SBD/September 20, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Jon Jones Inks Deal With Gatorade As He Tries To Approach Mayweather's Marketability Level

Jones' manager started seriously pursuing a deal with Gatorade in '11
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has signed a sponsorship deal with Gatorade, becoming the "first MMA fighter to represent the company in the Octagon," according to Andrew Potter of MMA WEEKLY. Jones' manager Malki Kawa said that Gatorade's logo now "will be prominently displayed on Jones' fight shorts." Jones goes up against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 Saturday night. Jones said, "It’s great that a company like Gatorade sees the value that their products bring to MMA athletes." Potter noted the deal is the "latest move that shows mixed martial arts has become a serious player in the sporting world" (MMAWEEKLY.com, 9/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Chiappetta reports the Jones-Gatorade deal "was carefully orchestrated over time." Jones has said that he has "always made sure to have a Gatorade drink with him on the post-fight press conference podium in hopes of attracting the blue-chip sponsor." Kawa "started seriously pursuing a deal" in '11, right after Jones won the championship. Kawa for a time "couldn't seem to get to the proper decision-maker, but that all changed for two reasons" -- UFC's media-rights deal with Fox "gave the sport its widest mainstream exposure" and Jones signing with William Morris Endeavor "opened doors to them that were previously closed" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/20).

A BIG DEAL FOR JONES: MMATORCH.com's Jamie Penick noted UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre "had been with Gatorade Canada a couple of years ago, but that wasn't an international deal and he didn't have Gatorade as a sponsor in the cage." Penick: "This is another big deal for Jones, and with his endorsement/sponsorship deals, he's quite well on his way to becoming one of the highest paid fighters in the sport, if he's not there already. He doesn't quite make the same on pay-per-view as Georges St-Pierre yet, as he hasn't been that level of a draw to this point, but he's getting there, and this is an impressive and major acquisition by Kawa for the young Champ" (MMATORCH.com, 9/19). Kawa "refuses to accept credit for where the reigning champion is today." Kawa: "The props go out to Jon; he did everything he needed to do to get this deal and he's sponsored by Gatorade for this fight" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 9/19).

MAYWEATHER STATUS IS NEXT: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole wrote Jones is considered the "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world," and the "next big challenge for Jones will be duplicating Floyd Mayweather's path in boxing and becoming a transcendent, larger-than-life figure in the sport." Jones is the "best fighter but hardly the biggest star in his sport," as he "lags in recognition, acceptance and star power compared to Mayweather." Kawa "conceded that Jones isn't at Mayweather's level from a marketing and promotional standpoint yet, but he pleaded for time." Kawa: "A lot of it has to do with the fact the sport's not as old and as established like boxing; the sport itself isn't there yet, so it's hard for one athlete to do that. The Fox deal is helping tremendously. That's bringing MMA into the mainstream and it's going to help take this to the next level." Iole noted Jones' popularity in a way is "intertwined with the UFC's success, which is why Kawa is so bullish on its broadcast deal with Fox." The deal with Fox is "making it easier for fighters to land major sponsors and giving those potential sponsors a bit of peace of mind about what they're getting into." Meanwhile, Jones "will be featured soon in a spread in GQ" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/19). Jones said, "I aspire to be at the level of guys like LeBron James and some of these bigger-name athletes in the world" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 9/20).
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