If you were teaching a course on Sports Economics, and had to choose two organizations that have impacted the culture most, landed once unthinkable TV deals, and beat the odds over the past forty years… UFC and NASCAR. Only these two. Maybe when Dr. James Naismith first tacked up a peach basket; when Abner Doubleday was placing three bases and a plate in a cow pasture, there might have been a groundswell of grass roots support telling all about basketball and baseball. But who knows for sure?
For sure, NASCAR in the 1970’s and 80’s and the UFC in the 2000’s launched two different (because of the omnipotent Internet factor), but amazingly successful grass roots campaigns extending far beyond their once accepted boundaries; roaring past and punching through stigmas and mockery; eventually being courted by major TV networks with multimillion dollar deals.
There are two things most people relate to, driving a car and fighting. It doesn’t mean any of us are proficient at either, but there is a thrill of opening up to 90 on the Interstate or recalling the playground moment of landing a blow or receiving one. They are action sports that have grown, surpassing much longer established sports, like horse racing and tennis in terms of audience.
In the book “Not Hit Yet,” released three years ago I recalled as a kid seeing the NASCAR superstars of the time, Tiny Lund, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty and Fireball Roberts driving their cars along the golden strand of Daytona Beach, stopping to get out and shake hands with old and young alike. It was something special, and people drove home to New Jersey or Michigan or somewhere North and East and passed along word, these guys are cool, this sport… well there might be something to it.
The UFC did the same decades later. Their fighters were accessible. Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, you could walk right up to them at the Expo, or maybe even outside the arena. These guys weren’t “human cockfight fighters,” they were smart, witty and friendly. Big guys who could beat up anyone in the room, were really nice outside the cage. The word spread and with social media, it was light years faster than what NASCAR had in its favor.
Tate has an innate instinct for public relations, with magazine articles and TV appearances outside of the standard fight fare. She is a perfect signee for Harvick, who himself is a crossover draw for those not so avid car fans. She calls it the “best thing I’ve done in my career.” That might be true in another savvy step to promote her career and what extends past it. Tate is still at the top of her game, and all the while effortlessly moving in circles outside the octagon. Harvick said his wife pushed for the signing of Tate to reach a “younger demographic.” Something that has dwindled from NASCAR, but soars in MMA.
Tate along with the already inked Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone give Harvick’s company two solid cornerstones to build in another direction, a new fan group for KHI. Another linking of the UFC and NASCAR brands.
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