Monster vs. UFC – where is the line?

Former advertising executive, Glenn Hall, has called on Monster Australia to step up and take responsibility for the "questionable" advertising deal between the global brand and the UFC.

In 2023, the UFC, one of the most popular sports businesses globally, continues to go from strength to strength, with a portfolio of 46 brand sponsors holding global or US rights.

Monster Energy Drink has been a UFC sponsor for approximately a decade as the official global energy drink sponsor. In 2021, Monster expanded its sponsorship to include the “Official Water of the UFC,” raising questions about the advertiser’s responsibilities in markets where Monster H2O products are not available, given the brand is known solely as an energy drink in these markets.

The recent Strickland vs. Costa fight at UFC 302 this past weekend highlighted this issue. When fighters returned to their corners, they were given drinks from Monster-branded water bottles, which is very confusing and quite misleading for audiences in regions like Australia, where Monster is only known as an energy drink brand.

We can’t have Aussie kids watching elite UFC fighters drink Monster Energy Drink water when they don’t know that the water product exists. To our kids, the fighters are drinking Monster Energy Drink, period. The extended ranging in the USA is irrelevant when it comes to the standards we have in place in Australia and the rules around advertising energy drinks to minors. Global deals must consider market sensitivities, particularly when Australia is a top five market for the TKO brand.

The Australian Beverages Council are committed to responsible marketing and advertising that promotes the responsible consumption of non-alcoholic beverages, aligning with the Australian dietary guidelines and not misrepresenting health benefits. It’s questionable if the image of an elite UFC fighter drinking from a Monster Energy Drink branded water bottle aligns with the standards set for Australia.

Considering millennials are the UFC’s target demographic, there is certainly an argument that Monster “Australia” should be both responsible and accountable for compliance with the advertising standards set by the Australian Beverages Council.

The UFC/Monster partnership raises questions around advertiser responsibilities when international deals are broadcasted locally. Do the rules go out the window, or does the Australian brand have to step up, and take accountability for all brand advertising in the country?


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