• JohnWallStreet
  • Posts
  • Dana White is Leveraging Social, Influencers to Build Another Fringe Sport into Billion Dollar Biz

Dana White is Leveraging Social, Influencers to Build Another Fringe Sport into Billion Dollar Biz

sports. media. finance.

Editor’s Note: We’re running a special Monday/Wednesday cadence this week due to Independence Day falling on Thursday. Back to publishing Tuesday/Thursday next week.

Dana White is Leveraging Social, Influencers to Build Another Fringe Sport into Billion Dollar Biz

Schiaffo LLC

Power Slap 8 took place at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas this past weekend in coordination with the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s International Fight Week. The nascent slap fighting promotion is owned by UFC president Dana White and Fiume Capital, the Fertitta’s family office. 

Slap fighting is likely not your grandfather’s idea of sport.  And Power Slap is not operating a business model he would recognize–at least not yet.

It’s part of a new generation of social-first properties that are looking to build global fandoms online by capitalizing on ‘highlight culture’ (think: SlamBall, Car-Jitsu Championship).

But that doesn’t make them any less viable or temper their upside. In fact, White is convinced his latest fight sports endeavor will be as successful as his first.

Power Slap “is going to be as big as the UFC,” he said. “This is what me and the Fertitta brothers do. We take fringe sports [properties] that nobody believes in and turn them into billion-dollar businesses.”

The trio also own SLS Skate League and Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus.


Rutgers Athletics and Playfly Aspire partnered in 2011 to drive revenue through athletic ticket sales and donation stewardship. Now, 13 years, $17M, and 5 renewals later, they continue to set records and innovate.

Playfly Aspire is always adding loyal partners that want to win big together. Will you be next?

If you’re not on social media, it’s possible that you’ve never seen a slap fight. 

As one might imagine, it consists of two competitors standing in front of a podium taking turns slapping one another. Each slap is judged based on power and damage, and slappers can win by knockout–just like in a regular fight.

The sport reportedly started in Russia. But slap fighting promotions have multiplied in locales around the globe in recent years (think: Poland, Brazil, South Korea).

That includes here in the U.S. Pro League Network’s Slapfight Championship is Power Slap’s top domestic competitor.

The sport’s fast rise speaks to both the fans’ curiosity in it (the highlights are hard to look away from), as well as the times.

“30 years ago, if I wanted to start [a new sports league] it would be about selling tickets and beers, getting some type of cable television or rights deal, merchandise, etc.,” White said. “Now, we [are] literally [able to build Power Slap] on digital, on social media.”

The promotion’s content has received more than seven billion views to date.

We’re not suggesting the traditional big four business model –or those leagues– are going anywhere. But there are worse approaches for a new league seeking to develop a following in a cost-efficient manner. 

“You just can't come out of left field and expect that you're going to sell stadiums out,” White said.

Particularly, as the competition for the fan’s time and dollar continues to increase.

 “It doesn't work that way,” White added. “You have to build [interest] over time.”

Social media platforms can be effective channels to do that.

“People opt-in to follow [a given sports property’s account] because they want to know what's going on, when the next event is” White said. “It’s the greatest marketing tool of all time, social media.”

And it didn’t exist when he and the Fertitta brothers took control of the UFC 25 years ago. 

There were no ‘influencers’ or ‘content creators’ back then, either. The promotion was instead forced to rely on traditional media for earned and paid exposure.

That’s no longer the case. Social channels have leveled the playing field.

And “the ones who have true influence right now are these influencers,” White said.

So, he built Power Slap’s marketing strategy around leveraging them. 

“At Power Slap 6, we had Adin Ross, Kai Cenat and IShowSpeed taking a picture with Tom Brady and Travis Scott,” Frank Lamicella (president, Power Slap) said.

Needless to say, it went viral.

Power Slap has also been allowing influencers in attendance to stream live from the event on their own platforms. 

“My whole philosophy [is] let’s let these kids come in and create content,” White said. “And it’s been an absolute home run.”

