The Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Conor McGregor fight on Saturday may not have lived up to the hype as the greatest fight in combat sports history, but it provided four valuable marketing lessons.
1. Focus on the end game.
Professional sports entertains an audience, showcases the amazing potential of the human body, motivates us slobs to get up off the sofa and move, and provides lessons about how to behave in victory and defeat. But the reality is that all professional sporting events have only one purpose: to generate a profit. In boxing, that end game is especially clear, because there aren’t any seasons or regularly scheduled events. Boxing matches are entirely driven by demand, which is driven by profit. While this fight didn’t live up to its competitive hype, it absolutely embodied its other nickname: The Money Fight. Mayweather-McGregor broke records for live gate revenues, pay-per-view and live streaming, and could reach a whopping $1 billion in total revenue after all the income streams are tallied, including those 50-0 hats that went on sale as soon as the final bell rung.
Yes, the fight was well publicized, but what made the card a revenue winner was that the fighters are currently the two most popular in the world, generate the most revenue and have already gone down in history as some of the best ever in their respective arenas. And, the promoters took advantage of UFC’s livestreaming, expanding the fight beyond cable pay-per-view to more than 200 countries around the world.
2. Make it intriguing.
Mayweather-McGregor wasn’t just about two great fighters facing off. That was the story two years ago, when Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao, a match so hyped it seemed impossible to top. But this fight eclipsed the last thanks to the extra story of boxing vs. UFC, pitting fans of different sports against each other to settle a long running debate. Instead of one fighter versus another, this match posed questions like, “do boxers really punch harder than UFC fighters?” “Could the best UFC fighter in history beat the greatest boxer of his generation with only his fists?” And, at age 40, Mayweather also faced the question, “is he too old?” After all, Mayweather had retired from the sport after the Pacquiao fight, and he had come back from retirement in 2007 to fight Pacquiao. Of course, he’s announced his retirement again, but since he still holds the title belt, there’s always a chance he could fight another day. Especially if he’s guaranteed another $100 million minimum payout. Who among us wouldn’t take a punch in the face for $100 million?
3. Expand your market.
UFC popularity has exploded over the last 20 years; at the same time, interest in boxing has waned. And, surveys show a racial divide, too. UFC is most popular with white Americans, while boxing is most popular among African Americans and Hispanics. Mayweather-McGregor exposed both audiences to each respective sport in one of the greatest cross marketing promotions of all time. The hype leading up to the fight featured video clips of each fighter’s greatest moments, which was free advertising for each sport.
In retrospect, McGregor didn’t have a chance, and it’s no wonder. Boxing and mixed martial arts are different disciplines, and asking McGregor to fight using only one of his weapons is like asking someone to fight with one hand tied behind their back. Most people would argue that Mayweather purposely got off to a slow start to make sure fans got their money’s worth. Had he come out strong and knocked McGregor out in 38 seconds like Mike Tyson, it would have turned off UFC fans and eliminated the only logical conclusion: a profitable rematch.