Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (2006) recalled a friend’s perception:
As my friend Jack Rosenblum likes to say: “If one person tells you you’re a horse, they’re crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, there’s a conspiracy afoot. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle.” (p.161)
We tend to make fun of what we don’t understand, and the blunders of Reebok, since launching its deal with the UFC in the summer of 2015 has proven incomprehensible. From the initial rollout of this deal, I’ve seen rare, almost mythological, positives unevenly outweighed by negatives.
I tuned in to the universal reveal of this new collaborative effort between the UFC and Reebok. Through all the squinting and fine-tuning of my screen’s brightness and contrast, my hard-lined expectation for proper spelling and grammar left an ill-received first impression.
At the 22:22 mark, that misspelling hangs, invisibly underlined in red to grate the nerves of those who are comfortable with the English language. Unable to wrap my mind around such an oversight, I cautiously tiptoed into where my fanfare of MMA currently resides, the Reebok era.
After the UFC Fight Kits were unveiled, my inner voice that dresses me every morning coached me to hold off on ordering the names of my favorite fighters to decorate half my back.
Through no fault of his own, veteran lightweight, Gilbert Melendez is forever marred with an alter ego cloned by Reebok. Even putting the spelling issue to the wayside, I just couldn’t see myself clicking ‘complete my order’ with designs that soured my fashion tastes.
Aware of the digi-genuises huddled up at computer screens around the world, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was messing with me. I possess the technological know-how to share some words with you, but I am incapable of the hocus-pocus imagery some people effortlessly construct and distribute online. I approached a friend of mine who excels at such visual voodoo to create a personalized UFC Fight Kit to accompany a humorous, yet insightful, article I had written: My First UFC Fight Kit (link here).
I was actually taken aback by how real the image looked. Though this was one UFC Fight Kit I’d proudly drape myself in, my cursor’s arrow never changed into a hand to allow me to add this item to my cart for checkout, but, for a split-second, I self-consciously still thought the joke was on me.
Each lapse in care touched my sensitivities because my high school aged and adulthood years have paralleled the birth and growth of the UFC and MMA. I whole-heartedly harbor a conviction that MMA can blossom to the scale of other professional sports, but hindrances to product design may negate the direction the UFC and Reebok deal hoped to travel. Perhaps those telling me to calm down are right, and I shouldn’t lash out with such venom. It’s not like Reebok omits entire populations from their list of potential consumers.
Leading into UFC Fight Night Dublin: Holohan vs. Smolka, Reebok’s attempt to cash in on hometown pride turned belly-up. From every point on the compass rose, there was considerable backlash surrounding the subtraction of Northern Ireland from the silk-screening process.
Thankfully, John Kavanagh, coach of Straight Blast Gym (SBG) addressed Reebok’s snafu, clarified that this was no laughing matter and demanded that the corporation submit to such a geographic gaffe:
Narrowly avoiding the barrage of rotten tomatoes being hurled at the stage, Reebok responded in less than an hour and a half:
Social media, news organizations, and MMA talk buzzed like a swarm of bees. But, what good are bees with no honey? There has been nothing sweet in Reebok’s attempts to streamline the sport of MMA, especially taking into account their numerous speed bumps that mangle alignment.
Typically, this is the point in the movie, or book, when things can’t get worse, but the plot with Reebok thickened. I understand that Reebok is the red-headed step child to its parent company Adidas, but it would be nice to see a multi-million dollar company not act like a rambunctious kid with attention deficits, rushing through projects without an inkling to recheck their work. Transitioning from upsetting teachers with red pens in hand and MMA fans alike, Reebok created a new product that gouged at the eyes of the individuals they endorse: Conor McGregor, interim featherweight champion, and Jon Jones, former light heavyweight title holder.
Head in hands, sighs of disbelief; I’m left lifting my jaw from the floor and virtually speechless. Reebok can’t even keep their contracted athletes straight. What else does one say?
Even when there are no miscues, the painful attempts to attract attention to the UFC quickly become the punch-line to everyone’s jokes. Jiu-jitsu, the sport that opened eyes to the complexities of MMA, is beautifully described by Sam Sheridan in A Fighter’s Heart (2008) as,
Jiu-jitsu is artistic; and it’s as much an expression of style as your clothes. Your personal style of jiu-jitsu reflects not only your teacher and background but also your body type and personality type. (p. 126)
Reebok depicts such an art form with the artistic quality of a Kindergartner. Does this really look like jiu-jitsu in action?
All of the various martial arts that blend to cast elite MMA fighters look ridiculous in Reebok’s new series of T-shirts:
With the help of Reebok, comedy has evolved into a form of communication:
If other professional sports experienced the same degree of misprints and underwhelming satisfaction from fans, I’d show more flexibility (using spellchecker) for Reebok’s poor performance thus far. Until then, I’ll continue to hold my breath for the next time I let out an exasperated, “Really Reebok?”