Mayweather vs Pacquiao match hype: A case of great marketing?

In early May, Facebook and Twitter seemed to be blowing up with comments over the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao match. On my personal feed, friends who I knew had no interest in boxing, were enthralled with the match and kept up a stream of constant updates.

In fact, local pay-TV operator StarHub faced the wrath of consumers who were trying to purchase the channel just for the match, but were unable to do so, all at the eleventh hour. This problem was not one isolated to StarHub. The enthusiasm to catch the match through pay-per-view orders globally resulted in technical difficulties that led to a delay of the fight.

While I understand the overwhelming love for sport in Singapore and the growing enthusiasm for sports such as rugby, cricket and MMA, the sudden rush of enthusiasm for this match truly surprised me. Was it just me living in a cave and not understanding the enthusiasm? Or was this a perfect example of marketing gone brilliantly right?

The rise of FOMO

Don Anderson, managing director of We Are Social, was of the view that this consumer enthusiasm was clearly another case of FOMO (fear of missing out). He explained the proliferation of social media and conversational channels made it virtually impossible for anyone to be able to escape the sheer magnitude of hype that an event like this was capable of producing.

“Even if you’re not a boxing fan, or have never heard of Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, simply not being part of the conversation can leave you with a sense of dread or feeling isolated. Few really want that anymore,” he said.

He added the fact that so many people rushing at the last minute to secure pay-per-view packages was a testament to the “FOMO behaviour”.

Meanwhile, the fact the show was aired during a long weekend where many consumers were in a relaxed state of mind also contributed to the hype, he added.

Preetham Venkky, head of digital strategy and business for KRDS Singapore, agreed with the notion, adding that ultimately both the digital and traditional marketing culminated perfectly into word of mouth, generating conversations between die-hard boxing fans and non boxing fans.

The winning ingredient: Art of storytelling

He also added this was a classic case of storytelling at its very best. The title of the match – “Fight of the Century” – also helped in the narrative as more than five million people worldwide were invested in the characters themselves, he said.

Following any good classical storytelling narrative, the story had all the elements of opposing characters holding the “good versus evil” spectrum and a great back story with the perfect tease of possible bouts in the past five years.

The icing on the top was HBO-Showtime being the exclusive partners who invested heavily in the fight.

Venkky added that as reported in several media outlets, the “purse of over US$300 million helped propel the story further”.

This is usually a budget set aside for blockbuster movies and is not usually a budget forked out for one-day events. He also added that besides traditional marketing, social media and digital were used effectively by both the boxers to drive anticipation and build the characters to near perfection.

“This fight wasn’t just ‘money versus Pacman’ but was crafted to be an ‘evil versus good’ story. And just as with any great story (remember David versus Goliath), people took to social media and were happy to share every element of it – adding to its popularity,” he said.

“The friction between the two characters in itself was sufficient to light social media on fire.”

Meanwhile, here’s some data from Amobee regarding the fight:

The MGM Grand

  • Ahead of the Pacquiao/ Mayweather fight, digital consumption around the MGM Grand increased 81% in the last month, comparing March 29 – April 29 to February 25 – March 28.
  • An amazing 74% of all MGM Grand consumption between March 29 – April 29 was directly related to the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight, showing the level of online exposure hosting a major sporting event can provide. In the same time period, only 3% of MGM Grand consumption was related to UFC 189, which will be held at the MGM Grand on July 11, 2015.While the popular narrative is that MMA has replaced boxing as America’s favourite gladiator sport, at least in this instance that’s clearly not the case.



  • Between March 29 – April 29 Butterfinger and Foot Locker were tied for having the most Pacquiao-related digital consumption.
  • Nike had 87% as much Manny Pacquiao-related consumption as Butterfinger and Foot Locker, while Hennessy had 33% as much related consumption, and San Miguel Beer and Wonderful Pistachios both had 13% as much Pacquiao-related consumption in the same time period.
  • Meanwhile, 49% of the digital consumption around Tecate between March 29 – April 29 was related to the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight. Meaning Tecate, which paid US$5.6 million to be the main sponsor of the event, nearly doubled its digital footprint as a result of the association.


Showtime and HBO

  • Mayweather and Showtime was the strongest fighter/premium channel association in the past month, with Mayweather having 95% as much HBO-associated consumption between March 29 – April 29, despite being a Showtime contract fighter.
  • On the same index, Pacquiao had 94% as much Showtime-related consumption and 91% as much HBO-related consumption in the same time period. That’s just another indication of Mayweather being the boxer who’s generating more online interest overall.
  • In terms of using the fight to raise awareness around the network’s brand, that’s probably more important for Showtime than it is for HBO. Between March 29 – April 29, HBO had 380% more consumption around it than Showtime did.In the same time period, 36% of Showtime consumption was the channel was being compared to HBO, with 26% of Showtime consumption related to the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight, and 14% of Showtime consumption was related to David Lynch exiting its Twin Peaks revival, among notable consumption drivers.
  • In comparison between March 29 – April 29, 31% of HBO consumption was related to Game of Thrones, 14% was related to the launch of HBO Now, with only 5% of HBO consumption related to the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight, despite by volume Showtime only being marginally more associated with the event.


That shows that thanks to HBO’s scale, the event is proportionally less important than it is to Showtime from a branding standpoint.

(Photo courtesy: HBO)