Canadian brands get into the octagon with UFC

OLG Slots and Casinos, Gatorade and Pizza Pizza are just some of the Canadian brands that found ways of leveraging the event.

The UFC debuted in Toronto to the cheers of some 55,000 raucous fight fans at the Rogers Centre, and though the on-premise promos were restricted to a few American brands that had inked PPV deals with the UFC’s home office in Las Vegas, some Canadian brands found other ways to enter the fray.

Take Ontario Lottery and Gaming Slots and Casinos. It used UFC 129 as an opportunity to associate itself with the league for the first time as a way of expanding its entertainment offering. It ran a promo throughout April, arranged with UFC Canada, giving MMA fans the chance to win one of four UFC VIP packages including a two-night stay in a hotel in Toronto, complimentary breakfast for two, access to the weigh-in and a private function at Real Sports Bar on the Friday before the fight, premium seating at the event and a merchandise package. It also included a meet-and-greet with UFC athletes at locations like OLG Slots at Western Fair Raceway.

‘[UFC is] a strong brand that reaches one of our market segments, which is the younger 19-to-34 male audience and so that partnership works very well in terms of how we could integrate a promotion,’ says Deanne Rodrigue, acting director, gaming marketing, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. ‘With OLG being a provincial organization and being very local, this is a great opportunity because this fight was in Ontario for the first time and there were a number of fighters who had local ties.’

OLG promoted the contest with radio remotes, POS, print ads and online ads on UFC.com and Heavy.com, which were arranged through Cue Digital Media the sales rep for the UFC’s online ad sales in Canada. The company, founded by CEO David U.K., recently launched and is the rebranded amalgam of online branded content creator Digital Percent and Digital BranZ. It combines content production, branded entertainment, display advertising and distribution to critical mass audiencesacts, representing online entertainment media publishers including Heavy.com, Collegehumour.com, TMZ.com and Funnyordire.com. Creative for the effort was developed by Sault Saint Marie-based BMR. OLG also had the rights to use UFC branding as well as to show the fight in its slots locations.

Gatorade Canada used UFC 129 as an opportunity to leverage its sponsorship of Canadian fighter Georges St-Pierre (GSP), one of the most prolific fighters in the league and an athlete who’s captured the hearts of fans at home and abroad. His fight at UFC 129, which he won, was the title bout on the night.

The PepsiCo brand executed a sponsorship on UFC.com promoting its G Series of sports drinks, including wallpapers and banner ads, as well as video ads featuring GSP. Banner ads and wallpapers were also featured on Sportsnet.ca and the GSP Gatorade ads ran on TSN.ca in its MMA sections. Exclusive online videos, housed on YouTube and Gatorade.ca, and promoted on Facebook and Twitter, were also part of the media mix. The buy was rounded out with broadcast component that included a UFC sponsorship with Sportsnet.

‘When we heard that [GSP] would be stepping into the octagon on April 30, we knew that we wanted to be a part of this historical event in Toronto sports,’ says Julie Raheja-Perera, senior director, portfolio activation and file marketing, PepsiCo Canada. ‘It was perfect timing for us to express our support and pride for GSP as he’s been training with the product for the past five months.’

Pizza Pizza created a ‘Win the Ultimate Pay-Per-View Pizza Party’ to celebrate the sold-out fight with those watching at home. Customers who placed a ‘Future Order’ online at PizzaPizza.ca before midnight on April 26 were automatically entered to win a viewing party at their home featuring free Pay-Per-View for the event. The contest was promoted on Heavy.com, UFC.com and Sportsnet.ca, as well as Twitter.

Online was also the platform of choice for Taco Bell Canada and Bic Canada, which used it to leverage the event. Taco Bell had online ads during a broadcast of Fight Day, a pre-event talk show produced by Heavy.com, which is also distributed on FoxSports.com and YahooSports.com. Bic took the opportunity to place ads for its new Flex4 razor on UFC.com, a placement arranged by CP+B Canada.

‘The decision to include the UFC website in our advertising plan was based on research that shows it’s a popular destination for our target demographic and it was expected to see a spike in traffic during [UFC 129],’ says Grace Castaneda, group account director, CP+B. ‘There was a lot of consumer anticipation for the event, which offered marketers a high engagement platform to speak with audiences. We saw that among our core male consumer target group the event was highly impactful.’

* This story was posted on May 2, 2011 and updated on May 3, 2011.