UFC Fight Night®: UFC® Enters the Russian Market

CHALLENGE

UFC® is the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization (MMA), with more than 300 million fans and 70 million social media followers. The organization produces more than 40 live events annually in some of the most prestigious arenas around the world, while broadcasting to nearly one billion TV households across more than 170 countries.

This is the global situation. But UFC® was going to enter a fiercely competitive Russian market of established local MMA promoters, targeting the audience that knew of UFC® from pirated YouTube videos or social media mentions – if they knew the sport at all. UFC® had never conducted a promotional campaign in Russia before, and there was virtually no authorized UFC® content in the country to build upon.

IDEA

Ketchum was hired to develop and execute a comprehensive communications campaign in support of UFC’s market entry. Our job was to make sure UFC Fight Night®: HUNT VS. OLEINIK sold out its 22,000-seat venue at its Russian debut and deliver the kind of knockout publicity that would assure stakeholders that UFC® is a serious player that has big plans for Russia.

We launched our four-month activation with a major press conference featuring the Vice-President of UFC Russia and three UFC fighters. We researched and developed compelling storylines to promote the unique story of each fighter, and offered exclusive interviews with athletes to generate feature stories about their lives outside the Octagon (e.g. music, tattoos, training routine) to help inform the public that UFC® was not just about fights, but about a whole “ecosystem” with a huge infrastructure, impressive personal athlete stories and a vast talent pool.

RESULT

UFC Fight Night Moscow not only sold out, but the crowd of 22,600 at the first UFC® event in Russia ranked 5th in all-time attendance in UFC’s 25-year history. UFC® had to issue additional tickets and open extra seats at the stadium to accommodate demand. Politicians, pop stars, media influencers, and bloggers were among the fans at the event, delivering additional publicity – and turning the night into a social media and pop culture sensation.

We generated 1200+ media articles; 100 key journalists attended UFC Fight Night: HUNT VS. OLEINIK and delivered 500 pieces of coverage (pitches, interviews) with a total reach of 900 million during the Fight Week.

Nielsen studies conducted following the UFC Fight Night®: HUNT VS. OLEINIK showed that fans are enthusiastically anticipating new UFC® events in Russia – proving that the sport, which hadn’t been on consumers’ radar in Russia before, had succeeded in gaining interest among a wide audience. The research indicated that personal stories of the fighters, their media interviews, and events with their participation, including press conferences and weigh-ins, are instrumental in driving increased interest and fascination in UFC® among Russians.