The Similarities Between Content Marketing and Ultimate Fighting


Content Marketing Inspiration Comes In Many Shapes and Sizes, Including The Octagon and Welterweight, explains Digital Designer, Gavin Hyam.

I get the train to work every day, 30 minutes in, 30 minutes out. I live in a lovely part of Essex where the conversations on a train can sometimes lead you to lose faith in the future of the human race:

“Yeah I was beating him on FIFA 3-0 and he threw the Xbox out of the window” – some kid

I’ve tidied up the language there and that is one of the few conversations I could post on here, I have turned to headphones and a book to distract me. The book I’m currently reading has given me some thoughts on content marketing that I’d like to share.

The book is ‘The Way of the Fight’ by Georges St-Pierre. He is a former 3-time UFC welterweight champion. Arguably, ultimate fighting is the most skilled sport in the world, and for those of you not familiar with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) it is where two mixed martial artists face off in an octagon shaped ring. The fighters are multi-disciplined with skills ranging from Karate to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is this fact, the multi-discipline and skill innovation, which is something we can bring to our online content.

Using some extracts from the book I’ll show you how it can help you understand the importance of innovation in your content marketing. Whether you create content, you’re a business owner, or you work in the marketing world, the ability to think in an innovative way will improve your workflow.

The White-belt Mentality

“I keep the white-belt mentality that I can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.” - St-Pierre

I think the white-belt mentality is an approach you can transfer to digital marketing. It’s an ever-changing environment and the willingness to learn from others and stay proactive will keep you ahead of the game: Social Media is great for this. I have a twitter account dedicated to following industry professionals and in my job it keeps me at pace with the industry. You could follow blogs (like this one!) and buy industry magazines too. Use your time wisely to keep up-to-date with this fast-paced environment.

We’re lucky to live in an age when information is so accessible. Just look around when you’re out in public, I’m sure you’ve noticed it: Phone Zombies. The majority of people on my commuter train are looking at their phone, and I try to use this time wisely. As mentioned, I read books, check twitter or just listen to music. All can be useful for innovative thinking, if I just sat there that would be an hour a day completely wasted. Try and ‘be the sponge’, soak up knowledge and let it help your digital strategy.

Don’t keep repeating yourself

“You can’t simply enter and beat someone on instinct; you can’t go in with the same approach over and over because it worked last time.” - St-Pierre

This is hugely important and where a lot of people/companies get it wrong. Just because your approach has worked before, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a revamp! The online world moves at a lightning pace, and as a front-end developer I have to learn new techniques constantly. My skill set is always evolving and your approach to your content creation and skills should too. If St-Pierre stood still in the UFC and didn’t improve his skillset he wouldn’t have been so successful, and whilst a lack of innovation and evolution in the Digital world is unlikely to result in a punch in the face, your career/business is likely to stall.

Keep things fresh

“Nowadays, every camp has access to video footage and has roughly the same technical tools as the opponent. The difference in success comes in the carefully planned innovation. You must change things up – not just keep them fresh, but progress.” - St-Pierre

Isn’t that the truth! This is the key to why we must look to innovate in our skillset but also our thinking. From a web developer’s perspective, we all have access to the same basic arsenal, and can all take the time to learn JavaScript or how to use a layer mask in Photoshop. The important thing is taking the time and effort to learn these things but also in how we use them.

This is often where it is best to form an idea when it comes to content marketing and then focus on what skills you have, or what you could learn. How you use something like JavaScript is just as important as ‘knowing’ it. As a business the same principles apply as your competitors have access to the same ‘tools’ as you, but the way to stay ahead of them is through innovative thinking. Today’s industry leaders didn’t get there by chance, it took thinking differently to the status quo, and to the competition.

Be Adaptable

As highlighted in St-Pierre’s book an interesting way to look at staying ahead of the game is using dinosaurs and cockroaches as an example. One is still on earth and one isn’t. Would a cockroach beat a T-Rex in a dual… er no it wouldn’t, but still the cockroach is present on earth. That’s because of one skill - adaptability! Cockroaches adapted to the environment, whereas dinosaurs couldn’t. You can definitely apply this to your content strategy, adapt and innovate - keep on moving!

A great example of innovation

I’d like to draw your attention to an excellent campaign by British Airways, which on the face of it was a very simple idea, but the best ones usually are. It takes someone to be brave from a business perspective or a development perspective to say – ‘yeah let’s do this and let’s make it awesome’.

The campaign is #lookup, where British Airways used small children on billboards pointing at planes to advertise their flights: the execution of the piece is where the magic lays. The video footage on the billboard is activated in real-time as a plane flies overhead. The flight’s information is brought up on screen as the child points at the plane and walks across the screen after it. Innovative, technologically brave, but most of all attention grabbing!

Some of you may be thinking ‘I’m working on/I have a website, I don’t have a billboard and I don’t have the British Airways brand or budget to play with. Well maybe not but that would be to miss the point; innovation and inspiration can be drawn from anywhere at any time and applied in many ways. If you keep your eyes, and most importantly, your mind open to creativity your content will reap the benefits.

Timing can be everything

One of the most creative thinkers of our time was Steve Jobs, he had a very good knack of knowing when to release an idea on the public. He was most certainly innovative, very brave when it came to his ideas, but he had a very often undervalued quality too. His colleagues have remarked how one of his greatest skills was patience. And a good way to look at patience is ‘timing’. Make awesome content, don’t rush to get it out, and take the time to make sure it impacts on the target audience.

So… be brave and innovate

Whilst researching this piece I came across a few quotes from Brendan Dawes in this creative bloq article that I think are really suited to the idea of creative thinking and innovation:

“I never cease to be amazed at how opportunities appear from something that you may have thought was just a throwaway idea. I’ve had a book commission born out of a single Instagram photo” - Brendan Dawes


“To be innovative, you need to wake up every day asking questions. Why does something have to be like that? Is there a better way to do this? Learn to love these questions. More than anything it’s about being curious about the world around you.” - Brendan Dawes

I couldn’t have summed it up any better. Remember I was reading about martial arts and started thinking about content! Ideas can come from anywhere at any time, so make sure you’re ready to use them.


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