UFC Fight week is going on in Vegas this week and the entire city is overrun by the MMA faithful. As a part of the festivities, the Fan Expo is going on at the Mandalay Bay convention center, where sponsors, athletes, and various celebrities from sports and entertainment are all celebrating together. While the Daytona races are delayed by poor weather, those fans of both sports who had to choose between the races and the UFC event may have found solace in the sight of a NASCAR car on the convention floor highlighting a partnership between the two sports.
The No. 3 car of Austin Dillon, sporting the American Ethanol paint scheme is sitting right beside Luke Rockhold hanging out with the fans. The company sponsors an entire fight team in addition to their NASCAR sponsorship including Rockhold, Kelvin Gastelum, Stipe Miocic, Ryan Bader, Rashad Evans, Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann, and Gian Villante. All of the fighters on the team are making appearances over the weekend at the booth. While on the surface a strange combination, both the UFC and NASCAR have such highly symbiotic relationships with the sponsors that it is actually an intuitive match. Given the success of the athletes involved, and the ability to create a highly visible brand, it is a smart one as well.
American Ethanol is a product of a company called Growth Energy. Bryce Jones, Director of Sales and Membership, said that he felt the Austin Dillon partnership was a natural choice given the product. He was enthusiastic about the result, saying that the validation from NASCAR had been a great boost for them. He also commented on the passion and loyalty of the fans in both sports. Given the nature of promotions and marketing in these sports as opposed to other professional leagues, particularly with the ability to present prominent marketing providing immediate association with products or services, this may be a trend in the making. While Growth Energy is not the first to take advantage of the marketing machines associated with these sports, they have done a good job of choosing athletes who can give them immediate access to large numbers of those passionate fans.
With Dillon taking up the mantle of the No. 3 car, all eyes are on him this year. The American Ethanol paint scheme will be featured at a total of eight times this season, and both sides appear happy with the partnership. The UFC Fan Expo and the entire week of events surrounding fight week in Vegas are providing a massive stage for the brand which may begin to make other companies consider a similar approach. NASCAR has, since the very beginning, has grown using an unabashedly sponsor-oriented approach. Every square inch of real estate on cars, fire suits, hats and tracks is covered with marketing. The victory lane hat ceremony where pictures of the race winner in the hat of every sponsor is just one example of how the sport’s traditions have become intricately entwined with the promotion of the companies supporting the athletes. The UFC has grown exponentially using a similar approach which gives prominence to those sponsors. The success and attendance at events like Fight Week are testament to the success of that approach. Companies like Growth Energy who have chosen to take advantage of that with relationships in both sports may well find they have captured the golden goose.
Commentary By Jim Malone