The Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as the UFC, are market leaders in combat sports, especially MMA. Their promotional competitors include Bellator MMA, the Professional Fighters League and ONE Championship. Across social media, the UFC has acquired over 52m online followers, which has constituted from exceptional fan engagement initiatives, reactive content throughout events and fighter-led promotional activities. This blog will discover what makes the UFC’s content strategy effective, unique and a marketing masterclass in the combat sports landscape.
The combat sports leaders have accumulated over 9.5m followers on Twitter, more than other corporate sports brands, including Wimbledon, MLS and ESPN FC. Their Twitter content involves build-up for fight nights, including knockout reels for fighters featuring on the events, previous memories from the event’s location, images via carousels capturing fighters during their final preparations alongside special facts and statistics.
These content streams add value to the UFC fanbase by enhancing their appetite for the event, enlightening them with the knowledge they may not have known about the assets involved alongside unlocking shareable content that fans can share amongst their peers.
Comparing Twitter content to Instagram, the production is similar on both platforms. Although, there are slight differences in how it’s distributed. For example, Instagram stories are utilised heavily to emphasise storytelling through key events, including weigh-ins, fight nights and press conferences.
The highest-performing content relating to engagement and awareness consists of previews ahead of main card fights, especially fighters who are considered ‘bright prospects’ under the promotion. The UFC regularly share content surrounded by past reflective moments involving various topics, including ‘on this day, this fighter got the quickest knockout in UFC history’, or ‘on this day last year, the UFC sold out at Maddison Square Garden’.
To capitalise on short-form content, the UFC utilise Reels to capture messages from UFC fighters alongside clips from post-fight interviews.
Ultimately, although the UFC shares similar content on Twitter and Instagram, being on Instagram helps establish close relationships through the live function being used, personalised content through their short-form productions alongside Instagram being a popular platform for the younger generation.
The UFC’s TikTok feed involved their most highly engaging content across social media, distributed into short-form. Most of this consists of fighters celebrating with fans, instant reactions of fighters after they’ve competed alongside compilations of finishes, including knockouts and submissions.
The UFC’s most engaged TikTok content involves knockout reels, heated rivalries caught on camera, face-offs between fighters alongside the UFC incorporating their content into viral content.
The strategy the UFC have utilised with TikTok is self-explanatory. They’ve incorporated their highest engaged, creative pieces onto the platform. Plus, they’ve considered content that will drive an emotional and personal connection with their fans (face-offs and moments caught off-camera).
UFC Unfiltered (Spotify)
The UFC owns a podcast on Spotify called ‘UFC Unfiltered’. The content consists of discussions about the latest promotion topics involving upcoming fights, reviewing previous events, and interviewing hot prospects in the sport. The show hosts are US comedian Jim Norton and former UFC champion Matt Serra.
The mixture of hosts being from a non-sporting background and a sporting background is an effective tone to set for sharing the views of a casual fan. Plus, the sports industry is in an era where sports pundits from non-sporting backgrounds have significant leverage across the non-sporting community, which opens a chance to welcome new audiences.
The UFC generates mass amounts of content through Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, consisting of graphical, video, and written content. Having a podcast adds an audio element to their content resume, demonstrating an inclusive approach for fans to be consumers of a leading combat sports promotion.
YouTube is a pivotal platform for the UFC, where links and clips of YouTube content are shared on other social media (especially Instagram and Twitter). The content library of UFC’s YouTube strategy consists of long-form and short-form content. Long-form content includes fight wrap-ups, behind-the-scenes access for upcoming events (e.g. UFC embedded), and pre & post-fight press conferences. The promotion’s short-form content has knockout reels and fights highlights, typically captured through the YouTube Shorts function.
An element that stands out about the UFC’s content strategy is how to create multiple purposes for the same footage. For example, they have a sub-series called ‘The Thrill and The Agony’, which showcases the winner compared to the loser of one fight. This covers archived highlights accompanied by behind-the-scenes access to the fighters post-competition. Another example is a sub-series called ‘crowning moment’. This covers when a fighter becomes a champion; the UFC tend to re-upload fight highlights, which makes the athlete a champion closer to whenever their next competition is.
The UFC’s YouTube channel is an effective opportunity to give fans ‘personalised’ access to their favourite moments, fighters, and occasions in the promotion through long-form content. This allows fans to build emotionally strong connections with the promotion due to their consumption time likely being longer on YouTube compared to other short-form platforms.
The UFC’s Twitch channel contains various content, including reactions to former UFC fights, The Ultimate Fighter episodes, and interviews with fighters alongside streaming weigh-in shows. The promotion has previously utilised large names across the creator economy, including UK entertainer, KSI, to showcase content on their Twitch channel.
Some former and current UFC fighters have set up Twitch channels, including Megan Anderson, Demetrious Johnson, and Sean O’Malley. Twitch has proven an effective channel to engage and capture attention from the new generation through regular streams, which builds an online community. This has inspired the UFC to do similar, considering they’re a market leader in combat sports and want to lead by example.
Fan engagement initiatives
The UFC have mass amounts of content pumping through several channels regularly, but how else do they engage their fans to buy into their monetisation avenues? Firstly, the platform has a subscription service called ‘UFC Fight Pass’. This platform offers fans access to a comprehensive online MMA media library of previous fights and access to exclusive live events alongside on-demand footage of events. This is regularly promoted through social media through primary content endorsing upcoming promotional events.
The promotion focuses highly on storytelling their athletes through their content avenues. For example, they’ll use short-form videos such as YouTube shorts, TikTok to share viral moments, highlight compilations, and eye-catching moments from athletes. Plus, they’ll occasionally release long-form content regarding fighters when they’re coming up to competing to highlight their come-up to the UFC, hobbies, and future ambitions.
The company have recently introduced a new initiative jointly with their partners, Crypto.com, where fans can participate in an online public vote for a ‘fight of the night’, which debuts at #UFC273. Whichever fight gets the most votes is then awarded to the winner through a bonus paid via bitcoin. This doesn’t only enlighten the partnership with Crypto.com; it allows fans to contribute to the final product of a mass-market event.
Ultimately, the company’s fan engagement strategy is led via athlete-driven marketing. The UFC is utilising the power of their athletes to boost its business profile to make its mark across the industry.
The tone of voice per platform differs from matching the different needs and wants of the sub-consumer audience the UFC owns. On Twitter and Instagram, their tone is informative by showcasing fight highlights alongside keeping fans updated with the latest news within the promotion. On Twitch, the platform is driven by an open format with a fan-friendly tone, sharing opinion-based content to better connect with fans; the same applies to Spotify and YouTube. Then TikTok embraces a softer and less serious tone than any other platform due to its short-form orientation and environment of next-gen consumers.
What can we learn from the UFC’s content strategy?
There you have it, the UFC’s content strategy consists of producing content for various platforms to meet the needs of their different sub-audiences. Here are the key lessons which you can learn from their content strategy.
- Customise content for each channel you own and tailor it based on the user’s general behaviour on the platform you’re launching on. For example, the UFC emphasises heavily on long-form content for YouTube as that’s what most consumers are interested in compared to other platforms.
- With archived footage, think proactively about how it can serve various purposes for different forms of content. For example, the UFC often embraces this through YouTube by re-using highlights to accompany behind-the-scenes content to create sub-series orientated around storytelling.
- Storytelling is the heart of successful athlete-driven marketing. The company relies heavily on their fighters to amplify its brand awareness and engagement with current and new audiences.