Frontline Marketing

Inside The Marketing Bonanza Behind The Mayweather-McGregor Mega Fight

Mayweather and McGregor looking at one another

By | August 22, 2017 |

  • Executives from Showtime, UFC, Monster Energy, Corona and Fathom Events join AListDaily to share how the historic match-up means big business for brands.
  • Fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor is projecting to shatter the all-time records set during the Mayweather-Pacquiao matchup in 2015, which included total earnings of $623.5 million, 4.6 million PPV buys, gate receipts of $72 million and $60 million bet on the fight.
  • Dana White: “It’s the most distributed PPV event in history. The list goes on and on of the records the fight will break.”
  • Monster's SVP of marketing on their brand involvement with the fight: “It’s kind of like winning the lottery.”
  • Showtime GM: “This is an event that transcends sports. It’s captured the world’s attention.”

The Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor super fight mostly materialized from the months-long back-and-forth banter played out in front of the fans and media between both of the global icons. It can even be argued that the cross-sport fight—which is unprecedented at this magnitude and is bound to break a bounty of records—came to fruition thanks in large part to the power of social media.

The world will be watching with intrigue on Saturday when Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers ever, puts his 49-0 record and legacy on the line in the last fight of his decorated career against McGregor, a flamboyant mixed martial artist and the current face of UFC.

Prognosticators are predicting the prize fight will end in a landslide victory for Mayweather, a Hall of Fame-bound pugilist who has plied at his trade his entire life. In contrast, the Irishman (21-3) on the opposite side of the ring has never fought in a professional boxing match.

Flying fists aside, with pay-per-view (PPV) buys, ticket and merchandise sales, sponsorships and closed-circuit viewing, the sports spectacle is projected to rake in upward of a gaudy $600 million for a maximum of 36 minutes of in-ring work at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

It’s expected to shatter all-time records set during the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao matchup in 2015, which included total earnings of $623.5 million, 4.6 million PPV buys, gate receipts of $72 million and $60 million bet on the fight.

For a fight that’s on pace to become an unprecedented success in revenue and viewership, brands are quickly aligning their marketing motives for a potential knockout with their messaging.

“It’s kind of like winning the lottery,” Marianne Radley, senior vice president of marketing for Monster Energy, told AListDaily. “So many eyes are going to be on this fight. Conor is a lightning rod—a controversial, edgy, outspoken and hard-charging character—and that’s everything that Monster is about, too. He ties in perfectly with our brand and it’s a fortuitous time for us to be partnered with him.”

Monster leveraged its two-year relationship with McGregor by renewing its sponsorship with the star and filmed its biggest commercial to date. A five-by-five-inch logo featuring the energy drink company—they will be joining BetSafe with such branding—will also be adorned on the front of McGregor’s trunks come fight night.

Radley said they don’t normally do media buys, but saw this once-in-a-lifetime fight as an opportunity to harness its heritage and maximize its association in MMA to increase brand awareness with a 360-degree digital plan pushing content across various social channels, fight-viewing parties, retail tie-ins, point-of-sales and sticker-and-jersey giveaways.

Monster was previously an accidental beneficiary of a McGregor meltdown when the fighter hurled two cans of the energy drink (and bottles of water) at opponent Nate Diaz and his entourage during a press conference last year. McGregor and his agent Audie Attar, founder of Paradigm Sports Management and the man behind the marketing of “Mystic Mac,” cheekily used the brand to launch a limited-edition $75,000 can.

“We want to make sure that we’re expanding reach and casting a broader net to tell people who may not be aware of our branding and association with Conor, the UFC, MMA and combat sports,” Radley says. “That’s who we’re targeting pretty strategically and putting our media dollars in. . . . I couldn’t even begin to tell you [how valuable the sponsorship and media value is.] It’s priceless. It’s the fight of the century. To have part of the branding in that is just incredible.”

“I’ve got good endorsement deals. [The marketing] is certainly a good business. I’m very happy with everything that has been going on,” said McGregor, who also has Beats By Dre in his corner. “There are so many moving parts in the game. I’m just trying to roll with it . . . Everyone is excited here. We can go radio silent and this fight is still going to blow everything out of the water. This is a special historic event and everybody is excited about it.”

