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Business of Boxing: Does Floyd Mayweather’s Image Sell, or Smell?

Posted on 09/15/2011

by Charles Jay

Bob Arum has inferred that Floyd Mayweather is “insane.” Richard Schaefer has referred to him as a “marketing genius.”

My guess is that it kind of falls somewhere in between.

Photo by Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos

Look – the idea that a guy like Mayweather, who has such a “bad boy” reputation, would turn around and transform his image into “Mr. Nice Guy” is not only far-fetched, it’s something that would simply not be believable. is he outrageous by design? I’m sure that he is.

But other guys have done that, and it has come off as something much closer to the notion of “marketing.” Of course, it is unfair to compare anyone to Muhammad Ali, who was a master of the “wink, wink,” but even Hector Camacho, who was hated by some members of the press and had some dark moments, was a fun guy compared to Mayweather.

photo by Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos

I was wondering the other day what I would do if I was in charge of Mayweather’s “image.” Would I try to turn it around, and make him more “media-friendly,” or leave it as it is and feed even more extensively on the “bad boy” theme, which includes throwing money around and burning up hundred-dollar bills.

Well, without trying to repeat what was written in an earlier piece, I am not sure that the whole “greed” thing is a big seller. And I mention that because there is a definite connection to the question of money as it surrounds this fight, because you can go only so far with an act, or a reality, before you start to turn people off that you had no intention of repelling in the first place.

Yes, there is a constituency that is very attracted to the Mayweather “persona,” and maybe there is an overlap between that constituency and the one that enjoys the antics of Charlie Sheen. I happen to think there is quite a tongue-in-cheek quality to the things Sheen does, and although I’m sure that Mayweather performs some of his “Shtick” very consciously, I will not give him credit for being so artful.

Will this have its effect on the pay-per-view figures and eventual revenues that are going to be generated from the fight on Saturday? I don’t know, although I can say that if Mayweather had more widespread appeal, he may have come closer to getting the guarantee he wanted (which he did not). And i am certain he is leaving money on the table. This is not Oscar De La Hoya we’re talking about there. It’s not even Manny Pacquiao.

And while we are on that subject, there is something in that “genius” that has limited the ability to break through to the other side; to transcend, to carve out something that might delivered sports betting or blackjack money long past Floyd’s “sell-by” date. We’re talking about endorsements, and Mayweather is in no position to get them, while Pacquiao is.

And as we described in another installment of “Business of Boxing,” by virtue of being clean and exercising some principles of real marketing, Pacquiao has mainstream endorsement deals that pay real money, which in turn reinforce his brand and create a certain snowball effect, while Mayweather does not. Pacquiao has fashioned an image, through his television, musical and political efforts, of being a renaissance man, while Mayweather carries the image with mainstream advertisers as someone who hasn’t quite made it out of the “hood” yet. Pacquiao is putting some goodwill in the bank, which is gathering interest and will be drawn upon for years to come, while Mayweather’s extravagance may one day result in a cautionary tale; juicy material for a lecture to young fighters on the rise – and young athletes in general – as to what NOT to do.

Mr. Schaefer, the five or six legal entanglements Mayweather has to angle his way out of are hardly part of any successful marketing plan. To paraphrase Floyd himself (to his father) on one “24/7” episode, “You can’t market yourself when you’re locked up.”

That is, unless you’ve got a really lucrative endorsement for a black-and-white, horizontal-striped clothing line.

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