#PRAwards 2021 highlight: How ONE Championship triumphed in the arena of storytelling

ONE Championship lifted the silver awards for PR Team of the Year (Brand) at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent PR Awards 2021. It impressed judges through the power of storytelling and its ONE PR team also worked hard to develop a strong relationship with media outlets worldwide. Here's a closer look at the secret sauce behind the team's win.


When the pandemic first hit, media outlets were focused on covering breaking news on COVID-19, with some sports sections in major outlets closing permanently due to manpower and financial limitations. The challenge for ONE was to continue coverage on martial arts, despite the changing times. Media relationships were also key, as well as being creative with positioning many different angles of interest, apart from the norm.


The company's strategy during this period was to continue to inspire the world with its athletes' stories - how they coped and transcended through the COVID-19 situation in their own ways. Additionally, ONE also wanted to share with the world, through media, how the organisation was innovative and continued to lead the sports industry through these challenging circumstances.

Hence, the ONE PR team set out to build the company's leaders as pioneers in the sports industry, offering thoughts and ideas to succeed during challenging times as well as set a precedence in the resumption of sports events in Asia during the pandemic.

With the management's help, the ONE PR team tapped on partnerships in creating media angles, such as collaborating with the Lady Gaga-curated Global Citizen virtual concert to continue to share its athletes' journeys during the year. It also worked with Facebook to bring live athletes' game streams to fans globally.

At the same time, ONE also managed to secure exclusive newswire interviews with outlets such as the Associated Press. The specific interview with AP was picked up globally and established ONE as one of the few innovative sports companies thriving during the pandemic. It also succeeded in having prominent TV news interviews which positioned key executives at ONE to talk about business plans and strategies amidst an increasingly volatile world. The media outlets included Bloomberg and CNBC.

Like many others, ONE also shifted to a fully virtual communication/PR model for working with athletes and executives through virtual media days. Interviews were recorded on video to be distributed to media all over the world, particularly the US media which increased ONE's coverage on mainstream and MMA websites. It was also able to establish better communication lines with its athletes, which in turn provided ONE with more compelling quotes and soundbites.


The ONE PR team managed to keep the momentum of news coverage throughout the year, through various activities and news pitches. As it continued through 2020, a lot of other major announcements were made. They included Niharika Singh joining The Apprentice: One Edition as an advisor, along with world champions and MMA stars. ONE also celebrated the return to live closed-door events in Thailand and it also inked a partnership with Facebook to offer VR MMA content.

ONE also collaborated with the Singapore government to reopen events to fans and set up a blueprint for other international events too. The ONE PR team's efforts paid off, for founder Chatri Sityodtong was named Business Insider's "100 Transformers in Asia" last year. Forbes Thailand also featured him in its Forbes Forward segment as one of the top CEOs. The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition also successfully went into filming, and with the various media coverage circling and hyping up the show, it landed its spot on AXN.


In terms of tier-one article count, ONE Championship said every month of 2020 outperformed the same month in 2019 across seven markets in total. However, it added that this is also reflective of factors beyond "apples to apples" PR performance. To a certain extent, ONE Championship said that overall numbers last year were higher due to increased results from China driven by the new media monitoring tool which came into effect last April.