For context, 250,000 people were tuned in when Travis Scott went live on IG during PS6.

While those viewers do not count towards Power Slap’s viewership metrics, they do meaningfully increase the number of eyeballs on the product and can be helpful in accelerating the timeline for fan adoption.

The concept of influencers having the right to stream a live event likely sounds foreign to anyone familiar with the big four leagues’ legal disclaimers regarding rebroadcast, reproduction, and retransmission.

But “you have to understand where the world is now and where it is going,” Lamicella said. “For the longest time, you weren’t allowed to take your phone out at the [poker] table [either. One casino] in Red Rock [recently became] the first to [it]. And because of that streaming, they’ve added so much more revenue to their business.”

Power Slap doesn’t have tens of billions in media rights revenue at stake like those leagues do, either.

It does, however, have a global streaming pact with Rumble. 

Power Slap’s most fervent followers tune into the video platform to watch its events live (i.e. those who know the slappers and stakes). 

There just aren’t a ton of those individuals at this point. Power Slap 6 drew ~100K concurrent viewers.

The hope is as viewership rises the promotion will be able to sign more lucrative local/regional rights deals (akin to the UFC) or find a larger global digital distribution partner.

The promotion has wisely tried to ensure its events are also shown live in places where sports fans gather.

“We learned from the UFC that getting the content into bars and restaurants that see a lot of [traffic] and [creating awareness that way is] important,” Lamicella said. “So, we distribute through DirecTV, and bar partners like Dave and Buster's, Hooters, [and] Twin Peaks.”

Eventually, the promotion expects to be able to monetize stateside commercial distribution, as it does in Australia/New Zealand.

But most Power Slap fans at this point are staying up to date on its happenings via social channels, including a large portion who do so after the events have concluded. The promotion touts 15 million followers across platforms.

The social-first model is lower risk than the traditional league business model. However, Power Slap is showing if done right, it can be just as lucrative.

The promotion has a video game with Zynga that was already downloaded more than 10 million times, and Anheuser Busch and Monster are among its blue-chip sponsors. 

Power Slap has been able to command site fee revenue too.

“We have deals with Saudi and Abu Dhabi right now, [and] that will expand,” Lamicella said. 

Look no further than what TKO has done with UFC and WWE. Just last week, the latter announced a deal with Indiana Sports Corp that will bring WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Royal Rumble to Indianapolis. 

The expectation is that over time Power Slap’s business will look more and more like a conventional sports property. The promotion put GA tickets on sale for the first time this past weekend (VIP packages have sold-out for every event to date), and merchandise and trading cards are on its roadmap too.

But White and Co. are going to need more state athletic commissions (the same folks who regulate boxing and MMA) to sanction the sport before it can reach its potential. Louisiana and Texas recently joined Nevada, Florida, and California as the only states to have given it regulatory approval to date.

They will also need more fans to embrace its athletes and storylines. Watching the highlights on social channels is not going to be enough. 

Power Slap believes it has the solution for that–one that aids its talent development efforts in the process.

“Our reality [series], which is really our blueprint for how we’ve built [UFC] stars over the past 25 years, has done over 40mm [episode] views,” White said.

And “four of our five [current] champions were on Season One of Road to the Title,” Lamicella added.

Once fans know who the slappers are, the presumption is they’ll tune in for slap fight cards–and wager on them (it’s legal in 12 states).

Until then, the promotion will continue to lean into social media and the influencers capable of keeping its product in the public zeitgeist.

“100 percent of starting something new is awareness and nothing has had more awareness than Power Slap in the last 17 months,” White said.

Top 5 Sports Business Headlines
Click here to subscribe to Sport & Story Daily and never miss a story.

  • Nike Shares Drop Nearly 20%, Worst Day on Record

  • Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Tom Brady Among the Former Pro Athletes Who Have Become WNBA Owners

  • ESPN Will Give Up NBA Regular-Season Games for International, Digital Rights

  • Playfly Unveils Playfly Max for Revenue Generation

  • Success of NHL Draft May Delay Decentralization