EA Sports Highlights Female Fighters in Online Ads for UFC

'Rowdy' Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate Star in Ads Alongside Male MMA Fighters

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Miesha Tate as rendered by EA Sports' UFC game.
Miesha Tate as rendered by EA Sports' UFC game.

EA Sports will showcase female UFC fighters "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in digital ads for the new EA Sports UFC video game that hit stores yesterday.

This will be the first time EA Sports has featured female fighters in a mixed martial arts game, according to Jeff Sharma, senior global product manager. But women's MMA has been growing fast in popularity, he noted.

Ms. Rousey, the UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, has scored endorsements from sponsors such as XYIENCE Xenergy drink. Both Ms. Tate and Ms. Rousey have appeared in ESPN The Magazine's "Body" issue. The two rivals don't like each other, clashing repeatedly in the Octagon and on Fox Sports 1's reality series, "The Ultimate Fighter", last fall.

EA Sports acquired the UFC license from THQ in 2012 and has spent two years developing the title for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The female fighters' video likenesses will appear in U.S. ads along with UFC Light Heavyweight champion (and cover athlete) Jon "Bones" Jones, UFC legend Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell and the late Bruce Lee.

The strategy of adding female fighters such as Ms. Rousey and Ms. Tate to both the game itself and the campaign is a "differentiator between us and the other companies that had the license before," said Mr. Sharma. "From a marketing perspective, we try to tie in to the tidal wave of promotion the UFC creates around big events. When Miesha and Ronda were the coaches on TUF, that was the perfect time to announce female fighters were in the game. Because the UFC was already promoting those two -- and their rivalry."

Ad agency Heat, San Francisco is creating the digital ads starring Ms. Rousey, Ms. Tate and the other fighters. Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, is handling media planning and buying.

The female fighters, however, will not be seen in the TV ad promoting the game. Also from Heat, the spot features Mr. Lee, Mr. Liddell and other male fighters going at. "Step into the Octagon. And get ready to feel the fight," says the voiceover. And only male fighters will appear in ads for overseas markets like Europe, where women's MMA hasn't taken off yet.

During a live event promoting the game's rollout in Times Square, the 27-year old Ms. Tate predicted women's MMA is here to stay.

"The fans are excited that women are in the game. It's a huge milestone for women in the sport -- to be included in the sport right alongside the guys," said Ms. Tate, who was named "most beautiful woman in MMA" by Fitness Gurls magazine.

The UFC's privately-held parent company Zuffa doesn't release financial numbers. But Bloomberg estimated the world's biggest MMA promoter reaps over $500 million a year in revenue.

Derided as "human cockfighting" by Senator John McCain 20 years ago, MMA has become a mainstream U.S. sport along with football, baseball, basketball, hockey and auto racing.

President Dana White cleaned up and and rebranded the UFC as an edgy vehicle for Madison Avenue to connect with hard-to-reach young men and 18-34 year old consumers. The UFC now attracts blue-chip sponsors such as Bud Light and Harley-Davidson.

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