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BOXING:

New strategies in place to show boxing isn’t dead

Mayweather v. Marquez fight features brand new marketing and programming tools

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Associated Press

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer speaks with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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  • What: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KOs) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs), 12 scheduled rounds
  • When: Sept. 19
  • Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • Tickets: $150-$1,000, mgmgrand.com
  • TV: HBO pay-per-view, $49.95

"Boxing is dead."

It’s a statement that nearly every fan has run across in articles, radio shows, social networking tools or discussion forums.

At some point in the last few decades, the sport lost the casual fan. The 2007 fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. that became known as "the fight that will save boxing" didn’t get the job done.

Over the last 18 months, Richard Schaefer, chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, has been working on nothing but turning this perception around.

And he believes that by the time Mayweather fights Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 19, he’ll have pointed the entire sport back in the right direction.

“I was delivering presentations to Fox Sports and Bloomberg Television recently,” Schaefer said. “And to be able to deliver the kind of news with the kinds of sponsors I was, I was proud to be associated with the sport of boxing.

“Some people think that the sport is under attack but it really isn’t. We are doing what we do best and that is working these events and bringing new sponsors to the table.”

It’s hard to recall any other time in boxing history where plans to market and deliver the sport were as ambitious as they are in the weeks leading up to this fight.

Marketing tools range from utilizing the newest social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to arranging promotional spots to be shown in fast food restaurants.

All have the goals in mind of bringing back the casual fan and landing new sponsors.

“When Golden Boy Promotions got involved five years ago, there were virtually no sponsors left in the sport of boxing,” Schaefer said. “Besides a few beer brands there were no significant other sponsors. We needed to develop those relationships and get companies interested in our sport again.”

Schaefer has been successful in persuading big spenders back to his events, earning financial support from the likes of Cerveza Tecate, Quaker State, AT&T, Dewalt Tools, Affliction Clothing and Southwest Airlines for Mayweather v. Marquez.

While it’s been typical in boxing that sponsors are linked to specific one-time events, Schaefer is hoping that relationships with the biggest companies could lead to signing sponsors to contracts for long-term projects.

“We have people in the audience that are not sponsors yet,” Schaefer said. “It will hopefully lead to sponsorships in the future with companies like McDonalds that we can use to build up young fighters on network television again. It’s not just going to happen though, we need to show them the reach the sport has.”

To increase that reach, Schaefer is depending on networks like HBO to successfully promote the sport through various platforms.

No other promotional tool has been more successful or hyped as the HBO series "24/7," a four-episode documentary series on its sixth installment that takes fans into the personal lives and training of fighters.

According to Mark Taffet, senior vice president of HBO Pay-Per-View, promotional spots such as "24/7" have the opportunity to reach an unprecedented number of fans due to the new technology consumers use in their everyday life.

“There has been an explosion, there’s no other way to describe it, of powerful distribution outlets that creates tens of millions of ways to reach consumers,” Taffet said. “Particularly the younger audience we need to continue the growth of boxing.”

Those outlets include making the series available on HBO On Demand, music videos, live streaming of the pre-fight weigh-ins, 30-minute preview shows on all Fox Sports regional networks, mobile video delivered on AT&T and fighter playlists available on iTunes.

“Basically we are providing a 360-degree, consumer surround sound. Anywhere they eat, shop, drive, text, tweet — they will be surrounded by over 700 million impressions about the fight with over $20 million dollars of marketing value.”

Taffet also believes that the sport of boxing itself has the kinds of fighters that could make the growth they are hoping for possible.

The retirement of De La Hoya after losing his last fight in December 2008 may have temporarily left boxing without its ambassador, but the strength of its current welterweight division reminds Taffet of previous golden ages of the sport.

“Oscar was the engine of the sport and when he retired, it really gave a number of us motivation to prove that his sport can continue to be vital and grow with the current cast of athletes,” Taffet said.

“I think we can be proud of the fact that less than a year after he announced his retirement, there is a welterweight division with Mayweather, Marquez, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito. They are lighting up the sport as we had in the great eras of the past with Marvin Haggler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. We know we’ve got a special group of fighters here to reach a new, young audience and we’re confident we’ve got the right formula for success.”

Considering its increased efforts to reach the average consumer, it appears the boxing community has overheard it may be dead.

This month’s upcoming fight and its recent efforts should go a long way in telling whether or not the rumors are true.

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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