No Filter: UFC Deal with Snapchat a Bid to Gain Younger Viewership

By Patrick Auger Dec 19, 2019
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.

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On Dec. 11, it was reported that the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Snapchat had arranged a partnership that will see the social network deliver at least 200 pieces of original content on the app’s Discover page, starting with UFC 245. While the specific terms of the deal remain undisclosed, the UFC will collaborate with Snapchat on 20 editions of the “Our Stories” series, which will cover all 12 pay-per-view events in 2020, as well as eight UFC Fight Night events. Snapchat will also provide filters and other features that will give fans who attend UFC events unique options to decorate their Snaps.

“We want to make being a UFC fan more fun no matter where you are, and we’re thrilled to have UFC utilizing all of our offerings, from content to creative tools,” said Anmol Malhotra, Snap’s Head of Sports Partnerships. “We’re excited for UFC to join a wide range of sports leagues around the world in delivering Snapchatters the ultimate fan experience.”

Also available on the multimedia messaging app will be the series “UFC Pulse” and “UFC Embedded.” Episodes of UFC Pulse will be available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, showcasing fighter highlights and discussing upcoming fight cards. Additional content provided on the show will include a “Top Five” series covering the best submissions and knockouts from recent events and coverage of the official event weigh-ins. UFC Embedded will follow the same fight week behind-the-scenes format as the YouTube series of the same name.

“Snapchat is one of the world’s leading mobile storytelling platforms,” said David Shaw, UFC Senior Vice President of International and Content. “We’re thrilled to partner with them to engage with new and existing UFC fans alike and to help generate excitement for viewership of upcoming events.”

The partnership comes at a time when the UFC has drawn spectacular ratings in its last two events. UFC on ESPN 7, which took place on Dec. 7, scored a .46 in the key 18-49 viewer demographic, ranking No. 3 overall for cable programs. The event marked the highest-rated viewership for the promotion since UFC on ESPN 3 back in June, which, despite facing off against several NCAA football conference championship games, still managed to garner over 1 million total viewers. The UFC 245 prelims also did quite well, averaging 865,000 viewers and peaking at 1.2 million in the lead up to the end of the year pay-per-view. In fact, according to UFC officials, three of the top six programs on ESPN 2 since October have been UFC events.

Although the recent ratings have been great news for the promotion, the audience is still skewing older than the UFC would like. For the first quarter of this year, the median age of a UFC viewer was 43, with around 40 percent of the organization’s total audience being classified as millennial. While that is certainly better than what the promotion was averaging just a few years ago, it still falls out of the 18-34 demographic that advertisers covet so dearly. Given that a decade or so ago the UFC used to draw big numbers in that particular age range, the fact is that the company has been struggling to gain younger audience members despite its massive growth over the past several years.

The new partnership with Snapchat is a ploy to combat that problem. As reported by Snapchat, its social network app reaches 90 percent of all 13- to 24-year-olds and 75 percent of all 13- to 34-year-olds in the United States. Statistically, people under the age of 25 use Snapchat for 40 minutes on average every day, which is more than Instagram for the same demographic. Not only that, but in the U.S. 41 percent of teenagers say that Snapchat is their preferred social media platform over competitors such as Facebook and Twitter.

In striking a deal with Snapchat, the UFC hopes to build its younger audience by providing content through a delivery method they prefer. Whether it is unique filters that can only be accessed by attending a live event or an episodic series that shows exciting fight night highlights, the promotion hopes that in producing these offerings on platforms that are favored by younger viewers they will be able to convert a portion of them into new fans. Even if the majority of Snapchat users don’t end up joining the hardcore MMA fan base, simply increasing the UFC’s brand awareness with younger people will be a boon when crossover stars like Conor McGregor make their return to the Octagon.

This isn’t the first time the UFC and Snapchat have partnered up. In 2016, they reached a multi-year agreement. While that campaign wasn’t necessarily unsuccessful, the promotion was in a ratings spiral at the time and saw three of its biggest crossover stars—Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey—leave the sport indefinitely. Given the ratings increase since reaching a media rights deal with ESPN and the impending return of McGregor at UFC 246, now might be the best chance the UFC has at making an impression on a younger audience. Let's just hope they don’t take any cues from this promotion. Advertisement

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