The first thing that comes up when people beginning dissecting the forthcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor has little to do with the intricacies of the sweet science and much more to do with what is perceived as a wild cash grab for both men.
With a circus-like atmosphere created for the fight thanks to their contrasting disciplines — as well as their ability to sell a fight with their brash attitudes and gifts-of-gab — Floyd Mayweather Jr. is expected to make $100 million USD (which could balloon to four-times as much according to Forbes if the event hits all of its monetary metrics) and McGregor is slated to earn $75 million USD (which is five times as much as he’s made from any UFC event).
Since both sides signed a confidentiality agreement that restricts them from revealing all of the financial details publicly, we can’t be certain of the financial windfall until a preliminary release of the purses is revealed per Nevada State Athletic Commission law the day before the fight.
One of the lessor aspects discussed about the fight is the branding opportunity for each man as it relates to the garments they will wear in the lead up to the fight as well as in the ring.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. heavily promotes his TMT (The Money Team) clothing brand. Not only does it serve his own personal interests, but he’s also been a champion with no major sponsorships — stemming from charges of domestic violence — since 2015 when Burger King, FanDuel and Hublot last ponied up $1 million USD each to endorse him in the lead up to his fight with Manny Pacquaio.
In a press release the day before the fight, Hublot called Mayweather “a great fit for Hublot” and said, “We will lay witness to greatness tomorrow.”
Following Mayweather Jr.’s dismantling of Pacquaio, The Los Angeles Times’ headline read, “A Clear winer in the Mayweather vs. Pacquaio bout: Watch brand Hublot.”
Yet, there is no indication that any major brand is looking to back Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his upcoming clash.
This leaves Conor McGregor as the only viable cash cow for brands — despite the long odds he faces in the eyes of Las Vegas.
Since this is a boxing promotion — and falls outside of the jurisdiction of the UFC which requires all fighters to don Reebok gear (often to their own detriment with some fighters losing as much as $65,000 USD per fight) — McGregor is technically a free agent. And because Floyd Mayweather’s last seven opponents have all gone the full 12 rounds, a brand could potentially reap 36 minutes of advertising even if McGregor’s deluge of blood soils their respective emblems.
“There’s a lot of open categories that we’ve been negotiating with brands, including Reebok,” McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “We’ll see how that all plays out.”
Helwani asked Attar if McGregor could even wear a competing brand like Nike for the fight.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity for Conor and any brand we decide to align with,” he said.
Currently, Nike’s major representation in combat sports is with undefeated boxer, Andre Ward, who this past Saturday TKO’d Sergei Kovalev in what was once again as controversial a finish as their first clash, and Gennady Golovkin who is squaring off against Canelo Alvarez in September and has all the makings of “Fight of the Year.”
Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, noted of Nike’s interest in the champ, “They see his popularity in the U.S. and overseas. They see his international appeal. When you have the combination of being that exciting in the ring and being such a likable and respectful person outside the ring, that’s the type of athlete they want represent their brand.”
Boxing gear has forever been linked to athletic performance and products like compression shorts and Dri-Fit materials.
With Conor McGregor, Nike has the chance to bring combat sports to the lifestyle sector thanks to the very nature of how the Irish champ carries himself.
If the sale of the UFC for $4 billion USD in July 2016 is any indication, it’s that people see major opportunities in the power and reach of mixed martial arts.
Even major Nike athletes like LeBron James has counted themselves as major fans of McGregor in the past.
Beats even promoted its brand of headphones with Conor McGregor rubbing shoulders with James and Kevin Durant — clearly establishing a precedent that a multi-billion dollar corporation at least views them on equal footing in terms of marketability.
Who knows how long this “Conor McGregor as boxer” experiment lasts. Regardless, there’s a major branding opportunity out there for the taking.
Nike would be wise to consider that even if Conor McGregor takes a savage beating, he can still return to the UFC and continue an upwards career trajectory aided by Reebok in the ring, and the Swoosh everywhere else.
Whereas many view this fight as a spectacle, imagine a scenario where an athlete is endorsed by both Nike and Reebok. If anyone has the gumption and conviction to pull that off, it’s McGregor.