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Pitch a Winner: How to Land an MMA Sponsorship (Without Embarrassing Yourself)


(Attention, fighters: Don’t let this happen to you.)

By Kelly Crigger

You might know me. I’m a sponsor. I get an email every other day from a manager (usually a fighter’s brother whose only business experience is a checkbook management class) asking me to sponsor someone. Sometimes I get a gem that’s professional and treats the situation exactly as it is — a product pitch. But too many times requests are so poorly written that they’re embarrassing and I don’t give them a second thought. Why? Because MMA is a young sport full of young people who have no business sense, and until that changes, fighters are going to miss out on sponsorship opportunities.

When asking for money, managers must answer one basic question — why should I give you money? It has to be a watertight pitch that describes the product (the fighter) and gives me no reason to say no. Unfortunately this is rare and more than one email has been relegated to my trash file. If you don’t want it to be you, follow a few simple rules:

– First off, a sponsor and a fighter need to be the right fit. A staunchly Catholic fighter who’s offended by pre-marital sex shouldn’t be sponsored by Condom Depot, and Ranger Up only sponsors fighters with a military background. Do your research so you’re not wasting my time and yours.

– Don’t wait until the last minute. Contacting me three days before a fight says you lack the foresight to plan ahead. That doesn’t instill me with the confidence that you’ll take care of my brand. Two weeks before a fight is okay. Three weeks is better.


– If your return email address is mynutsinyourmouth@yahoo.com, I’m not even going to open the message. It screams out, “I’m immature and can’t be trusted to accomplish a basic task.” Be more professional.

– If your message is riddled with spelling errors and looks like a 3rd grader wrote it, your chances of me giving you money are slim. It tells me you don’t pay attention to detail.

– Don’t send two sentences that say, “I’m a fighter. Send me money.” I need stats, background info, a biography, fight videos, a picture, and most importantly, why the fighter is right for my company.

– Tell me what show you’re fighting in and especially what TV coverage it will have. This is very important because I base how much money I’m willing to give by how many people will see my product. If you want me to give you $2,500 for an untelevised show, that’s not happening.

– Tell me exactly what I’m getting for my money and give me options, like an a la carte menu. Start with one asking price for my logo on the fighter’s shirt, shorts, and banner and another price if the fight gets televised or your guy wins KO of the night.

– Remember the relationship. The sponsor has the money and you want to get your hands on it. Don’t ask for money, a logo, a banner, shirts for you and your crew, a bowl full of brown M&M’s, and a ring-tailed lemur no matter how bad-ass your fighter is. You’re not in a position to ask for those things.

– Recognize that sponsorship is a two way street. It’s not me giving you money and you wearing a shirt. If I’m going to pay you, then you need to make an effort to sell our product. At the very least, I want photos of your fighter wearing my stuff.

– Once you make a deal, don’t take a better one two days later. Loyalty is more important than cash and developing a good relationship with a sponsor will get you more cash in the long run.

Finally, keep cross-branding in mind. Cross-branding is the practice of placing four or more logos on a pair of fight shorts or walk-out shirt. “Sponsorship companies are becoming keen to the idea that if a pair of fight shorts or a walk-out shirt has 20 logos on it, their logo and their investment in your client may get lost, which will harm their return on investment. Every manager should look at cross-branding and how it can affect a potential sponsor’s ROI before they start contacting companies on behalf of their clients,” says Tim Holman of Shark Sports Management. Tim sent me two pitches for his fighters that were so thorough and well-written, it was impossible for me to say no. If you want the same results, follow these rules and be professional.

In addition to his work with Ranger Up, Kelly Crigger is a freelance writer and the author of Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts, Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts: The Stand Up Game, and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts: The Ground Game. You can see more of his writing at KellyCrigger.com and The Rhino Den.

