In its seventh year since the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) opened its office in China, the premier Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) league staged its first ever event in China this year and enjoyed surprisingly marvelous results.
Taking place on November 25 in Shanghai, the UFC Shanghai event brought together 15,128 spectators around the Octagon, set up in the Mercedes-Benz Arena, making this event the largest MMA event held in China. Reportedly, Shanghai is one of the UFC’s 10 newly-developed markets and this Shanghai event has become the UFC’s 6th sell-out event in 2017.
These facts not only inspires the UFC, but also the sponsors of this Shanghai event, including one of the newcomers to the UFC’s sponsor roster, AirAsia. As a Malaysian low-cost airline headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, AirAsia hope to find new opportunities and potential customers in China and around the world.
Reportedly, AirAsia is the first airline sponsor of the UFC. In order to know more about the airline’s sponsorship deal with the UFC, we talked with the President of AirAsia China, Chen Kailin.
According to Chen, one of the reasons why the 16-year-old budget airline sponsored the UFC Shanghai event is to draw young people’s attention to its brand, as young people are always parts of the potential customers of a budget airline. Chen stated that there were many inspiring stories behind UFC winners which could be an inspiration to young people. On the other hand, to raise AirAsia’s profile in the Chinese market is also an important goal for the airline.
Following the agreement of their sponsorship deal with the UFC, AirAsia carried out a series of online competitions on its social media platforms, aimed at catering to young people’s enthusiasm for social media. Winners of those competitions were rewarded with tickets to the UFC Shanghai event’s official weigh-ins and main card.
During the UFC Shanghai event, AirAsia set up an experience zone in the Mercedes Benz Arena, where the event was taking place in Shanghai. In the zone, fans could find virtual reality devices to experience this technology. The entertainment campaigns in the experience zone also included a photography booth for fans to take some funny photos via a 180-degree camera.
Outside the arena, AirAsia have also worked with the UFC to launch a scholarship project for Asian MMA fighters. Reportedly, the two parties will select an young elite Asian fighter and send him or her to the UFC Training Center to receive further professional training and help them to step onto the global stage.
However, the partnership between AirAsia and the UFC did not stop after the ending of the UFC Shanghai event. On the contrary, AirAsia will continue to offer more opportunities for Chinese UFC fans to go abroad to attend other UFC events taking place in other countries, which has also been confirmed by another representative from AirAsia.
Based on the partnership with the UFC, the largest MMA promoter in the world with a huge fan base around the world, AirAsia expects to get more people to notice and understand its brand. However, the airline have also been considering other things it can do through leveraging this partnership. According to Chen, AirAsia hopes to launch a new route to Las Vegas, where the UFC is headquartered.
In fact, this partnership with the UFC is just a part of AirAsia’s sports marketing strategy. In recent years, AirAsia has stepped into other countries including the UK and Southeast Asia. According to Chen, through AirAsia partnerships with Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers’ youth academies, the airline welcomed more new European passengers than ever before.
In terms of sports events AirAsia has become involved with marathon races, cycling races, basketball leagues and some yoga activities alongside MMA events. Additionally, the former F1 team Lotus F1 Team was once on AirAsia’s sponsorship roster.
Similar to what many brands do nowadays, AirAsia also sees young people as one of its target groups and has been trying to attract them to become its future customers. For AirAsia, sports marketing is a good way to go about achieving this goal and the UFC is an important resource to be leveraged.
Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick