Women's MMA has a pretty steep uphill climb to break in to the consciousness of the casual fan. This is not unusual for women's sports. Our US women's hockey, soccer, basketball and softball teams are all extremely competitive, if not dominant. Yet, they barely get noticed. The fairer sex always has a challenge getting sport's fans to pony up their dough. Except for a few exceptions. Kerri Walsh and Misty May garnered the attention of our country for two weeks, even some presidential encouragement, still they have quietly submitted to the background.
But, the sport where women over the years have really taken off is the sport of tennis. An individual sport with powerful women. The WTA has a new campaign that highlights the beauty and strength of their women and it is an an excellent road map for WMMA to follow.
Li Na: Strong is Beautiful (via wta)
"Strong is Beautiful". That is the campaign. These are artfully shot, 30 second spots, displaying some of women's top tennis stars and telling a little a bit of their story. They definitely accentuate the sexuality and femininity of these women but they also pull you into their world and heighten interest. There has been some blow back about these ads. About female athletes having to dress up like models to validate the audiences interest in them. One critic went as far as calling the ads soft-core porn. I completely disagree with that thought process. Every male athlete today who makes huge revenues through sponsorship also have to show up and look like a male model. There is a reason why Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, and Kobe Bryant are Madison Avenue top earners. And there is a reason these wonderfully done WTA ads are what the sport needs to bring in fans who might be on the bubble of following women's tennis. Sex sells. Ask Ritz crackers. So does a riveting storyline.The same can be said for MMA and certainly WMMA.
WMMA does have a rough road. It might even be on a clock towards extinction with Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce, although they seem to be pushing the women for now. Even among some of the hard core fans it is not accepted today for various reasons. That is the first barrier they need to break through. It is not an impossible task. We did see Carano vs Cyborg attract 856,000 viewers at its peak. That's a damn good number and, yes, it was almost all due to Gina's star power. The unanswerable question I have is what if Gina held her mount position and ground and pounded Cyborg out instead of letting her get up? Where would the sport be today for women? That speaks to the larger issue. WMMA is still looking for its big moment. Its UFC 4, its Bonnar vs Griffin moment. We are on our way but not there yet. With proper marketing and planning a Cyborg vs Nunes bout could be one of those moments. If Gina comes back stronger than before, under Jackson's tutelage, and can perform like she did in the first half of round one against Cyborg and really challenge her that could be another great moment. Needless to say, the opportunities are there in the future, more fighters are coming up that need to be given high profile matches. The divisions need to fill out, it needs to find its way on to more cards, but there is opportunity and I think it could be significant. Lord knows when these women do enter the cage they leave it all out there for the most part. They fight like it is their last fight, they fight to finish and that will always pop the crowd.
There is no reason not to display the strength and beauty of of Women's MMA top fighters in marketing them and the sport. It is not pandering, nor is it misogyny. In fact, it is vital to the future. There are a slew of young women filling BJJ gyms across this country. My daughter's class is now more than half girls. That is a sign for long term potential growth. These young women need to see their role models in WMMA as both strong and beautiful. They need to see their femininity in this brutal sport just like men need to see the masculinity in their sports as well. The WTA have done a fantastic job with this campaign. It is a perfect road map for WMMA on how to market their own athletes. Embrace both sides and then put on a damn good show. If done properly, soon you will watch the sport grow in leaps and bounds. The best is yet to come. Embrace the strength and beauty.
Strong is Beautiful: Behind the Scenes (via wta)