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fatbellyfrank- May 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm
Your a good man Drano
dranokills- May 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm
fatbellyfrank Says:
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 07:46

@drano, yeah I think a lot of people like the Ranger up gear, considering the competition to win a Ranger Up T-shirt was the second most commented on post for the month, and where does one purchase said"bag-o-dicks' I can think of a lot of people I could hand these out to.
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I found mine at the Super Wal-Mart next to the coolwhip, and the bullwhip......course it could just be my town's walllyworld, hey good luck buddy.
I will pick a few bags up for you just in case some double dumbass on here makes you feed em one.
ytrebil- May 19, 2010 at 1:47 am
Kelly: Is it only the American troops you are supporting? It’s just being British ‘n all, I happen to think our military is the best there ever was and the best there ever will be. Apart from the f*****s turned down my TA Royal Marines application due to my medical history.

All said and done, the article is well written and an slight insight into sponsorship and I think anyone who takes the time out to come back and read the comments section and follow up with further information deserves kudos.
Mr_Misanthropy- May 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm
@ KellyC (who will probably never C this post)

I thought the article did have a few interesting points, probably somewhat obvious to the enlightened, and suitably obscure to the profane and unwashed masses. I would say it was fairly well written (you're a professional enscripterator and I'm sure you weren't shooting for a Pulitzer).

If you could find the time I'm sure you could enlighten us all with more entertaining articles, especially if they were of a subject matter that was more generally applicable to the applicably general. It's always nice to get inside info from the perspective of somebody entrenched in the business end of the beast, so to speak.
fatbellyfrank- May 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm
@drano, yeah I think a lot of people like the Ranger up gear, considering the competition to win a Ranger Up T-shirt was the second most commented on post for the month, and where does one purchase said"bag-o-dicks' I can think of a lot of people I could hand these out to.
dranokills- May 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm
ihateemo Says:
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 00:02

Interesting article, but holy crap I would never want to sport the gaudy, jingoistic crap that Ranger Up sells.

hxxp://www.rangerup.com/patriotday.html

Gag.
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on behalf of all my jingoist brothers and sisters I would like to offer you this brand new " bag-o-dicks" to eat. congrats to you, and please slide under a gas truck, explode and die in a huge fireball.
stopdrinkingpee- May 18, 2010 at 7:34 pm
Interesting change of pace. Thanks, Kelly.
fatbellyfrank- May 18, 2010 at 7:31 pm
@wifey LOL, and theres millions of em out there!
wifey- May 18, 2010 at 7:24 pm
I'd love a "tell it like it is" day: No sir. I will not take your application for employment. Why? Because you smell like alcohol at 2pm, you have two teeth in your head, you'll probably scare our patients, and your references to dogfighting are not appropriate in a vet's office.

Might I add that spell check exists for a fucking reason. Use it, and use it often.

(feeling much better now, thank you very much!)
fatbellyfrank- May 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm
@ Wifey damm straight, thats why I call for a tell it like it is day " OK "hotdrippen69@yahoo.com" your e-mail address suggests your a slut, not a prospective Admin assistant, thank you goodbye

Dear "Mynutsrhuge@hotmail.com, based on your experience I dont beleive you'll find gainful employment while your ass points to the ground

etc etc I think you get the point based on your post, and dont start me on the ones who put down referees they haven't prepped! sheesh
wifey- May 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm
Look at you, rex, pimping yourself out all over the place. It warms the heart.

And as for the points in the article being common sense, I can tell you naw, playa, they ain't.

The resumes I see daily - from people seeking a JOB! - are pretty fucking atrocious, and leave me with little hope for the future of mankind. It seems that only stupid people are breeding these days.

Nice job on the writeup, Kelly.

ReX13- May 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm
Capital Q>> Firstly, you really have no idea, really, that "pretty much none of the posters on this site will ever enter the cage". It's entirely possible that there are a bunch of fighters who actually enjoy reading CP's unique product. They may not post; they may post obsessively (ahem). But YOU have no knowledge of numbers of likely participants either way.

Even if your initial premise were true, though-- that no one who reads this site would ever step into a cage--your conclusion (that this article is useless to us) is *still* incorrect. This piece was written for **management**. People who read carefully, pay attention to detail, communicate well...that kinda stuff.

