Bellator tournaments create new fighting stars

Bellator promotes and produces professional mixed martial arts events worldwide. Founded in 2009, it entered a category dominated by the powerful Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Client: Bellator (Chicago, IL)
Agency: Alpaytac (Chicago, IL)
Campaign: Bellator Fourth Season Social Media Campaign
Duration: March – May 2011
Budget: $60,000

Bellator promotes and produces professional mixed martial arts (MMA) events worldwide. Founded in 2009, it entered a category dominated by the powerful Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney says AOR Alpaytac was indispensable in helping build Bellator's brand through social media.

“UFC had a monopoly,” explains Alpaytac president and CEO Huma Gruaz. “Bellator implemented a tournament [approach] for the first time. It gave unknown fighters opportunity and started creating stars out of nowhere. We used social media to give fighters and Bjorn direct access to fans and vice versa. Inherently, social media spoke to the very differentiation of this brand that creates stars from anyone.”

For the fourth season (March to May), the team continued to use social media to engage and educate audiences and drive viewers to MTV2 to watch weekly live fights.

Strategy
Social media interactivity between Rebney, fighters, and fans was enhanced and increased. Bellator.com and media relations also drove awareness.

Tactics
Facebook and Twitter tactics included live Q&As with Rebney and fighters, contests, and polls. Twitter and Facebook fans got to ask fighters and Rebney questions during post-fight news conferences that streamed live on Bellator.com. Rebney also addressed fan questions live at pre-fight events.

Social media posts from fans attending one fight sparked thousands of broadcast requests. Rebney appealed to MTV2 and got the fight aired within 24 hours. “We heard [fans] and gave them what they wanted,” he says. “It breeds loyalty.”

Video highlights of every fight were posted to YouTube and promoted on other channels.

Press releases were posted on Facebook and Twitter. General consumer, sports, and business outlets were also targeted. Gruaz says Bellator's business story is gaining traction. Fighter stories were pitched to hometown and regional media.

Results
From March to May, Facebook posts got 3.6 million views (up 327% compared to December 2010 to February 2011) and nearly 7,000 new likes were garnered (up 155% compared to December 2010 to February 2011). YouTube views came in at 1.9 million (lifetime views exceed 6.5 million). Twitter followers increased from 10,988 to 13,734 ending May.

A May 14 Atlantic City fight became the second-highest-rated MTV2 program for the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

“Alpaytac has been extremely effective at allowing social media to feed PR and marketing and vice versa,” Rebney says. “I expect results will get even bigger and better.”

Future
The team is promoting off-season events and preparing for the fifth season kickoff in September. New social media tactics are planned.

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