If you’re a fight promoter without access to the marketing punch of HBO or Showtime, what’s the best way to get your message out to fans?
Why the Web, of course. And make sure you mix in a little humor in your viral videos.
That’s exactly what Main Events has done to promote its Oct. 13 pay-per-view boxing event between Evander Holyfield and World Boxing Organization heavyweight titleholder Sultan Ibragimov.
The longtime Totowa, N.J. boxing promotion company is distributing the fight – with its suggested retail price of $34.95 – on its own. That means it won’t be able to count on boxing television staples HBO and Showtime to market the PPV fight to there respective built-in boxing fan bases. Even a fight featuring Holyfield, the four-time heavyweight champion and arguably the most lucrative PPV heavyweight draw of all time, needs some pre-exposure to get boxing fans to buy his fight.
So instead of paying big bucks to buy time on college football games or TBS baseball playoff telecasts, Main Events decided to turn to the Web to help get the word out on the fight. It posted several video fight promos featuring the familiar Holyfield and relatively unknown Russian Ibragimov on YouTube.com and Google Video.
And not your traditional fighter staredowns and knockout highlights reel spots either: the Main Events spots actually took a more comical approach to the sweet science, using the fighters as pseudo actors to spoof the popular Rocky IV theatrical movie. You remember that one: big, ugly, Russian fighter Drago travels to America and gives a six-feet-under beatdown to Rocky nemeses/turn friend Apollo Creed only to return to Russia to get his steroids-enhanced butt knocked out by the Hollywood boxing hero.
The three viral videos (No. 1) (No. 2), including the fight’s main commercial No. 1) viral videos, created by New York-based video company Disposable Television, humorously parody several famous scenes from the movie (the pool scene featuring Holyfield is particularly amusing.)
Main Event president Kathy Duva said the web popularity now provides a unique opportunity for the network to reach boxing fans and casual viewers.
“To market to the general media is not possible. In a world that’s becoming more niche, you have to find ways to reach people that are going to be interested in what you’re selling,” Duva said. "I think everybody is out on the web, and there you have the potential of reaching those people who don’t watch fights all the time but who are general sports fans who know an iconic name like Evander Holyfield.”
The videos, launched in late September have generated nearly 10,000 combined views on youtube alone since launching in late September.
Duva won’t predict how effective the viral videos will be in drawing PPV buys, but said it can’t hurt the event.
What might hinder PPV buys, however is the fight card’s unusual start time: since the fight is originating live from Moscow, the fight card airs live beginning at 1 p.m. While that’s a great start time for college football, pro baseball and pro bowling events on television, it’s a much earlier premiere time for typical PPV fights.
Most fight fans aren’t even thinking about sitting down with a beer and Doritos to watch a boxing match before the sun goes down – in fact the two main event fighters don’t usually throw their last punches before the midnight hour.
Still, Duva is confident her web marketing approach will be successful. The final PPV buy tally will determine whether the web as a marketing platform is indeed knockout for boxing promoters.