Casual MMA fans are not likely to watch pre-fight interviews or event weigh-ins, so the focus in terms of fulfilling sponsorship obligations is on the fight; that is to say on fight gear and fight banners at the event. What we see a lot of is fight banners that look like they're designed by someone at the fighter's gym (or whoever is willing to do it for free) and brought to the cheapest printer their manager can find - almost as an afterthought, done because it is a business requirement. We feel, however, that there should be more to it than this.
Fans see fight banners for maybe 30 seconds at the event, but these banners end up hanging in MMA gyms for years after the events, or they're signed and purchased by collectors or given to sponsors as a token of appreciation for their support. The point is that they should be considered by the fighter's management as an aspect of a fighter's image of professionalism. This, unfortunately, is not the norm. We see plenty of main events where both fighters display banners that are flat-out bad, while it is something that can be easily avoided with just a little bit of care. Designing a well-prioritized fight banner that strikes a balance between aesthetics and sponsor placement is a challenge we very much enjoy taking on.
Banners where design trumps sponsorship: Either an image of the fighter or another design aspect is the focal point of the banner, while the paying sponsors are placed haphazardly around this focal image.
Banners where sponsor logos are not visible or legible: All paying sponsors should have logos displayed in a position (and at a size) that will be easily distinguishable on the banner in the short time it is shown at an event. This is not easy to do, especially when there are many sponsors going on the banner, and chances are that it won't be done properly if you're not using a graphic designer for your banners.
Banners that are blatantly overdone: We see a lot of fight banners that are plagued by layers of "grit" in the background, making sponsor logos difficult to distinguish. Also very common are graphics or effects that don't fit or belong on a banner being forced/squeezed/stretched onto the banner's design. This causes the banner to look overcrowded and overwhelming to the eye.
Banners printed on poor quality vinyl: These are the banners you see that are so shiny that it makes it difficult to see the sponsor logos under the bright arena lights. Banners are often folded when shipped by many of these printers, creating very noticeable creases in the banners, which is obviously not ideal for display.
If you have any thoughts on the subject, please add to the discussion. What are some examples you've seen of good banner design?