The UFC is in the business of selling fights, number one. Anything earned elsewhere is gravy, but too much gravy smothers the turkey. UFC has made a variety of branding decisions that will earn them a ton of money in the short term, but it may hurt the product in the long run. I’m not the first person to point any of these things out, but it begs repeating. Choosing the Reebok brand is bad for business.
Reebok is a weak brand. The Reebok Company is most closely associated with basketball. Their famous Reebok Pump sneaker put them on the map in the 80’s, but it’s a basketball shoe. If UFC couldn’t sign Nike or Adidas, they shouldn’t have bothered with branding. It’s third tier sports apparel at best. Sure, Reebok paid the most, but Nike is number one, and so is UFC. They sold themselves short. Kids don’t want to buy Reebok stuff. It’s not cool.
Reebok created the most boring fighter wear ever. This most recent TUF episode showcased exactly why the Reebok deal is making the product lame duck. The first fight of this show featured two average looking men, both from Team Europe, both sporting crew cuts, both wearing gray trunks, and both executing some pretty average fighting skills. Not to harp on the fight, because fights can be boring, and TUF is essentially a training camp, but the fight was in no way helped by the drab gray trunks. We all know personalities sell fights. How are these guys supposed to display any uniqueness when dressed exactly the same? Not only did the UFC upset almost everyone by eliminating their ability to get sponsors, but they also took away any individuality that a fighter may have displayed via their trunks.
Reebok chose some horrible colors. Black with white, or white with black are your only uniform options as a UFC fighter. These things seriously look like the original “biker” short of the 80s. They are unflattering and worse, the same for everyone. I’m assuming they will start to expand with colors, but so far, six months into the rebranding, it’s terrible. The fighters are generic and hard to tell apart for a casual fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the NASCAR style trunks prior to Reebok, but a fighter’s colors are important. It’s part of the individual fighter’s brand. Fans remember colors. I loved Bret Hart because he wore pink and I thought that made him tough. I hated Cheick Kongo because he wore blue Muay Thai trunks with the silly drawstring. The point is that I remember the fighter because of the specificity of the outfit. I couldn’t pick Marcin Wrzosek out of a line-up and I’ve watched every episode of TUF 22.
The corner men are now wearing pajamas. Have you seen these outfits up close? They’re paper-thin. Remember when Lulu Lemon made those see-through yoga pants? I guess Reebok bought the template. The corner men look like they’re getting ready to go to sleep in the 20’s. All they need is one of those starched up long pointy hats.
Finally, the Reebok emblem looks like a vagina. Am I the only person who has pointed this out? I can’t be. Maybe it’s because I live with a doctor that specializes in women’s health, and thus I have a model of a vagina in my house of which to compare, but it looks exactly like one of those models I’ve seen on my kitchen table. For those of you who don’t know anatomy, it looks specifically like the uterus. The vagina is technically the canal from the external to the internal reproductive organs.
Bonus Bad Branding: NOS Energy Drink. NOS is terrible. The term “nos” was first brought into the nomenclature of Americana with the prestigious Fast and Furious movies. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel spoke the word “nos” a combined total of 457 times in that first movie. It is the energy drink most closely associated with supercharged douche bags. A few episodes ago on TUF, we saw Team USA dousing each other with NOS drinks after a victory, like the KC Royals after winning the World Series. NOS cans are displayed at every opportunity in the UFC. Yes, the UFC and the Fast and Furious franchise have a lot of crossover audience, but again NOS is a bottom of the barrel energy drink behind Monster, Rock Star, and Red Bull (probably not in that order). Not only does NOS taste terrible, but also the only people who actually drink NOS are guys who wear Axe Body Spray, and Danny Bonaduce.
UFC is trying to be the NFL with branding and selling its rights to everything. The replays are brought to you by Harley Davidson, the round is brought to you buy Bud Light, etc. Eventually, the UFC will lose its identity and instead of the NFL it will just be “football.” That’s bad.
The fight industry is based on creating stars with personality. Dressing these guys all the same is counterproductive. Even if the UFC is making big bucks on the fees, it’s not worth it. Selling the naming rights to everything is literally the definition of selling out, and that’s bad for business.