23 Jun

Be It Ring or Cage, Fight Sports Are Off The Mat

by Tanner Simkins twitter.com/tannersimkins

The hype is building, and because of the crossover possibilities, the marketing and branding windfall, regardless of the outcome, could reach into the hundreds of millions for those looking to capitalize. We are not talking about a heavyweight fight or a UFC title bout, we are talking about a crossover matchup that will bring MMA and its boxing cousin together for the long rumored matchup between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC champion Connor McGregor on August 26 at TMobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Boxing, which is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, meet the massive media and fan machine that is the UFC.  So who will win with all the buildup and the expected massive pay per view audience? How about brands that sign on for the fight, as well as a company like WME/IMG, which spent billions on the UFC and is looking constantly for ways to expand that footprint. How about a brand like Topps, which took advantage of a partnership with Mayweather to release a signed car in their Ginter Trading card set well in advance of the fight, or Fanatics, which has a deal with McGregor on memorabilia?

Heck even a disruptive media company like EPIX may get to ride the wave, as they announced George Foreman documentary this week, which might grab a host of  casual eyes and downloads for fans re-energized by pugilism and its history when the film debuts in September.

However for all the hope and hype, there is caution laid in by the experts.

“As an agency active in both boxing and UFC sponsorship management, an event like this serves to bridge the cultural and demographic divide of the two fan bases.  Each property should realize a short-term audience lift when the halo of this match is eventually measured,” said Michael Neumann, a professor at Columbia University and Executive Vice President, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment.   “My biggest concern is managing sponsor expectations, realistically guiding brands through the evaluation process with “eyes wide open.”  The scale will be substantial but integrities are being compromised along the way.  There is a clear reason why this event came to fruition.  I don’t see the boxing community anticipating this match on the same level as Mayweather/Pacquiao, and you could argue that fight took too long to materialize with both fighters north of their prime.  This is the match-up everyone wanted and when it’s all said and done, sponsors are aligning with anticipation of a far-reaching spectacle and not a boxing match that will go down as tactically memorable.”

So are you OK with selling the short term hype with the hope, especially for boxing, that this will lead to even bigger exposure in the future?  Boxing purists were already salivating over September’s Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez matchup, which will be another massive showcase for the sport, and with the need for even more content by an ever-growing number of media outlets, fight sports are again blossoming.