MMA Olympics Sponsorship sportsbiz

“We are turning our focus to enhancing the GAMMA brand in the Olympic tournament format”

June 18, 2024

In a free-flowing conversation with iSportConnect’s Taruka Srivastav, Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) President Alexander Engelhardt highlights the organisation’s unique approach to prioritize athlete development and safety over entertainment, recent partnerships and and various opportunities for sponsorship and growth.

Tell us about the current strategy and vision and mission for GAMMA.

GAMMA’s vision is to take mixed martial arts to the next level, positioning it as a leader in combat sports globally. We aspire not only for recognition from the Olympic movement but to grow MMA, with all its social and community benefits, as a force for good at a local level worldwide. We strive to foster a culture of principled sportsmanship rooted in the Olympic values, as well as the spiritual values of traditional martial arts that include humility, discipline and respect.

To achieve our strategic vision, demonstrating competency to govern and uphold integrity standards to the highest level are non-negotiable. But beyond this, we aspire to lead by example, setting new benchmarks in MMA, and through innovation and collaboration earn the trust and respect of the international sports community.

To its core GAMMA is athlete and community centred, and we are mindful that as we expand, we must continue to cherish our values and let them guide us. To reach our international goals, the work we conduct regionally will be the main driver, strengthening and assisting our national federations in their development from the local level through strong continental confederations up to the international, always working from the ground up.

What are you expecting from Paris 2024 this year?

The embracing of new disciplines in Paris, such as breaking, skateboarding and surfing are positive indicators of the IOC’s appetite to reflect the tastes of younger audiences and showcase sports that translate well to digital short form. This shift opens the door to the possible future inclusion of mixed martial arts, as a young, dynamic and visceral sport that grew over the internet and has demonstrated exponential growth and audience pull since its birth the early 90s. MMA particularly appeals to younger generations, not just on a fan level but more importantly on a participatory level, and its popularity shows no signs of abating.

What is your (commercial / digital / marketing / content) strategy and what are the main challenges?

The focus to date (since GAMMA’s founding in 2019 just before COVID), has been on building the organisation and foundations of the amateur sport, without which there can be no product. Now we are turning our focus to enhancing the GAMMA brand, its visibility and communicating the appeal of GAMMA MMA in the Olympic tournament format. From there, we will proactively seek to commercialise in the next phase, through the typical mediums of hosting rights fees, broadcast and digital and commercial partnerships, but of course, are open to partnership conversations now.

Apart from evolving a sport that has already demonstrated its vast commercial potential at the pro end, what GAMMA offers is a power network that reaches the highest levels of government in many countries. Being a sport rather than sport entertainment product, it has vaster potential in terms of its participatory draw and community and social engagement. Youth participation brings in parents and family and in viewers of sports from outside MMA’s hardcore fan space. But in terms of traditional sport revenue streams, the fact that we own all our content outright, and that we are a young and flexible organisation, presents untold medium- and longer-term opportunities for commercial partners who engage with us early.

One of GAMMA’s main challenges is the overcoming of negative perceptions of MMA. However, there has been a shift culturally and legally in recent years, which our recent transition from a ring to the fenced ‘MMA Arena’ reflects. There is also of course, and quite naturally, a lot of competition for space within the Olympic canon. However, we believe that MMA would be asset to the movement on so many levels. Ultimately, though, recognition is about so much more than Games inclusion – it would enable the effective safeguarding and governance of the sport worldwide and expand access to its benefits.

Who are your delivery partners and what is the scope of the collaboration?

We have benefitted from generous core sponsorship from ONE Championship and other private donors that has increased this year, showing their belief in the progress that we are making. This has afforded us the opportunity to firstly evolve the organisation and lay a solid foundation from which we can now develop commercial opportunities. We have been fortunate in the independence granted to us by our funders, who are motivated by philanthropy and corporate social responsibility for the broader sport. GAMMA recently partnered with Johan Cruyff Institute and the vision is to establish a clear and comprehensive educational pathway that meets the diverse needs of MMA participants, fostering personal and professional progression while actively enabling participation at all levels of the sport.

What are the expansion plans?

We have 73 formally registered members and expect to have 100 by the year end. Our current main expansion is through the National Federations and spearheading their development through education, access to equipment and resources, growth of the international competition platform and helping them to increase their financial opportunities. In this way we are growing our foundation, capabilities and scope for commercialisation. Increased funding in 2024 is enabling our investment now into brand and communications that will raise GAMMA’s profile, appeal and commercial viability. We are open to talking with any parties who are interested in collaborating with us on GAMMA’s journey and who share our values and love of sport.

MMA Olympics Sponsorship sportsbiz