From Michael Jordan to LeBron James to Aaron Rodgers to Derek Jeter, the branding behind or in front of an athlete is an integral part of the marketing machine that pushes them to the next level while also pushing a certain product in the same way.
For UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, he wants to be associated with names like Jordan, James, Rodgers and Jeter, and so his mission starts at UFC 145.
How will it work?
Well for Jones it begins by not walking out to the Octagon on Saturday night, April 21 with a myriad of sponsor patches on his shirt or shorts.
“For this fight, I have a goal, I’ve had a goal of being sponsored by Nike for many, many years. Part of our strategy to try and make that happen one day is to not be a billboard, and not just be sponsored by TapouT one week, and Affliction one week, and then MusclePharm next week, and all these random companies,” Jones explained on Friday.
“If you realize, I try to look for relationships with companies, long lasting relationships with companies. So a part of my brand is to keep it clean. Less is more in my opinion.”
Prior to UFC 145, Jones’ major sponsor as far as clothing was concerned was the now defunct company, Form Athletics.
Unfortunately, Form Athletics closed up shop late last year, and it left Jones without a set clothing sponsor, and it didn’t take long for other brands to start making the call to try and land the UFC light heavyweight champion.
“When Form Athletics went down pretty much every company in the business was looking for an opportunity to work with me, and I was really honored just to be wanted like that. I thought it was really awesome, it was a real honor,” said Jones.
Instead of signing on with a company for a one-fight deal or going by the standard process of having a multitude of sponsors on a fight shirt, Jones opted for a deal with the UFC itself.
As strange as that sounds, the UFC will actually be sponsoring Jon Jones for his fight at UFC 145 against Rashad Evans. Now the first thought might be, how can the UFC sponsor someone that they already pay to fight for them?
Well, in reality this is no different than any other clothing deal because the UFC is not only the top MMA promotion in the world, but they also have their own apparel line, which includes shirts, shorts, gloves and other products. So for his fight at UFC 145, Jones will be decked in head to toe in UFC gear, pushing their brand instead of another company.
“We came up with a strategy to keep it clean and be sponsored by the UFC itself. I’m glad the UFC wanted to work with me as well, and I think that they trust that I’ll never make them look bad. You never have to worry about me with a DWI (driving while under the influence) or doing something crazy,” Jones explained.
“I think I’m a good company guy. The UFC asks me to do anything and I always do it, and I never tell them no for anything. I’ve had to do more marketing than any other fighter because I say no to absolutely nothing. I don’t think most champs are like that.”
The deal with the UFC is also open ended in the sense that if Nike does come calling on Jones, then he can realize his dream and have his name listed among those like Jordan and James.
“I think they realized I’m a company guy and they decided to sponsor me,” said Jones. “They put in the deal that if any mainstream companies come after this win that they will let me go, and I think that’s awesome.”