The collaborations are sizeable coups for McGregor because the UFC’s apparel deal with Reebok does not allow fighters to strike deals with shorts sponsors. In 2013, McGregor collected a $235 welfare check. He’s now forecasted for a $100 million payday.

“Money” Mayweather will make an estimated $350 million payday on Saturday. He seldom works with brands but has still amassed an eye-opening fortune that makes him one of the highest-earning athletes on the planet.

“We’re both real fighters,” Mayweather said. “We’re two huge names in combat sports. He’s made a mark the last few years and I’ve made a mark for 21 years. Now it’s time to go do what we do best and fight.

Mayweather’s method of promotion includes tapping into his wealth of famous friends, like Justin Beiber, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, and having them all post on their social channels to buy his fights hours before the proceedings. There’s also the lavish lifestyle, the money and the fact that fans buy his fights to watch him lose.

Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s longtime adviser and CEO of Mayweather Promotions says “you have no idea what a great marketer he is.”

This week, Mayweather is working with the likes of tequila-maker Avion (which is releasing 150 commemorative bottles) by donning the brand’s hat during the weigh-in, and Swiss watchmaker Hublot, the brand of which will be adorned on the waistline of his trunks. For his fight against Pacquiao, Mayweather walked into the ring with the Burger King king for a reported $1 million figure, so there may be some more branded tricks up his sleeve.

UFC president Dana White said the fight is tracking to be the largest commercial PPV ever.

“This is the biggest event ever in combat sports history,” White said. “It’s the most distributed PPV event in history. The list goes on and on of the records the fight will break.”

The fight will be available in over 200 countries and is expected to exceed over five million PPV buys at $100 a pop. Face value for tickets range from $500 to $10,000, but StubHub says a lukewarm secondary market has materialized.

“I think we’ve done a good job working with Showtime in that they do the things that they’re good at, [and] we do the things that we’re good at,” White said. “There’s a lot of things boxing doesn’t do. For instance, most of the time you’re dealing with a network—networks aren’t too excited to go OTT. Not a big thing that they’re into. We have the capabilities. We do it all the time and I believe we’re one of the best to do it. . . . The numbers are tracking huge. We’re gonna kill this thing. It’s looking really good.”

Showtime is using the fight to shake-up its approach with a direct-to-consumer strategy. In addition to traditional PPV options, there will also be online and streaming buying options on its site, the Showtime app, PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku. Consumers will have access to additional content and a special free trial for the Showtime standalone streaming service and CBS All Access.

The premium cable channel has been churning out content chronicling the lives and training camps for the combatsmen with four feature episodes of its Emmy Award-winning series All Access. The network also partnered with the UFC to give fans insider access by making all of the media-only events available for fans worldwide live on YouTube and satellite.

“This is an event that transcends sports. It’s captured the world’s attention. We’re seeing unprecedented interest in a number of different ways,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. “To give specifics, our Snapchat Stories have been getting 4.5-to-5 million views.”

“This is the biggest event ever in combat sports history. It’s the most distributed PPV event in history. The list goes on and on of the records the fight will break. . . . The numbers are tracking huge. We’re gonna kill this thing. It’s looking really good.” – Dana White, president of the UFC.

The straight-to-consumer tactics were highlighted by the four open-to-the-public press conferences (Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and London) that doubled as celebratory international events attracting over 10,000 fight fans in each market. White and Espinoza said that’s when they realized they had truly something special on their hands.

The CBS-owned network also tapped into its own resources and star power with a friendly wager between Diddy and Mark Wahlberg, and unveiled an exclusive promotional video featuring The Killers in the middle of a boxing ring as the rock band performed their new single “The Man” in the middle of the desert.

Although the UFC has the proverbial second seat in the saddle throughout the entire promotion—thanks to Mayweather, Showtime has been the shotcaller—the world’s preeminent MMA organization is making the most of its marketing opportunities. For one, consumers who order through UFC get a free hat and/or a 30-day trial of UFC Fight Pass. The UFC has been running a promoted Twitter campaign showcasing the deal.

