Of boxing and advertising. Both a little punch drunk?

May 19, 2010

Boxing and advertising -Down for the count?

AdAge did an interesting story about waning interest in professional boxing by corporate sponsors. Specifically, the piece is about one-time welterweight champion, Floyd Mayweather. He, as you may know, also did a turn on Dancing with the Stars. Mayweather still commands huge paydays in the ring –some 75 million for his last bout- but advertisers by and large remain indifferent to him.

In his piece, Jeremy Mullman cites continuous bad publicity and corruption as primary reasons for the sport’s diminishing popularity, in particular with advertisers. The onset of Ultimate Fighting into the mainstream is another. The “sweet science” is being upgraded by fighting that is both more brutal and more technical. Call it fighting 2.0.

Boxing has always been an enigma to me. In my early twenties I adored it. I suppose a lot of men did. Fighters like Hector “Macho” Camacho ruled the ring and Wide World of Sports. Remember that? Ali had long since retired but, of course, his nemesis, George Foreman was still banging heads and then began selling grills as well. We all know Mike Tyson. Big personalities and badass boxers as well.

For whatever reasons, boxing seems antiquated now. Something from another time, like the afternoon paper, playing cards or …advertising?

I wonder if there are lessons in this for us in Adland. Perhaps the sweet science of “persuasive communication” could learn from boxing’s downturn. Farfetched? Think about it. We too are being encroached by more brutal and more technical means, first the Internet and now social media. Corruption and bad press also beset us. Like boxing, twenty years ago we were the shit. Like boxing, we are now in the shit.

More likely, I’m full of shit. Boxing and advertising are completely different, like apples and oranges. But it was fun comparing them, sort of like those writing exercises we’d get in college: discuss two disparate things and form a cogent argument. Anyway, I suppose I got carried away. But what can I say? I like boxing and advertising. I also like writing exercises!

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5 Responses to “Of boxing and advertising. Both a little punch drunk?”

  1. addude13 said

    As a kid, I used to leaf through my grandfather’s “Ring” magazine and think it was the coolest, most manly thing ever. (And it was.)

    Years later, I’ve become a pretty avid fan of the sweet science. For me, it’s one of the purest competitions ever. Man vs. man, fight to the knockout (or decision).

    That’s why I see boxing as timeless. At its core, it’s the same as it was 100 years ago.

    Advertising — in its 1950s through 1990s form — is just plain done. (The opposite of timeless = timeful?) We can’t just do a creative print campaign and sit back and wait for accolades, martinis and cash prizes.

    The “game” has changed. Targeting, results tracking, ROI, all that stuff is what puts butts in the seats. There’s no saving Old Advertising.

    But boxing could be saved. If Mayweather/Pacquiao happened, one of (or all of) the heavyweight titles came back to the USA, and some other incredibly talented superstar with charisma started to dominate his weight class.

    Doable, but not impossible.

    • SRP said

      When the men are in the ring everything clicks. The nonsense outside it seems tired and just plain weird. And in UF taking over or just another pretender, like wrestling? The bit about advertising is a whole ‘nother story…
      Thanks for commenting. Visit again.

  2. Tad DeWree said

    Interesting thought.

    Like triathlons and MMA fighting where multiple disciplines make up the sport, our audience is capable of a far more complex communication experience.

    A great headline and visual are almost quaint in this dimensional landscape.
    Like boxing. they are still the foundation, but as Chuck Norris, a former client of mine says. It’s that unexpected roundhouse kick that knocks them out.

    Is it a clever Apple ipad product placement? That mysterious “lost” iPhone g4 that the press drools over and prints millions in free PR about?

    That alternative-advertising groin-kick might just hit us where it really hurts.

    Good stuff amigo.

  3. dave ross said

    thinking on “persuasive communication” and how it finds common ground with boxing…i think maybe i found it in ali’s wonderful phrase… “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

    get their attention, and drive it (message) home.

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