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organic video views in 2022


live martial arts events in 2023

We talked to:
Jane Guo photo

Jane Guo

Vice President, Head of Analytics & Insights at ONE Championship

The challenge

Understanding their US audience to break into the American market

US interest in emerging sports is rising – and our data proves it. Emerging sports, especially combat sports, have seen a 20% rise in engagement since Q4 2020 in the US. And when it comes to martial arts, there’s been a 32% increase in US sports fans who watch, follow or have an interest in it since Q2 2022.

Having already established a leading brand across the globe with over 84 billion video views globally since 2016, ONE knew there was more they could do, and they knew the opportunity and the audience existed in the US market.

But they also knew it was the world’s largest and most sophisticated sports market. In order to not only drive substantial growth in the US market, but really resonate with fans there, they needed to do two things:

  • First – understand exactly how their brand was perceived, what made these people tick, and how they could satisfy their needs
  • Second – find the perfect partner that would help them drive real fan commitment and not just passive awareness
“We've always known there was a passionate group of combat sports fans in the US. Year-on-year, we could see our metrics increasing organically there, and we knew there was a growing fan base. It was really about finding the right partner to take it to the next level in terms of scale.”

ONE knew if they could really nail that first step, the second would be far more achievable. So the challenge was simple: uncover everything they needed to know about these fans and perceptions about their brand – which is where GWI came in.

“We needed to really understand our viewers and potential viewers in the US so we could tailor our product, and the product experience, to satisfy them.”

The action

Combining custom brand tracking with on-demand data

To tackle the challenge, ONE decided to run a bi-annual brand health tracker to find out what parts of the brand these fans liked, what parts they disliked, and how these sentiments were moving over time.

As a truly data-led organization, ONE leverages a whole suite of data day in and day out (both in-house and third party) and synthesizes data from these sources to get a clear view of their audiences from every perspective.

“We needed this to be a long-term tracking study so we could monitor brand awareness and affinity ups and downs in a competitive landscape, and explain the why behind any movement. So there had to be a lot of consistency in the questions we asked and the brand metrics we measured and reported against, enabling us to tailor experiences to our audience’s specific appetites.”

The result

Unique US positioning and strong audience approval

ONE’s brand tracker study with GWI helped them both validate their hunches and uncover some surprising truths. These insights proved they were perfectly placed to work with brand partners looking to connect with a unique and passionate audience in a compelling way.

Here’s what the data showed:

  • Overall martial arts viewership is growing in the US, but crucially, ONE’s share of that viewership is growing, and their fans are much more engaged and discerning.
  • ONE’s US audience grew 46% over a six-month period (between December 2022 and May 2023).
  • On average, ONE viewers spend more time watching martial arts compared to non-ONE viewers (4.9 hours versus 2.7 hours weekly).
  • 63% of 18-29 year-old viewers say they “extremely like” ONE, making them the most-liked martial arts/MMA organization among younger demographics.
  • 45% believe ONE “prioritizes athlete health and safety” compared to just 35% for the UFC.
  • 48% find “inspiration” from ONE. Younger sports audiences expect more than just a great match; they demand a responsible, forward-thinking organization that gives value back to the world.
  • ONE viewers discuss on online forums (+30%) and bet on martial arts matches (+22%), vs. non-viewers – another indication that ONE is resonating with younger audiences who consume sports differently to older audiences.

“Our content naturally resonates super well with millennials and Gen Zs – the data showed our brand affinity was actually the highest compared to our peers, which was very reassuring to see.”

With ONE’s very human mission squarely focused on inspiring people and championing martial arts values – a key differentiator versus other combat sports organizations – the study also validated their assumptions that fans truly saw them as such, and understood what they were all about.

“This study proves our fans really understand what our brand represents: it's about respect, sportsmanship, diversity... people get it. These insights help our teams continuously think about ways to hone ONE’s brand proposition in our content production.”

Here’s what ONE did with these insights:

Equipped with this knowledge, along with the ability to dive deeper into the GWI platform for a more detailed look, the ONE team could make a clear and compelling case for partnering with them – and they knew exactly who that ideal partner was: Amazon.

Visionaries who were passionate about taking the sports viewing experience to new heights, Prime Video perfectly aligned with ONE’s ambition.

Approaching Prime Video with intel that proved ONE fans were far more engaged than most, they successfully won the partnership. The two have now set out to optimize the live event viewing experience on Prime Video together.

“Amazon is probably one of the most data-driven companies in the world. So this data, and our insights team, have played a crucial role in this partnership from the very beginning.”

Hosting a sold-out US debut event in May, ONE was able to elevate Muay Thai to a global stage.
“Our first on-ground event in Denver was a smashing success – what surprised me a little was that around 50% of fans traveled from out of town to attend our event. They’re also so knowledgeable about our athletes and the various disciplines we host. They just understand the brand so well. That gave us a big boost of confidence that we not only have the right to play in the US, we also have a great opportunity to win that market as well.”
Their unique positioning in the American market undoubtedly led to ONE’s US audience growing 46% over a six-month period.

“The US is definitely going to be one of our key markets in the next few years. We’re going to continue tracking, measuring, and listening to our fans – to the combat sports community on the ground – really shaping our product around their needs and giving them a very differentiated, refreshing viewing experience.”

Continuing their efforts, with a real sense of pride around how they’ve grown to harness the power of data, Jane and the ONE team have no intention of slowing down.

“Data and insights are at the core of our strategy. It’s definitely a differentiator for us compared to other sports organizations; our creatives are world-class and very good at what they do. When the art meets the science – that’s when magic happens.”

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