Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

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Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by Longtime Fan on Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:24 pm

THE SAVAGE TRUTH: THE SELDOM SEEN LOSE-LOSE DEAL


The UFC-Reebok partnership has gotten off to a rough start. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com


Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

It was apparent from the launch event that the Ultimate Fighting Championship-Reebok hookup was going to endure some growing pains. Little did we know that misspelled words and fighter names were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here we are five months into what many hoped would be a deal that gave the UFC legitimacy in the big sports world, and it has been nothing short of calamitous for all parties involved.

The now-famous Ireland T-shirt that was yanked from virtual shelves in record time last week was just another self-inflicted wound that was entirely avoidable. It makes one wonder just how committed Reebok is to this deal. Are we dealing with incompetence to an astonishing degree or are we dealing with lower-level employees handling a deal that is just not a priority for the brand?

I’ve heard the troubling first few months of this deal described by people on both sides as “growing pains” and “bumps in the road,” but there seem to be much deeper problems that don’t look like they can be smoothed out all that easily.

For one, you have a work force -- minus the chosen few who have received exclusive Reebok endorsement deals -- that absolutely hates this arrangement. The UFC has been very successful in getting its fighters to parrot the company’s talking points. That so many fighters are refusing to keep quiet about this deal speaks volumes about the discontent.

I have spoken to at least one fighter who is on an exclusive deal with Reebok that told me off the record that they think the deal is “s---” but that it is pretty much the only way to get paid on the sponsorship side of the business. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement from a paid athlete. How do you think the fighters who aren’t getting paid outside of their fight-night stipends feel about it?

Honestly, the first thing I think of when I look at the integration of these uniforms is another disastrous league-wide apparel deal Reebok entered into just eight years ago. Any of you hockey fans out there might remember the RBK Edge Uniform System that was developed for the NHL in 2007. Never mind the fact that players weren’t the ones asking for new uniforms; the league decided it was time for an upgrade.

Along comes Reebok with space-age material and tighter-fitting uniforms that were widely panned by the players. They were supposed to benefit the most from them and yet had little say in how they were produced. It soon came to light that the jerseys were never game-tested and fell well short of players’ expectations. Reebok was forced to quickly redesign the uniforms, and RBK Edge 2.0 jerseys made their debut at the Winter Classic in January 2008.

That deal expires at the end of this newly minted hockey season, and Reebok’s big brother, Adidas, has already secured a 10-year deal to produce uniforms for the league’s 30 teams. It was not an unexpected development. Adidas North American President Mark King told Fortune magazine last year that “the Reebok brand made a pivot out of sport and into fitness” in 2010.

Those in the hockey department didn’t exactly earn rave reviews, but at least they didn’t have to deal with an entire fan base chastising them for taking money out of the players’ pockets. They also didn’t release an inflammatory T-shirt that showed a map of Canada minus Quebec. I also don’t remember any of the team names being misspelled when they put them up for sale on the Internet. So they had that going for them.

Flash back to the UFC deal. There is no way, despite what company executives say, that they were ready for the kind of pushback that only the MMA community could deliver. This is a sport that has about as passionate and as informed a fan base as any in existence. MMA fans might not always take the high road, but they will always let you know they care.

Go to the Reebok Facebook page and see just how passionate MMA fans are when something draws their ire. I felt like I had to go to confession after reading it the other day amidst the three-quarters-of-Ireland shirt meltdown. It has been toxic pretty much since the payout figures were announced. Imagine this is what you’re dealing with whenever you post anything to your myriad of other athletic communities. It does not paint a pretty picture for people trying to figure out what Reebok is all about.

The company has been caught up, unfairly if you ask me, in the firing of cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran and the dispersal of the fighters’ share of revenue. Its responses to those issues showed it was clearly unprepared to handle that kind of negative press. Reebok just passed the buck to the UFC, stating it had no say in who is employed or how revenues from the deal are paid out.

Reebok has also had to answer questions about the uninspired look of its uniforms -- sorry, I refuse to call them kits -- and apparel, as well as the horrendous presentation it made to introduce them. The lack of availability is another issue that persists, especially when the company, along with the UFC, touted the revenue-sharing potential for fighters when their uniforms sold. These are all fundamental problems that should have been foreseen, and they lend zero faith that the executives steering this deal have the ability or desire to get it back on the rails.

We have heard this week that there will be a new push around UFC 200 to reinvigorate the look of the uniforms and apparel, but has anything that has transpired since the genesis of this deal inspired a belief that those changes will be positive?

I don’t think I have to go into detail on how this deal has been a dud of epic proportions for the UFC. While Reebok at least gets the premier sponsorship position for every UFC athlete for pennies on the dollar when compared to other major sports, it’s hard to see any current benefit for the sport’s top promoter. UFC President Dana White stated that this deal has been a “home run” for Reebok. I wonder what an unvarnished view of the first five months of this deal would look like from the Zuffa perspective if we could get a glimpse behind the curtain. I can’t imagine anyone is particularly happy with how things have unfolded to date.

While there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard not to figure, with everything that has unfolded since the deal was signed, that the light is emanating from an oncoming train. So far, this deal has done the exact opposite of its intended purpose; it has dragged both companies’ names through the mud and left them looking sad, uninspired and incompetent.

In short, this is the rare lose-lose deal in which everyone ends up looking bad. Only time will tell if it’s salvageable, but I can’t imagine a time when history looks back fondly on the Reebok era of the UFC.

Greg Savage is the executive editor of Sherdog.com and can be reached via email or on Twitter @TheSavageTruth.



Not everyday do we see a veteran writer from schilldog truly speak his mind and emit an anti zuffa opinion, specially in written form. Discuss

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by TeamJohnPerretti on Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:37 pm

'This is a sport that has about as passionate and as informed a fanbase as any in existence.'

Lol

I stopped reading at that.
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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by Longtime Fan on Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:23 pm

The sport has both in abundance, ignorant fans and knowledgeable fans, the sad part is there isn't too many fans in between

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by fka on Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:05 pm

Yeah you can easily find shills but this is a fanbase with alot of passion and knowledge.

Good to see someone calling ot like it is.

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by stu3ufc on Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:27 pm

FUCK MMA

fighting mma in a dog cage = slavery

These young men and women should do something better with their lives and contribute to society meanwhile making a better living and not being treated like dirt.


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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by fka on Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:33 pm

Good thing no one actually fights in a dog cage tho i would say reebok deal is slavery...

Bellator atleast allows guys the SPONSOR freedom and identity freedom every fighter should have.

It will be interesting to see rizins pay scale for sure.


Woman should have stayed in invicta and just left to grow they are still a year or two from even being worth watching.

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by stu3ufc on Fri Oct 30, 2015 12:31 am

fka wrote:


Woman should have stayed in invicta and just left to grow they are still a year or two from even being worth watching.

Rolling LMAO I dunno.... Give WMMA 4-5 more years then just take the top 5 and show them... WMMA is awful

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by fka on Fri Oct 30, 2015 12:48 am

I completely agree they are Still very much in the infancy of their sport....their pioneers are still fighting lol they arent even fully in the second generation of their fighters.

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Re: Greg savage: reebok/UFC deal is a lose-lose situation

Post by InfinityLens on Sat Apr 23, 2016 9:52 pm

fka wrote:I completely agree they are Still very much in the infancy of their sport....their pioneers are still fighting lol they arent even fully in the second generation of their fighters.

Sexton was fighting since 02, probably wasn't the first.
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