CBS boosts Mayweather promotion
As servers cleared the plates at the end of a working lunch at a famed Manhattan hotel, Stephen Espinoza passed an iPad across the table, careful not to snag an earbud wire on a chair.
“This just came in,” the head of Showtime Sports told Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “They still have to do the final mix of the sound, but you can see how it looks.”
Schaefer leaned forward, watching as the video rolled.
“This May 4, there is one target — the pay-per-view king,” a narrator said in an FM radio baritone, pausing as the face of Floyd Mayweather Jr. appeared. Graphics turned the screen into the head-up display of a fighter jet, which zoomed over the Las Vegas strip, zeroing in on the glowing outline of the MGM Grand.
As the 30-second spot concluded, the narrator’s voice returned with a call to action, reminding viewers that Mayweather’s Saturday night pay-per-view fight against Robert Guerrero can be seen in select movie theaters. Espinoza explained that the same trailer, produced by Showtime, would be recast at the end to hawk tickets for the MGM Grand, and that additional versions would be customized to promote in-home sales through cable operators and satellite providers.
“This is the kind of thing I was talking about when I said it was time to reconsider everything about the [pay-per-view] model,” Schaefer said. “You see the sponsors and the movie theaters and the network and everybody working together. That’s what I wanted to do. Shake the boat. Rethink everything.”
This week’s fight will be a landmark one, not because of the matchup in the ring, but because of a deal struck outside it. After generating $543 million in sales from nine pay-per-view fights on HBO and fighting exclusively on that network for 14 years, Mayweather announced in February that he signed a six-fight, or 30-month (whichever comes first), deal with rival premium network Showtime.
Key in the deal, which could make Mayweather the highest-paid athlete on the planet over the next three years if his pay-per-views continue to sell, was Showtime’s commitment to promote the fight across the broader platforms of its parent company, CBS.
Last month, Mayweather appeared on CBS between games of the Final Four, watched by about 15 million viewers. On Saturday night, CBS aired an hourlong documentary on Mayweather and Guerrero, executive produced by Emmy-winning former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg. CBS also has promoted the fight via its radio network, as well as its interactive and outdoor divisions, and discussed merchandise opportunities for Mayweather through its consumer products division.
“It’s a pleasure to be able to work with somebody who gets it,” said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, explaining that while the HBO relationship was a good and profitable one, the network did not market the fights as broadly as Showtime and CBS. “We’re on the same page [with Showtime and CBS]. We’re not having to pull, scratch and claw for stuff we want to get done, because [Espinoza] is thinking like we’re thinking.”
Much of the promotion that supports a pay-per-view fight is funded via co-op arrangements in which cable operators and satellite providers that distribute the fight share in the advertising costs.
“Every one of them is getting a customized marketing integration plan,” said Golden Boy Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Binkow. “They’re contributing co-op dollars in unprecedented numbers because they’re all getting something that’s different and unique and tailored to them.”
Sponsorship activation also has been high for the fight, Binkow said, with Corona displaying point-of-sale materials in more than 20,000 stores; O’Reilly Auto Parts promoting the fight in its more than 3,000 stores; and NCM Fathom airing commercials in theaters for six weeks leading up to the fight, including a 30-second spot during its “First Look” segment and a 20-second spot after the lights go down for the trailers.