It would be hard for anyone watching this past weekend's event to ignore the prominence of the Full Tilt Poker logos. Robert Joyner of MMA Payout discusses the company's emergence inside the octagon and the possible negative ramifications for future deals:
Full Tilt Poker made their first moves into the MMA space with a sponsorship of Randy Couture, but that may have been subsequent to a larger deal with the UFC being in the offing. The handling of approvals for Full Tilt sponsorship at UFC 92 and Fight For the Troops indicated that there was some larger force in effect as it pertained to the UFC and Full Tilt. Those that were getting deals were in a carrot and stick scenario with UFC, and others were rebuffed in getting the OK for similar deals. Full Tilt’s move into MMA and the deal with the UFC is a double edge sword. It opens up a new avenue of sponsor dollars to the fighters, one that wasn’t there before, but by virtue of the larger deal with the UFC, precludes other similar companies from entering the market (Zuffa contracts preclude fighters from having sponsors that directly compete with those of the UFC), which stifles competition ad limits the overall sponsor pool.
The addition of Full Tilt is a good sign considering the marketing cutbacks being undertaken by many companies. The acting commissioner of the Arena Football League explains how the contraction of sponsorship dollars contributed to his league canceling their 2009 season:
"The problem is with sponsorship dollars, primarily those related directly and indirectly to the automobile and mortgage industries," he says. "The long-standing cliché is that the economy in sports is somewhat bulletproof. In our mind, it might be considered somewhat bullet-resistant, but this has been a bazooka."
Though some may disagree with how Zuffa handles sponsorship matters, the fact that they're able to add new sponsors in the current economic climate is impressive. Increasing the number of revenue streams is of paramount importance to the growth of the UFC and, by extension, the entire sport. Cultivating a diverse portfolio of corporate sponsors from various industries will help Zuffa maintain a steady stream of marketing revenue when certain companies and sectors of the economy experience unique financial difficulties.