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One Championship woos global brands with “there’s nothing more authentically Asian than MMA” claim

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By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

March 22, 2017 | 5 min read

One Championship, an Asia-based mixed martial arts media business, says it’s the ideal choice for global brands looking to connect with Asians because “there’s nothing more authentic” than MMA.

One Championship

One Championship woos global brands

On the week that One Championship hosted its ONE:Warrior Kingdom event in Thailand, The Drum spoke to founder Chatri Sityodtong about the plans for the business, including how it plans to continue to focus on its core Asian audience while courting international business.

As a media organisation, while MMA is an emerging global sport phenomenon, One Championship has already managed to amass significant scale in Asia. According to Sityodtong, it has one billion online viewers, it’s watched in over 118 countries and its TV coverage is some of the most watched sports events in key markets like the Philippines and Indonesia.

When being pressed on how he plans to grow this audience outside Asia, Sityodtong says more than 4 billion people in Asia is enough of an opportunity to ignore looking at international audiences.

“We have focused 100% of our efforts in Asia only. With 4bn out of 7bn of the whole world here, it’s enough for now. Our dream is to have 4bn fans in Asia watching every weekend. Audiences draw inspiration from MMA; the values of courage, humility, work ethic and discipline is something the world champions espouse. If you think about an expansion of global footprint, Asia’s greatest export is martial arts; our movie stars all happen to be martial artists.

“There is a massive opportunity and as the world has an insatiable appetite for martial arts but it’s better when it is authentically from Asia. In the 80s and 90s you had the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme, who never did as well as Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan because he was not as authentic. A Dutch guy doing it is very different to Bruce Lee. There is an opportunity to export content but we want to get deep in Asia and make sure brand activation is more 360 than any other sport property or genre,” he explains.

It’s a strategy that’s affording One Championship the ability to woo in global brands, such as Disney, Yahoo, Facebook, L’Oreal, Kawasaki and LG, with its claims of authenticity. It believes that by focusing solely on its, albeit large, audience in Asia, it is able to really understand them and help translate global brands in a more meaningful way.

“The reason why [the bands are involved] is international brands want exposure as authentic in Asia, and there is nothing more authentic than martial arts. It is a cultural treasure that dates back 5000 years and each country has its own that is home grown; in Japan it’s karate, in China it is kung fu and in Thailand it is Muay Thai,” he explains.

The deal with Disney, he said, involves the business launching its films for franchises such as Marvel on One Championship channels first in Asia.

A part of this is some of the classic stories that emerge from the games that resonate with people emotionally. He says in many countries the stars are household names, as people connect with the rags to riches path of many of the champions.

While the stories that emerge may be classic, and the sport itself is rooted in thousands of years of history, the One Championship has committed to evolving the experience for a modern audience. The event in Thailand featured performances by major pop artists and was not only sold out as a live event, but was watched on TV and streamed online. This also extends to brands, which Sityodtong says are activated on a “360” way through its four pillars of: live events, TV broadcast, social media and PR amplification.

“We want to be on all platforms and devices. The content is exciting and inspirational and relevant to each local country. All of this combined makes for a very attractive offering to brands,” he enthuses.

With many platforms blinded by global opportunity, but often sacrificing relevance in the process, perhaps One Championship’s commitment to its core audience will see it succeed.

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