Opinion

Mayweather Vs McGregor – brands which played the long game are the real champions

The billion-dollar fight may be over, but the legacy of Mayweather and McGregor remains a crucial lesson for brands looking to invest heavyweight marketing budgets into sporting events, writes Octagon Singapore's Tom Healey

Sauntering to the stage for the post-fight press conference, Conor McGregor brandished a bottle and exclaimed: “Notorious Irish whiskey – coming soon. I’m going to take over the Irish whiskey market.”

Although the fighter’s comments were heard by millions of viewers, is this really an effective tactic to engage the audience? You would think not, but nevertheless prize fighting has long been a source of fascination for people all over the world.

In Asia Pacific, nearly 33 per cent of internet users have an interest in boxing or mixed martial arts according to Global Web Index.

In this tradition, the exhibition boxing match between Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, the decorated but widely maligned boxing champion from Grand Rapids, Michigan and Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor – a fast talking, cocky MMA phenomenon from Dublin – garnered unprecedented global attention, crossing into the mainstream conversation.

With all eyes on the match, it was only natural that brands saw the opportunity themselves to wade into the ring and engage with audiences during the most explosive spectacle in recent history. In a world dictated by the 24-hour new cycle, the hype snowballed with media from both sides of the fence clamouring to dissect the match-up and marvel at the garish amounts of money being quoted.

This fight is one of the more extreme examples of the power of sport as a commercial vehicle. Given the strong interest from brands in multiple categories, revenue from both personal endorsements and event sponsorship is expected to top US$50 million – with McGregor and Mayweather guaranteed at least US$30m and US$100m respectively..

Often for events such as this, brands are effectively paying for an audience, rather than aligning with an entity that will have long term impact on their business. However, according to a post-fight article by Forbes magazine, Beats by Dre and Reebok enjoyed the highest levels of engagement. A reason for this is that the event complemented their longer term brand strategies.  

Beats by Dre weaved the fight into its ongoing narrative about being the product of choice for athletes in their preparation for sporting milestones. The content has more three million views in just six days and goes hand in hand with work the brand has previously created with superstars including Lebron James, Colin Kapernick and Neymar. These videos have over 39 million views combined.

While Reebok was not an official sponsor of the event, the brand benefited greatly from its ongoing relationship with the UFC and an early investment in a partnership with McGregor. Similar to the success enjoyed by Under Armour with Steph Curry, this is another example of what happens when a brand takes a long term view and an early investment pays off.

For an endemic brand such as Betsafe, it is all about harnessing the buzz of the event so buying reach is exactly what they are aiming for. However, Betsafe also sees the value in longer term partnerships – signing McGregor to an 18-month deal in August. 

Conversely, whilst Corona had a heavy branding presence around the ring, the brand only announced its partnership with the fight on August 18 and as a result it only generated 22 per cent as much digital engagement as Reebok.

As the dust settles, it’s clear that the real winners were the brands that played the longer game. While publicity stunts and short term partnerships can assist in reaching a massive audience quickly, the impact can be fleeting and a longer term view will ultimately provide better returns. With this in mind, the next steps for the Notorious whiskey brand will be far more important than the bold announcement.

Tom Healey is a senior account director at Octagon Singapore

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