Strikeforce MMA was the second leading player in the mixed martial arts industry in early 2009 when I was retained by the co-owners, Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment (now Sharks Sports & Entertainment) and founder Scott Coker (pictured below), to take on an interim Chief Marketing Officer role and sit on the Executive Committee that met weekly defining the direction and growth strategy of the company. Given my general, marketing and sales management experience at senior levels in industry and the sports world, this is a role that I am suited for, having also effectively served in this manner for a number of early stage technology companies at the behest of investors, VCs and/or CEOs.
Mixed martial arts is the first event-driven sport built through internet-housed media/commentary and free cable reality programming. It is clear that Strikeforce’s dominant competitor, Ultimate Fighting Championship, knows and leverages these success elements very well, using them to fuel demand for its lucrative pay-per-view business. UFC was an aggressive, pervasive and no-holds-barred influence in the blogosphere and all forms of social media, shaping commentator and fan opinion about the industry, the competing promoter companies and their stables of talented fighters. Their CEO, Dana White, a magnet for media attention, is one of the world’s most prominently followed Twitter practitioners.
While Strikeforce’s Scott Coker was building an enviable stable of respected and captivating men and women fighters, some of whom could stand up well to their more highly publicized UFC counterparts, Strikeforce marketing was also stoking the constructive coals of competition on the web. I recruited a young web and MMA savvy web site designer that led to investing in a video rich and interactive web site upgrade and directed a national search for a social media-conscious PR firm that led to retaining the political PR powerhouse firm headed by Joe Trippi, whose staff taught us the ways of the social media battlefield.
Eventually, in March 2011, UFC acquired Strikeforce in a transaction that financially served all ownership parties well. Many factors made Strikeforce appealing to UFC, including the fact the price would be a good bit higher a year later. But the value of Strikeforce, in addition to providing UFC with a ready-made source of talent for its increasingly global event appetite, can be attributed to the increasingly strong and positive voice Strikeforce established among commentators and fans in social media and the blogosphere.