Why Rebranding is the Key to Saving Strikeforce

Posted: June 22, 2011 in Marketing, PR, Strikeforce, UFC

You can have the best product in the world, but if the general public views it as trash – it’s trash.  The problem with brand perception is it can set in instantly, but take years to change in the eyes of others.

The UFC brand is obviously strong and viewed well among die-hard and casual MMA fans.  So strong, and so well in fact that Dana White recently had to discuss why his organization was not a monopoly. (visit 5th Round for full story).  If you’re going to have that discussion you may as well attack MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS for the same argument as all would be unfounded.  But, monopoly discussions aside, the fact that people are suggesting this means the brand of the UFC is associated with MMA.  So much so, that it is viewed as THE ONLY mixed martial art organization out there.

This is my problem with Strikeforce.  If you read this blog, you know over the last year I’ve chronicled a number of marketing mistakes the company has made that always give that “#2 or #3 organization feel.  I never walked away from an effort saying “you know…that Strikeforce is going to give the UFC a run for its money…”

Even now with Strikeforce under the UFC/Zuffa banner, my opinions of the brand haven’t changed.  I had no interest in finding a way to watch this past weekend’s Heavyweight Grand Prix matches, and it sounds like I didn’t miss anything. The above video of Josh Barnett really got on my nerves.  I know it was meant to be funny, but the joke was on Josh and Strikeforce.  Barnett’s personal brand has suffered over the years as he went from the #1 heavyweight in many eyes, to the #1 steroid test-failer in the sport.  Cutting a “pro wrestling” style promo does 2 things: 1) It doesn’t help fans take Josh or is skills seriously.  2) Continues to make Strikeforce a laughing stock.  The organization has a look, feel and vibe of its “fake” cousin pro wrestling.  Why cut a promo that would only further lead fans to think your product may not be as “real as it gets” like the UFC….

How do you fix this?

Own that the brand is always secondary and completely overhaul how you market Strikeforce.  Take whatever elite or well-known entities you have over to the UFC and completely re-brand the organization under its event title “Strikeforce Challengers.”  Essentially, create the minor league farm system of MMA the sport so desperately needs.  This does not diminish the sport or the efforts of the fighters – everyone has to start somewhere and true fans love to watch the stars before they get found by the spotlight.  In addition to MMA, I’m a pretty big baseball fan.  I can’t tell you how often I’m drawn to minor league parks or to the Cape Cod All-Star game to watch the next  generation of players take the field.  These are the athletes that still have the heart and drive you look for when you go to a game.  You get drawn in and want to see them succeed and “make it” to the big time.

If this is the idea behind Strikeforce, the organization has a shot of standing on its two feet outside of a full acquisition into the UFC.   I think you’ll get more fan involvement and you have the potential of more live events as you can take them to smaller venues, without hurting the brand value.

What do you think about this idea?

  1. […] known as Christiane “Cyborg” Santos failed a recent test and has been stripped of her Strikeforce 145lb […]

  2. […] for Strikeforce has been predicted for quite some time. For many of us it was only a matter of “when.”  Similar grunts were made when PRIDE was assimilated into the UFC and now with the “fall” […]

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