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Volume 22 No. 3
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Sponsorship ride goes on for Harley-Davidson, UFC

Harley-Davidson has signed a multiyear extension with the UFC that will include viewing parties in the motorcycle brand’s dealerships and a joint program benefiting the U.S. military.

Harley-Davidson has been a top partner of the UFC since 2007, and the extension marks the third agreement with the mixed martial arts organization. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“They were really one of the first premier top Fortune 500 companies to come on board and then we had Bud Light right after that,” said Brette Sadler, UFC vice president of global marketing partnerships. “They were really a key driver to take us to the next level.”

Some of UFC’s other core partners are Monster Energy, MetroPCS, Anheuser-Busch, EA Sports and Toyo Tires.

Some sports properties have names or levels of sponsorship like “founding partner” or “platinum,” but UFC does not have such designations, Sadler said. “Every partnership deal is customized, based on what they want to do,” she said.

In the case of Harley-Davidson, the partnership has been beneficial because of the parallels between the two brand’s fan bases, Sadler said. “We are passionate, genuine, real people, and I think that’s what makes us such a good fit together,” she said.

Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson’s U.S. marketing director, said the two companies have had “a unique partnership combining two all-American brands” for the last 11 years. “Our partnership with UFC has helped expose millions of new consumers to Harley-Davidson, the only motorcycle worthy of being in the Octagon,” he said.

Several UFC fighters ride Harleys, including Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone, Ricardo Lamas, Matt Hughes, Michael Chiesa, Johny Hendricks and T.J. Dillashaw. As part of its agreement with Harley-Davidson, the UFC works to find the right fighter to endorse the Harley brand.

Multiple executives from both companies worked for several months to craft the new deal, which includes some new components. Michael Mossholder, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships; Morgan Barlow, partnership activation director; and Sadler represented the UFC. Bernacchi; Mark Peine, U.S. brand manager; and Jenny Lowney, marketing project manager, represented the motorcycle company.

Under the deal, the Harley-Davidson brand will be showcased across multiple UFC platforms, including social, digital and programming. Harley will sponsor the arrival of fighters on pay-per-view and other broadcasts, as part of the agreement.

Additionally, Harley-Davidson will present a UFC fight to be held on a U.S. military base. The UFC has staged such events, called “UFC Fight for the Troops,” in the past, but it has not previously been an asset of the Harley-Davidson sponsorship.

Also new is a component in which the 600 Harley-Davidson dealerships across the U.S. can show the UFC’s pay-per-view events to motorcycle customers. The dealerships will pay a discounted price to show the events. The UFC broadcasts 12 to 13 pay-per-view events a year, and the retail cost for home viewers is $59.99.

“They can really speak to their local community and offer something they have not been offering before,” Sadler said. “Each individual dealer has to pay for that because it is a different business model, but we have special pricing for them. And we have a bunch of assets that we are giving to them, custom collateral, custom posters, banners, mailers, invitations, postcards — all of that. We are creating that event in a box.”