The 26th August 2017 saw the combat sports world go into overdrive with Floyd’ Money’ Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight for a juicy paycheque. It was a phenomenal brand marketing campaign showcasing two enormous personalities draw two audiences’ together into one event to produce world-class sporting entertainment. The two fighters stakeholders and partners benefitted in many shapes and forms. UK betting companies garnered £250m in wagers, a significantly higher average rate than what the Superbowl typically brings in bets ($120m). The fight broke PPV records in the UK and US, two of combats sports largest markets rising above Mayweather vs Pacquiao and Joshua vs Klitschko. Could the sports world see another combat sport crossover again? And if so, what further impact could this make in the sports industry?
The inspiration for Mayweather vs McGregor started by Conor calling out Floyd to come out from retirement, following The Notorious One’s prestigious UFC dominance at the time. Initially, Floyd’ Money’ May wanted to avoid this as he didn’t see McGregor to be a worthy opponent, considering he had never stepped in the professional boxing ring. However, it didn’t take long for pretty boy Floyd to sign the deal regarding the appetite the combat sports audience had for this bout to happen. Despite the occasion being predominantly one-sided on fight night, this hasn’t paused the demand for similar events in combat sports to happen.
Late 2019, Floyd teased a return on social media to come out of retirement once again in 2020. Mayweather also took to his social accounts to announce that he and UFC promoter Dana White are “working together again to bring the world another spectacular event in 2020.” Both posts were some of the highest engaged sources of content across the American champions’ Instagram page in November 2019, which evidences Floyd’s audiences are excited about the prospect of him returning.
There had also been stories circulating about Mayweather entertaining UFC’s top dog Khabib Nurmagomedov to jump in the ring. The event would’ve been a different set-up, with one round being MMA and the remainder of the fight being boxing. The bout, unfortunately, fell through due to contractual disagreements. The Irishman has also opened a possibility to fight world champion, Manny Pacquiao, in the ring following his brand growth since his fight with Floyd.
If another combat sport crossover happens, it’s guaranteed to be another commercial brand marketing powerhouse. American streaming app Periscope received a 587% increase in digital engagement the day after the fight. Other worldwide brands such as Hublot, Burger King, Monster Energy, Adidas, and Reebok also experienced illustrious rises in online engagement within three days of the event. There hasn’t been an event like this that has had such a dominant impact on diverse brand exposure.
Another example of an efficient combat sports crossover was Tyson Fury’s fight against Braun Strowman at the WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, October 2019. This bout grew The Gypsy King’s profile in the US and added to his boisterous personality in the combat sports game. The crossover made by Tyson proved to add more flesh to the excitement for his rematch with ‘The bronze bomber’, resulting in over 1 million PPV buys for broadcasting giants ESPN.
The sports industry is changing; its consumers are always hungry for new content, and combat sports crossovers precisely provide that. The sector is continuously evolving into a global entertainment business, meaning the pure focus of sport is no longer about the athlete’s playing ability, but the capability to put on a show to a commercialised market.
What is the primary piece of learning here for sports enthusiasts?
Don’t be afraid to be unorthodox regardless of where your passion lies in sport; it will garner attention and give you an edge in a super-competitive industry.