Fans can also buy more than just the hype by getting an opportunity to splurge on the fight with pop-up retail locations for two consecutive weekends in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The shopping experience, complemented with photo booths and raffles to win tickets, airfare and hotel accommodations for the fight, feature exclusive merchandise and collaborations. And of course, an event with global appeal merits its own line of emoji.

Although a primary fight sponsor has not been announced yet, once the fighters hit the ring Saturday, they’ll be greeted by Corona branding in the center of the mat, which is billed as the official beer sponsor of the fight. BodyArmor-branded towels and bottles will be prevalent in the corners of both fighters.

“We’ve got a long history in boxing. We always lead with consumers, and we know what our fans like,” John Alvarado, Corona’s vice president of brand marketing, told AListDaily. “The hype and anticipation this match is getting from avid and casual boxing fans—as well as non-boxing fans intrigued by the unique matchup—was the real attraction for us. This is an opportunity to have the Corona brand in front of over 50 million-plus US viewers. All of the potential brand impressions that the weigh-in and fight itself will garner us made this a great opportunity for Corona to be front and center and reinforce our heavy involvement in the sport.”

Corona declined to disclose how much the single-fight sponsorship cost the company, but ESPN reported earlier that the asking price for a brand’s logo at the center of the ring as well as branding on ring girls and other opportunities was $10 million—nearly double the $5.6 million price tag Tecate paid for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

To say that the event will be a major beer-drinking occasion is an understatement. So, Corona will be setting up satellite bars with branded backdrops throughout Las Vegas where fans can consume Coronas as they partake in all the excitement that will be buzzing throughout the Strip. The Corona Boxing Ring Models will help fans show off that “they were there” before heading to the T-Mobile Arena to tell millions around the world what round it is every three minutes.

The beer brand will also be pushing paid posts through its social media channels at the weigh-in and fight itself to give consumers a behind-the-scenes look. Alvarado says that their efforts from retail to advertising to consumer engagement creates a lot of additional selling opportunities for Corona’s sales team.

“Boxing is a major passion point for our consumer,” he says. “We’ve always tried to align Corona with marquee fights that boxing fans get excited about and that can continue to cement the brand in the sport with those consumers. We’ll be leveraging every aspect of the fight this week to connect Corona with consumers during this record-setting event.”

For fans who can’t afford to fork over fortunes to watch the fight in grandiose fashion in Las Vegas—or refuse to come to terms with the PPV price point to order it—they can watch the tilt in a movie theater broadcast for around $40 in nearly 500 movie theaters across the United States.

Mayweather Promotions and Fathom Events are collaborating for the tenth time since 2009 to ignite a sense of electricity in movie theater auditoriums for fans to congregate and cheer on their favorite fighter. The up-close-and-personal, big-screen theater experience for a live sporting event is definitely different from the normal trip to the movies.

“With every new fight, we learn more about our audience, their buying habits and how to target them,” Kymberli Frueh, vice president of programming at Fathom Events, told AListDaily. “Our boxing and MMA events tend to see a lot of walk-up sales at the box office rather than pre-sold tickets, but the Mayweather-versus-McGregor fight has already sold thousands of tickets ahead of the event, so we’re expecting very good results.”

Frueh said that there are a lot of eyes on Fathom Events, some for the first time, and they’re getting a chance to learn about their programming. That means stretching their marketing budgets, too. Consumers are being digitally targeted with cinema-event messaging and they’ve already activated with an in-theater media campaign (onscreen exposure as well as promotions in hundreds of cinema lobbies nationwide) that is their largest to-date. They’re also using Mayweather’s muscle, who has a personal stake in the proceedings with his promotional company, to amplify the experience offering.

Frueh echoed a sentiment that all of the involved brands can likely agree on—positioning their marketing strategy with involvement in the fight is bound to pay dividends.

“Being associated with a fight that has tremendous global awareness improves our brand recognition,” she said. “It’s trending to be the biggest ever.”