“We are building real life superheroes. Superman, Wonder Woman, they’re fictitious characters that we love to watch. But what ONE Championship has done was to create a platform for real life superheroes to inspire the world, to inspire future generations through martial arts,” Tate told an audience of young startup founders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists from across the region.
Launched in July 2011, ONE Championship is a Singapore-based mixed martial arts (MMA), Muay Thai, kickboxing, boxing, and grappling promotion company. In a span of 8 years, as of November 2018, the company has risen to become Asia’s largest global sports media property, and the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Currently, ONE Championship broadcasts to 136 countries with a potential viewership of 1.7 billion.
Local heroes highlighted
While the company now caters to a global audience, for Tate, their biggest achievement was to create local heroes. Such heroes inspire audiences across the world, but more importantly, ensures continued local viewership.
One such hero is Eduard Folayang, a Filipino mixed martial arts and wushu practitioner, and a two-time ONE Lightweight Champion. A former high school teacher from the Mountain Province, the Baguio native made his combat debut on June 17, 2010.
Coming from a poor family, Folayang saw combat sports as a way out of poverty.
“At that time, martial arts already greatly impacted his life. But I don’t think he understood that it was going to continue and to what magnitude until he began fighting at ONE Championship, particularly on the day he stepped into the ring against Shinya Aoki,” Tate noted.
She added: “That night, Eduard Folayang, despite being the underdog, became a world champion. He beat Aoki with a TKO victory.”
Perhaps, the greatest championship night in the company’s history was the bout between Myanmar’s Aung La Nsang and Russian Vitaly Bigdash. Against all odds, Aung La won via unanimous decision. The video of the match, according to Tate, easily become one of the company’s most viewed.
“The idea behind this is that Myanmar never had a world champion. They never had that hero to look up to. That video was shared thousands of times within minutes. Myanmar had a hero. They had a real life superhero who proved that impossible is just a word,” Tate said.
She added: “The world witnessed greatness that night. But perhaps what they didn’t see was the thousands of children who suddenly had a dream. I guarantee you there were future doctors, executives, firemen, policemen, teachers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs born that night in the minds and hearts of those children who watched a hero with a 1% chance do the unthinkable.”
ONE Championship is going back to highlighting local stories and giving them a global platform. By doing so, the company ensures continued viewership. Filipinos will continue to follow Eduard Folayang’s story and matches. You can bet that, whenever Aung La fights, Myanmar will be watching. By highlighting such stories, ONE Championship also ensures that it gets a continuous reserve of future athletes in the years to come.
“The world witnessed greatness that night. But perhaps what they didn’t see was the thousands of children who suddenly had a dream.”
Localized, inspiring content is the new king — whether on TV, online, or any other medium
What is inspiring local content?
The key to ONE Championship’s success is really simple: localized, inspiring content is the new king — whether on TV, online, or any other medium.
This means focusing on human angle stories, community best practices, and development-type articles. This does not mean doing away with stories about numbers, metrics, and analytics — these are needed in certain sectors (e.g. financial technology and business news). What I’m saying is we need to rethink how we create and publish content so it captures and sustains the imagination of our audiences.
Go to the communities, and research on the impact of your project or event to the stakeholders instead of just storifying the details. Give face to the numbers and data. And as always, write or produce something you yourself will consume.
At Evident, we do this by focusing on the impact of our client’s projects instead of hard-selling their brands or organizations. Instead of writing a typical news story, for example, we go the extra mile by developing news feature-type content. Instead of filling stories with quotes from managers or executive heads, we want their stakeholders’ voices heard. What ONE Championship is doing is a tried and tested way of making sure their audience is captured by what they produce. They have 1.7 billion reasons to believe it is working.
David Lozada is Evident’s Associate Director for Corporate and Public Affairs. He recently finished his Master of Development Studies (First Class Honours) degree from The University of Melbourne in December 2018. Prior to this, he was an award-winning journalist and community manager for Rappler from 2013 to 2017.
Photos by Tammy David