But thanks for letting everyone know that you, personally, got nothing out of it.
Ratel- May 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm
CapitalQ - I am not eempress by your performance in dis forum.
KellyC- May 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm
Always willing to help a troop, Rex. Shoot me an email through my website.
macreadysshack- May 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm
@Almost North Yeah, we went pretty easy until WuTangClan showed up. Now I guess it's on like Donkey Kong.

'Pompous faggot' - Really? I'll assume you basically mean, 'pretentious and condescending'. I think that's a pretty straight forward translation from shitbag into English.

I didn't get that vibe but, hey, whatever.
ReX13- May 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm
BTW, KellyC>>> you wouldn't happen to be in the market of sponsoring a developing MMA *writer* with a DD214, would you? It's a new concept, i know, but i'm totally willing to wear the Phoenix Rising when Ben starts calling me to do Nice,Playa/Naw, Playa videos. Just throwing it out there.
macreadysshack- May 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm
. . . and WuTangClan breaks the sound barrier.

Does anybody on this site have an actual opinion? Stop beating around the bush. What do you really think, WuTang?
Almost North- May 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm
Big props for KellyC showing up in the comments after the (over)reeming he was taking. Honestly dude we were pretty easy on you compared to what happened to the "ten rule changes" guy, so I think most people enjoyed it.
fatbellyfrank- May 18, 2010 at 5:31 pm
@ Wu tangclan, I've missed something here, I know we all jump on and just spout our opinions, but how did this article come across as written by a pompous faggot? I thought it covered a lot stuff with a common sense approach. Just my opinion
ReX13- May 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm
PoonTangClan>> Now, now, you're MY troll. No cheating and trolling our guest contributor, or i'll just have to get a new troll. (There's lots.)
cecils_pupils- May 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Regardless of what any of us rowdy posters say KellyC, this is a great article... as you already know, everyone has an opinion and you seem to handle the criticism well.

You make many good points... and your point about fighters not getting what they are worth due to poor management is a truism. Professionalism goes a loooong way in ANY business... people seem to forget that.
WuTangClan- May 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm
I like how you write an article thats suppose to help out young fighters and managers but you still come off as a pompous faggot.
KellyC- May 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm
Sudos KFC - Just saw your comment. First off, there is not one page of my book that bashes a fighter. If you read it that way, then you took it wrong. On the contrary, the purpose of my book was to show the world that MMA fighters are not tattooed meatheads and in fact are disciplined, intelligent athletes. I did that by living and training with them in five different camps so your comment that I'm an armchair naysayer has no credibility. I sought to show the world that MMA is not barbaric and in fact, boxing is more dangerous by far, so I don't know where you're coming from. If you think my writing is ignorant and I know nothing about MMA, please enlighten me as to which article you're referring to.

As for Ranger Up, it started as a patriotic and military apparel company that donated most of its profits to the Wounded Warrior Project. We expanded into MMA to sponsor military fighters so they could have a like-minded sponsor to support their octagon dreams. It's the least we could do for guys who serve their country. Are we making money? Sure. That's what business is about. But it's a lot less than you think and if you don't like our stuff, that's cool. We don't expect everyone to get the message.
BryanF- May 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm
I'm currently in the PR business and must say I found this article completely on-point and useful. It doesn't really matter what industry you're from, if you want money, at least look like you can be trusted with it. Great job Kelly C
KellyC- May 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm
Macready - Everyone's entitled to their first amendment right to freedom of speech. No worries. One point I forgot to mention is that the higher up you go in MMA, the more business savvy the promoters are. If Dana White, Reed Harris, or even a mid level promoter like Marcello Foran see that a manager is inexperienced, they'll drive the price down on the fighter and get him to fight cheap. Boxing is rife with stories of fighters (especially Joe Louis) who never got paid half of what they were worth because they had no business sense. I hope some young managers out there read this and realize they can't just get by on what's handed out to them.

Flying Gogoplata - No worries. Happens all the time.
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