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UFC 181 SPONSOR

Darren Heitner – December 04, 2014

Johny Hendricks Adds Unorthodox Sponsor Leading Up To UFC 181

When welterweight champion Johny Hendricks steps into the Octagon on Saturday for UFC 181, he will be showing off a new brand alongside his more traditional endorsements with Reebok, Bass Pro Shops and Dell-owned Alienware. The latest sponsor for Hendricks is Zak Products, which sells automotive performance products used by technicians and automotive service professionals. The relationship is only set to last for UFC 181 when Hendricks fights Robbie Lawler in a rematch of an earlier battle in 2014, but Hendricks’ agent says that there are plans to expand the partnership for future fights as well.

At first glance, it seems odd that an automotive performance brand would want to affiliate with a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter. Sponsoring motor sports makes more sense. In fact, Zak Products is an official sponsor of NASCAR and owns the “fuel additive” category attached to the sport.

Zak Products’ relationship with Hendricks will be its first association with the MMA world. It is one that Hendricks, a fan of NASCAR, and Vic Keller (Founder of Zak Products) appear to be excited about.

“We appreciate the UFC fan base and their hardcore following of the athletes,” said Keller. “Fighters seem to connect with their fans better than other professional athletes, so aligning with Johny Hendricks will help us tap into that strong fan base.”

Getting its first taste of sponsorship with the most prominent fighter attached to UFC 181 should leave a positive impression on Zak Products. Details concerning the partnership are limited; however, it will allow Zak Products to tap into Hendricks’ social media following in addition to having its logo placed on Hendricks’ apparel during the upcoming fight.

“MMA fighters seem to connect better with their fans compared to other professional athletes and in today’s digital world, many brands are utilizing social media strategy,” said Hendricks’ agent Oren Hodak. “Brands are interested in more then just fight night logo placement exposure. Outside of the cage elements are often just as valuable with the die hard fans following all of the online content.”

Hodak’s position on the value of fighters’ “outside of the cage elements” will likely be stressed even more by agents after the biggest UFC-related news of the week, which was the announcement of UFC’s six-year partnership with Reebok, a brand already tied to Hendricks. The deal makes Reebok the exclusive uniform supplier and commercial outfitter of UFC, somewhat limiting agents’ options when it comes to negotiating apparel arrangements for their represented fighters. Most apparel manufacturers will want their logos inside of the Octagon, which will no longer be a possibility due to the expansive Reebok agreement. For Hendricks, who already has a deal in place with Reebok, the news was nothing but pleasant.

“With this exciting new deal it is apparent that Reebok has seen incredible value from their initial taste of UFC surrounding our Johny Hendricks deal,” added Hodak, who owns the KOReps agency. “KOreps will continue to align our fighters with top brands outside of the cage. We have been an industry leader with non endemic sponsors for many years now.”

Hendricks’ full list of sponsors going into UFC 181 entails Reebok, Bass Pro Shops, Smart Stop Self Storage, San Nutrition, Alienware (owned by Dell), TRX, Training Mask, American Web Loan and Zak Products.

Darren Heitner is a lawyer and the Founder of South Florida based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C., which has a focus on Sports Law and Entertainment Law.

Follow @DarrenHeitner

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