UFC re-ups with Bud Light, hitting New Orleans in September

Steve Cofield

The benchmark sponsor for MMA is back on board with the UFC. Dana White points to big fights, like Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar, as a turning point in the company's history, but he'll also tell you that the day back in 2008 when Anheiser-Busch puts its dollars and marketing behind the promotion just before UFC 82, changed everything in the most important areas -advertising potential and the sport's perception in the business world. The companies have extended and expanded their relationship with multi-year deal announced today.

"Bud Light's sponsorship deal with us a few years ago was a milestone for our organization and the sport," White said.  "We couldn't be more excited about working with Bud Light and continuing our strong relationship."

Major sponsor may seem commonplace now, but in 2007 getting the nod from Bud Light was huge.

"I still don't think we're mainstream, but this is huge -- every year we've taken it to another level," said White.

White said that A-B will aid in event marketing and that the deal gives UFC "more power in garnering television deals by bringing the major sponsor with them to the table." Bud Light joins Harley Davidson as the company's "major blue-chip sponsors" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28). CNBC's Darren Rovell wrote the deal "is huge." Rovell: "For all that UFC was -- the pay-per-view dollars and the merchandising -- it wasn't for blue chip brands. Well, that's not the case anymore" (CNBC.com, 2/28).

The new deal with Bud Light includes upping the featured sponsorship of events from two to four pay-per-views each year.

Bud Light is also going to help present one special event each year. In 2011, the UFC will hold a Spike TV card in New Orleans on Sept. 17. The UFC announced a special promotion in conjunction with the event:{ysp:more}

Bud Light is extending the New Orleans event beyond the fight night with the "Battle on the Bayou" national sweepstakes*, a three-day, two-night UFC fan experience in the Big Easy — complete with weigh-ins downtown, an exclusive concert and meet-and-greets with UFC personalities.  Beginning May 2, fans 21 and older can enter to a win a trip for two to the "Battle on the Bayou" online at www.Facebook.com/BudLight or through UFC-branded Snap Tags on Bud Light point-of-sale materials.

Mark Wright with Anheiser-Busch is fired up about the partnership on these new fan experiences:

"Bud Light's first three years with the UFC have focused largely on growing awareness and viewership of the sport at bars, restaurants and all the other places Bud Light is sold across the country," said Wright, vice president of media, sports & entertainment marketing, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.  "Having brought the UFC to more people, we want to start bringing more people to the UFC by creating exclusive fan experiences only Bud Light and the UFC can deliver.  'Battle on the Bayou' is a first and unprecedented step in that direction."

Along with tons of Bud Light brand placement before, during and after UFC events, the company is  releasing a limited edition UFC aluminum bottle.