The Bellator Fighting Championships played it close to the vest as its seventh season came to a close in 2012, withholding several marquee matchups in anticipation of its long-awaited debut on Spike.
Tonight, as the Chicago-based promotion makes its first official foray on the network with a card that includes a pair of title fights, it is clear why Bjorn Rebney and Co. wanted to save their best for 2013. According to Forbes.com, some 50 sponsors are on board for Bellator’s upcoming, 12-week Season 8 offering, including more than a few household names:
The first Bellator MMA event on Spike TV is sponsored by Dave & Busters, Relativity Media’s “Movie 43,” and Everlast. Further, Dave & Busters, Direct TV, Paramount, Jos. A Bank, and the US Navy, among others have signed on as sponsors for the full 12-week season. Miller Lite recently became the official beer sponsor for 2013. Additionally, over 50 advertisers that were with Spike TV when it broadcast UFC have bought into Bellator MMA on Spike TV, and cage signage (mats and posts) are nearly sold out for the upcoming season.
Pretty heady stuff for an organization that was pandering to the “Hip Hop Squares” audience on MTV2 just a few weeks ago. Already it appears that the move to Spike, which helped launch mixed martial arts to new heights by pairing with the UFC to produce “The Ultimate Fighter,” is paying dividends.
“To be able to go to a beer partner and say ‘you can really own this space nationally, on the mat, from an activation perspective and you can be exclusively associated with it in the mind of consumers’ – you don’t see that level of exclusivity in other sports across the U.S.,” Rebney told Forbes.com. ”Further, we have a television partner in Spike TV that understands how to market, promote, publicize and advertise, and understands the super consumer. Spike is really responsible for making MMA from a niche sport to a general sport.”
If only Spike could wield that influence to convince the promotion to do away with its heavyweight division.