TicketManager | Is This New Deal an Imprudent Partnership or a Free Ride?

Those of you who keep up with the daily news of the sports business likely saw a headline last week that ONE Championship, which bills itself as the world’s largest martial arts organization, signed a first-time sponsorship agreement with insurance company Prudential Singapore.

ONE’s announcement said the partnership will include teaming up with Prudential “to curate special experiences for ONE Championship fans with exclusive gifts and giveaways via social and digital channels, as well as in-person VIP experiences.”

While there is nothing out of the ordinary about that activation plan, what’s compelling about the sponsorship is the fact that despite being a deal between two Singapore-based organizations, it has potential global ramifications.

ONE has been growing at a tremendous pace and will bring its top-flight competition to the home turf of its major MMA competitors UFC, PFL and Bellator for the first time this year, staging its ONE Fight Night 10 card in Colorado in May. ONE signed a five-year media rights deal with Amazon Prime Video last April to stream at least 12 events live annually to fans in the U.S. and Canada. The promotion’s events are available in 150 countries in total.

Depending on the specifics of the agreement, it’s reasonable to assume that the Prudential brand will receive some exposure on ONE’s event broadcasts, not to mention on additional social and digital channels that will cross borders to all parts of the globe.

And that’s where things could get interesting. Prudential Singapore, one of the major life and health insurance companies in its homeland, is an “indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Prudential plc.” Prudential plc is a London-based holding company with insurance businesses across Asia and Africa.

In addition, as the parent company states on its corporate website, “Prudential plc is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc.” Well, except for the fact that they share the same name and industry.

How many North Americans who saw the announcement of the new sponsorship assumed this was the “Get a Piece of the Rock” Prudential? The Newark-based company with its name on the New Jersey Devils arena. Probably most of us. More importantly, how many more people will have that perception when they see the company name associated with ONE’s events and media, albeit Prudential plc’s logo is red, not blue, and makes no reference to the Rock of Gibraltar or any other promontory.

The real question becomes, is the confusion good or bad for the marketers at Prudential Financial? One could argue they are receiving a free sponsorship association with a popular property without lifting a finger or spending a cent.

But is it one that they want? Although their counterparts at Prudential Singapore see value in being an official partner of ONE, does MMA fit with the brand story that Prudential Financial wants to tell in its markets? It is not unreasonable to assume that a company that has built its reputation on safety and security might not have combat sports at the top of its potential partner list, but it’s also possible that taking a counter-intuitive approach could re-charge a staid brand among a younger consumer target.

While the nascent sponsorship raises many questions, one thing is clear: In our digital world, geographic distance no longer offers the protection it once did to any business sharing a name with another company, especially one in the same industry.