Originally appeared on BNN.ca on Aug. 25, 2017
The Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor press tour is over and after countless confrontations and plenty of colourful language, the two fighters – and fans of boxing and mixed martial arts – can finally focus on the fight at hand.
The four-stop press tour saw the two combatants fill arenas – including Toronto’s Budweiser Stage – for the sole purpose of promoting the fight at the end of the month and using a war of words to sway interest in the crossover fight. The travelling circus that made its stops in Toronto, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and London between July 11 and 14, however, is a key part to marketing one of the most unique sporting events of the 21st century thus far.
The fight goes Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think the event would sell itself. I think that the hype is necessary,” marketing expert John Yorke, president of Rain43 told BNN.ca. “They had their base where they probably knew that they’d make $100-$200 million on the fight, but they want the chance to get back up to the (Manny) Pacquiao fight levels.”
The undefeated Mayweather’s 2015 bout against Pacquiao was a fight that boxing fans long dreamt of and – despite both fighters being past their most dominant years – generated a record U.S. pay-per-view audience of 4.6 million buys and an estimated $400 million in revenue, according to Forbes. The bout against an unproven boxer proved a different proposition, despite his opponent being one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest draws.
“I’m sure they did research and showed that it wasn’t going to generate the same hype. Manny Pacquiao was a world champion, covered the Philippines, so they knew they were going to have a global appeal,” Yorke said.
But the intercontinental stadium tour of smack-talk could backfire on the events’ organizers, according to another marketing expert, who believes that the hype may have exceeded the digestable dosage for millennial audiences.
“When you organize a four-city tour to promote this event and it’s laced and laden with profanity, it almost reeks of inauthenticity,” Vijay Setlur, Sport Marketing Instructor at York University’s Schulich School of Business told BNN.ca. “You get the sense that the profanity and all the outrageous comments are strictly for the sake of hype and it’s not a natural occurrence. I think younger viewers are starting to see through that and they don’t view that as authentic.”
“They understand it’s a spectacle, but they also want the spectacle to be authentic and not something that’s so overly-contrived that it may even turn them off, to the point where it almost becomes a circus.”
However, the fight has been shrewdly scheduled in the professional sports calendar. With only one of the four major North American sports currently in-season and in the absence of a major international event like the Olympics or the World Cup, the fight could very well get a bounce by virtue of being the best thing going.
Yorke thinks the hype tour serves as an important reminder of that for potential viewers.
“I think there was a lot of people thinking it’s a sideshow or a circus and that they weren’t going to watch, but now with them showing up in Toronto and other cities, I do think that that hype has elevated and reminded people that a fight is actually happening.”
“I do think that you’ll see [Saturday] that a lot of closet sports fans come out and say ‘I’m not going to spend the $99’ and then say ‘what else am I doing on a Saturday night in August?’ and spend the money anyway.”
But there may be more on the line for both boxing and mixed martial arts than dollars and cents.
“It’s an opportunity for boxing to gain more relevance, especially among a younger demographic that has in recent years gravitated more towards UFC because of their ability to market and promote their events and their fighters,” said Setlur. “Whereas boxing has suffered from not having big names and not having fighters with larger-than-life personalities.”
“Now, at the same time there are risks transcribed over to UFC in the fact that if one of their top draws gets pummeled in the ring it could maybe undermine the credibility of these fighters being super-athletes,” Setlur added. “It could potentially tarnish the product that UFC markets to its consumers. These guys aren’t necessarily ‘ultimate fighters’ because even though they’re well-versed in seven or eight different disciplines, they could be taken out by a guy who specializes in one.”
Yorke, on the other hand, sees the focus on Mayweather as a misstep for the boxing world, even if he is undefeated and was once viewed as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“I think for the boxing world they have the opportunity to re-enter the world stage. They have Triple G (Kazakhstan’s Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin) and Canelo (Alvarez) and Andre Ward. Some of the greatest boxers of the last 20 years are still active,” he said.
“If you’d showcase those guys on the undercard and say ‘this is what boxing’s about’ I think it would help boxing. I don’t know that Mayweather’s going to showcase what the sport’s about.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
|Floyd Mayweather||Category||Conor McGregor|
|Grand Rapids, Mich.||Place of Birth||Dublin, Ireland|
|151 lbs.||Weight||154 lbs.|
|Boxing: 49-0 (26 KO)||Record||MMA: 21-3 (18 KO)|
|$650 million||Est. Net Worth||$22 million|