Sponsor, Apologizes
20 months is a long time -- when you just insulted one of your sport's biggest sponsors on your sport's biggest night. That's what is left of Bud Lights' three year sponsorship agreement with UFC.
We've been talking a lot about ambush and the UFC's new protocol for league/fighter sponsor conflicts. Last night's UFC 100 presented us with a little bit of both, courtesy of UFC's new antagonist, Brock Lesnar. After defeating Frank Mir, Lesnar went back to his WWE roots as he stood atop the Bud Light logo and pronounced in front of Dana White and the world "I'm going to go home and drink a Coors Light... Coors Light, because Bud Light won't pay me nothing."
A funny, but not surprising, thing happened on the way to the locker room. Dana White, president of the UFC, cornered Lesnar, who will reportedly will earn appx $3mm from PPV and prize money alone, and demanded an apology to one of UFC's biggest partners. In the post-event press conference, White said "the sponsorship thing was the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life." A short time later, surrounded by... Bud Light, Lesnar apologized and announced he'd be drinking Bud Light all night (instead of Coors).
Perhaps this wasn't the best endorsement for Coors (particularly after Lesnar flipped the bird at fans), but how will future - legitimate - sponsor conflicts be settled? Will UFC be able to govern conflicting athlete sponsorships, as they are activated both in and out of the octagon?
In addition to Anheuser-Busch, UFC 100 sponsors included Burger King, Harley Davidson, Cazadores tequila, USA Today.com, Sports Illustrated, and the film Inglourious Basterds.
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that, Lesnar's successful defense of the title and his ensuing post-fight sponsorship wisecrack will likely make UFC an even more valuable property to its sponsors - including Bud Light. Whether you like him or not, Lesnar's fights will continue to draw massive viewership as his antagonist profile and that of the sport continue to grow to a new level of global awareness. We'd bet that this is something that both Bud Light and UFC can agree on.