Thoughts, Insights and Inspiration

How Athletes are Influencers as well as Competitors

It was dubbed the sporting spectacle of the century, the most talked-about fight in history, and it proved more than enough to whet the appetite of over 1 million spectators in the U.K. alone, who tuned into the PPV (pay-per-view) broadcast of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor’s fight at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas in August 2017. Globally, a further 3 million spectators watched the 10-round showdown, albeit on one of the 200 identified illegal streams that inevitably cropped up in the infancy of the fight.

Such a level of viewership was good news for the organisers, but it also represented a significant opportunity for brands and businesses to place their product in front of millions of people in over 200 countries. Boxing has long been one of the most profitable sporting sectors for brands to get involved in, but that opportunity has been heightened by the prominence of digital media and the rise of Second Screening, which have turned boxing’s superstars into vital online influencers. In this blog, mporium explores how.

Mayweather v McGregor

Donning an applique “HUBLOT” patch on his satin shorts, Mayweather was effortlessly the most influential advertisement for this luxury watchmaker. Whether the boxer was aware of his marketing abilities or not, the mere inclusion of the Hublot brand embroidered across his quadrant was enough for digital engagement around the brand to increase by 184% in the three days surrounding the event. Moreover, between the 9pm and 2am window of the fight itself, there were 1,127 Tweets mentioning Hublot, further increasing the company’s digital footprint.

Near enough any company could have paid the minimum $1million fee to have its product featured on Mayweather and encourage this kind of digital interest. Why? Because, in his own right, Mayweather is an influencer. An icon of sorts, he encourages anyone who identifies as a “fan” of his to want to build similarities with the boxer – even if that’s just owning the same watch as him. And with Second Screening, the path for viewers of sporting events to act upon those instincts is shorter and faster than ever.

Power Of The Athlete Brand Influencer | mporiumFrom July 27th until the fight, 30% of all Hublot digital content engagement was Mayweather related.

Even without a costly sponsorship deal (which fetched a minimum of £7.3million to secure), brands could still be big winners. While neither contender had a shoe endorsement, during the fight, 179 Tweets were published mentioning both Mayweather and Adidas, thanks to Mayweather wearing the brand on the night. Meanwhile, Reebok didn’t have any sponsorship in the fight, but gained significant awareness and engagement thanks to its long-standing affiliation with McGregor. Whether there’s a strict connection or not, brands still stand to gain digital traction through these significant events via the Second Screen experience and the influencers who drive viewers to engage in it.

The Influence of Sporting Influencers

Influencer marketing is hardly a new notion, with brands like Adidas using influencers to drive mCommerce since 2016 and more affordable micro-influencers being implemented by brands worldwide over the last few months. What the Mayweather-McGregor fight highlighted specifically, though, is how athletes themselves can provide an unmatchable asset to an advertising and marketing strategy.

The world’s adoration for athletes is almost innate and preprogrammed. The allure of sports is drawn from the fact it’s fun and unpredictable, and provides lifetime bonds between viewers. The psychology and sociology around sports is deeply rooted, and explains just why so many of us see athletes as role models. Look, for example, at the fact that Google returns over 10 pages of search results for the phrase “Serena Williams Role Model.” The tennis star has multiple sponsorships, including Nike and PepsiCo, who’ll be benefiting from the positivity she creates.

How Athletes are Influencers as well as Competitors | mporium

Returning to the Mayweather-McGregor fight, the broadcast itself was littered with references to Corona Extra, the official beer of the fight. Around August 18th to 27th, 27% of all digital content engagement was Mayweather-McGregor related.

Power Of The Athlete Brand Influencer | mporium

A steady peak for Google Searches of “Corona” can be seen in the lead-up to August 27th, before gradually dissolving post-fight night.

Whilst neither McGregor or Mayweather were pictured drinking the beverage (in fact, McGregor chose to sup his own brand of whiskey), simply placing the two athletes amidst “Corona girls” in the press conferences before and after the fight was enough to create a significant spike in searches for “Corona Extra” on fight night. It’s a prime example of how sponsors reap the benefits of second screening in sports, and why creating activity that’s reactive to moments such as these is so vital for modern brands.


It isn’t just athletes winning big in competition successes, but also brands – official sponsors or not – who piggyback off the triumph of anticipated sporting pageants. With each athlete already donning a dedicated fandom waiting to be influenced, the odds favour whichever product is the product “of choice” for that particular icon (even if said icon was paid upwards of $1million to favour it). The key for brands is to be reactive enough to tap into that influence.

Are you somewhat influenced by what your favourite sporting stars are wearing, eating or drinking? Just how important do you see influencer marketing in the sporting world? Tweet us @mporiumgroup to let us know your thoughts and opinions.

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