FYI 03.13.08

A-B, TapouT Enter Ring With Spike's 'Ultimate Fighter'

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Two new brands have joined the ring for Spike TV's seventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which premieres April 2 at 10 p.m. EST. Anheuser-Busch was the first to sign on two weeks ago by joining Coors as an integrated beer sponsor. The beer marketer has plans to plug Bud Light during commercials, and in May, in-game via signage on the Ultimate Fighter ring floor. Now sports outfitter TapouT has been named the fighting series' first exclusive apparel sponsor.

TapouT will get ring and wall signage in the Ultimate Fighting Championship Training Center, as well as commercials to run throughout the "Ultimate Fighter" season and its 13-episode counterpart series, "UFC Unleashed." Jeff Lucas, exec VP-ad sales for MTV entertainment networks, said the TapouT deal was a natural fit for the network, particularly because the apparel brand has already been outfitting several of the fighters in previous seasons. "Having their brand associated on-air into the 'Ultimate Fighter' series is the next step in more of a development of the overall partnership," he said.

The increased advertiser interest in the series is a testament to both its ratings (Spike estimates the first six seasons were collectively viewed by 101.1 million viewers during their duration) as well as its overall brand recognition. Mr. Lucas pointed to a recent endorsement deal UFC fighter Rampage Jackson signed with Nike as a direct result of this new awareness.

"It delivers a very young male audience. And if you want to reach them it's hard to find places to get them and UFC is at the forefront," Mr. Lucas said. "It's been a great year in terms of advertiser recognition." -- Andrew Hampp
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