THE YOUTUBE SUCCESS OF THE UFC
Making MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) the greatest sport in the world. That has been the goal of UFC president Dana White since he bought the UFC together with Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought in 2001 for $2 million. Very ambitious since the sport was small and controversial. The sport was banned in New York State and the UFC was on the doorstep of bankruptcy. The three owners have built the organization for 20 years and in 2016 it was sold for $4 billion.
VIEWS ON YOUTUBE THE LAST 3 YEARS
WHAT MAKES THE YOUTUBE SUCCESS OF UFC?
#1 CONTENT: LONG, LONGER, LONGST
Consistent and regular uploading is one of the most important factors for a successful YouTube channel. With 3-4 uploads on YouTube per day, the UFC is incredibly strong at this. It is notable that the UFC channel not only uploads 3-4 times but that these are often longer videos. As we at Team5pm always point out, longer content works better on YouTube. Longer videos generate more watch time and are recommended more often by the algorithm. This is perfectly reflected with the UFC channel.
UFC VIEWS PER VIDEO
Videos between 15 and 20 minutes in length generate the most views per video. Remarkably, videos longer than 20 minutes also garner a significant share of views. But how does the UFC manage to consistently publish, mostly longer videos per day, which are of enough high quality so that they generate that many views? In other words, what kind of content does the channel actually create?
#2 FIGHT: BUILD-UP, ACTION AND AFTERMATH
The UFC, of course, is all about the mixed martial arts fights they host around the world, with an emphasis on the champion fights in the various weight classes. These events can be watched through a “pay per view” system, so they can’t just be watched for free on YouTube for example. But to promote these fights, the UFC does use the popular YouTube platform for everything surrounding the build-up and aftermath of the event.
For example, press conferences and weigh-in moments before the fights are always livestreamed and then posted in full on the channel. These 40-minute to an hour-long streams are watched well, but on top of that the UFC always publishes separate 5-10 minute videos about the highlights of these livestreams afterwards. The aftermath of the fights can also be seen on the YouTube channel. This aftermath is being shown through interviews with the athletes in the ring immediately after the fight and more extensive “post-fight pressers“.
Although the UFC does a good job at protecting live event broadcasts or “UFC Cards,” that doesn’t mean there aren’t fights to watch on the channel. When a big fight is coming up, older fights of the athletes involved are posted in full. In addition, the channel regularly publishes compilations and ‘listicles’ of highlights within the sport. These listicles belong to the most successful videos on the channel. Think of the “Top 20 knockouts in UFC history” (127 million views) and “top finishes” of specific fighters. Examples are Top Finishes: Conor Mcgregor (34 million views) and Top Finishes: Khabib Nurmagomedov (21 million views). The success of these videos shows the power of listicles on YouTube. However, what the UFC realizes very well is that it’s not just about the action inside the “octagon”. The stories behind the action are just as important.
#3 THE STORIES BEHIND THE FIGHTS
The success of the UFC comes in large part from the star athletes who manage to grab the attention of the public not only inside the ring, but also outside. A fight is only really interesting when you have the feeling of knowing the athletes. Who they are and where they come from. To create this effect, the UFC channel publishes various formats, including ‘UFC embedded’ where a week before the event a daily vlog is posted with a look behind the scenes at the preparation of the athletes.
In addition, for larger events, the YouTube channel also publishes ‘UFC Countdown’ videos. These are longer documentaries with a very high production value, which dive deeper into the background of the two athletes and their preparation for the fight. Here viewers get to know the athletes better and we get an insight in both the highs and lows of their lives. These videos are often 40 minutes long and are posted on YouTube as well as broadcasted on television.
#4 STRONG THUMBNAILS
Publishing long, high-quality videos is important but they also need to be clicked on. For this, strong thumbnails are very important. Many standard elements of a good thumbnail are not a problem for a martial arts organization like the UFC. The thumbnails are bursting with action, movement, close-ups of faces and lots of emotion. The many different formats that the UFC publishes all have their own style and clear text. This way you can immediately see if it is a press conference, promotional trailer, UFC embedded, free fight etc.
#5 GLOBAL NETWORK
The UFC as an American organization not only has the ambition to make MMA the greatest sport in America, but the greatest sport in the world. To achieve this, the UFC organizes events all over the world and promotes athletes from many different countries. But it is also reflected in its YouTube strategy. In addition to the primary channel, the UFC has specified several channels by country. These are for example ‘UFC Russia’, ‘UFC Brazil’ and ‘UFC Japan’. In the Netherlands, the UFC has an agreement with Veronica which has resulted in the YouTube channel Veronica Fight and live broadcasts of the events on Kijk.nl.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER ON THE UFC YOUTUBE CHANNEL?
THE INTEGRATION OF THE HELP LAYER
The Hero-Hub-Help (or Hygiene) model was developed by YouTube as a blueprint for a good YouTube strategy. Within the UFC channel, we see Hub and Hero videos a lot but there is still room for a Help layer with ‘how to’ videos on techniques within the sport. Many people who follow their favorite club in the premier league also like to kick a ball around. The same goes for tennis, baseball and most other sports. A great opportunity for the UFC channel is to also start making help videos where various mixed martial arts techniques are explained and demonstrated. These how to videos can capitalize on techniques used by popular athletes in recent events. In this way, MMA and martial arts fans can visit the channel not only for entertainment but also for improving their own athletic performance.
WANT TO LEARN FROM OTHER SUCCESSFUL BRANDS ON YOUTUBE?
Did you like the insights we’ve shared? Great! If you want to keep on learning from brands who exceeded on YouTube, then you should read our blog on Red Bull. Besides being a market leader in energy drink production, Red Bull also dominates the YouTube charts. Despite comparable strategies of competitors like Monster Energy, Red Bull still remains first on YouTube with five times as many views. How come? We deduct Red Bull’s YouTube secret. Read more about the success of Red Bull here.