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Bellator Sets the Standard for Online Marketing of MMA

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Great piece in MMA Weekly about Bellator's use of YouTube to promote their wares:

In the two years before Bellator launched, Rebney studied demographic information on the MMA market and arrived at a conclusion known to all serious fans: this sport thrives on the Internet.

"They're not doing an enormous amount of reading and they're not doing an enormous amount of television watching, but man, are they online," said Rebney about the MMA faithful. "So we knew that was a really key part of our marketing strategy.

"From the moment we had our first events, and the moment we had our first big highlights, we sat in the truck all night, editing those, putting our brand on them, and getting them out there. And not getting them out there for pay; just feeding the content out there week in and week out, so people could go, ‘whoa, that's really cool, I've never seen Bellator before, I should tune in and watch that show or buy a ticket to that event.' It was a strategy that we had long before the season occurred.

...

"The bottom line is, if I had had an additional 10 million dollars to spend, I couldn't have gotten nearly the traction that I got by sending those clips out and putting them on YouTube," said Rebney.

Bellator is the first promotion to really take control of the viral power of social media online and put it to work for the promotion in a controlled fashion.

The UFC has embraced Vlogs and Twitter as a way to put out one-way messages to their fans, but they've been notoriously uptight about controlling their online fight videos. Obviously they're the industry leader and what they're doing is working great, but Bellator has shown that an up and coming promotion has to be more innovative, more open and more aggressive.

The whole article is well worth a read as Rebney explains the thinking behind their tournament format as a way to encourage fighters to go all out. He believes that the series of highlight reel fights that came out of the Bellator events wasn't an accident. Instead of just happening, moves like Toby Imada's amazing inverted triangle on Jorge Masvidal were the likely outcome of their high-pressure, high-reward tournament format. The payoff was so big for winning the Bellator tournament that it encouraged risk-taking on the part of its fighters.

That's a well known formula in MMA -- one the UFC was founded on.