SBD/April 26, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

A-B Has "Reprimanded" UFC After Criticism Of Sexist, Homophobic Remarks

A-B says in statement if the incidents continue, the company will act
Anheuser-Busch, a major sponsor of UFC, has “reprimanded the mixed-martial arts organization for remarks made by some fighters” after advocacy groups “have criticized the fighters comments as sexist and homophobic,” according to E.J. Schultz of AD AGE. A-B in a statement said, “We've communicated to the UFC our displeasure with certain remarks made by some of its fighters, and they have promised to address this. If the incidents continue, we will act.” UFC replied in a statement, “With over 425 athletes on our roster, there have unfortunately been instances where a couple athletes have made insensitive or inappropriate comments. We don't condone this behavior, and in no way is it reflective of the company or its values." Schultz noted the warning comes as the UFC “is gaining mainstream exposure through support from major advertisers and a long-term TV deal with Fox that includes live prime-time matches.” A-B last year “renewed its UFC deal in a multiyear pact that makes Bud Light a sponsor of pay-per-view and TV broadcasts, while giving the Bud Light logo prominent placement in the UFC's ‘Octagon’ ring, as well as in press conferences, weigh-ins and locker rooms” (ADAGE.com, 4/25). MMATORCH.com’s Jamie Penick wrote the “alpha-male” nature of MMA has “resulted in several of the UFC's athletes -- as well as UFC President Dana White and UFC commentator Joe Rogan -- making sexist or homophobic remarks to fellow fighters, reporters, and fans alike.” This could potentially be “a very real problem for the UFC.” Losing top sponsors “over what they've tried to essentially sweep-aside in the past could cost them millions, and hurt their image further in areas where they continue to try to gain acceptance.” Penick: “A big issue on this front is that fighters likely feel they can get away with a lot more because White … doesn't have much of a filter when it comes to expressing his feelings on things.” This is an issue “that really does need to be addressed in-house” (MMATORCH.com, 4/25).
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