Was the exposure worth the cost?
You might assume that the number-one boxer in the world would have a slew of endorsement deals. But for Floyd Mayweather, that isn’t the case.
The boxer earned an estimated $105 million in 2014 from his two fights against Marcos Maidana. None of that money came from any active sponsorships. Mayweather has told Fortune in the past that the reason he does not have endorsement deals is not because brands aren’t interested, but because his baseline for entry is too high for most. Mayweather’s ask, these days, is a minimum of $1 million.
Back in 2009, Mayweather did sign a shoe deal with Reebok, but the arrangement was not renewed for 2010. By way of explanation, there is a funny and oft-repeated story that two of Mayweather’s associates told Fortune last year: only three weeks after signing the Reebok deal, he wandered into a Nike store at a mall, spent thousands of dollars, and shared photos of the spree on his social media accounts. He heard from Reebok right away with the obvious complaint: that he had a million-dollar deal with them, and that one of the basic concepts of such a deal is that he should not be buying Nike products. Mayweather, feeling boxed in, walked away from the deal and gave Reebok its money back, according to his people. After all, he makes so much money from boxing that he doesn’t need to earn anything outside the ring—why would he enter into any deal with a brand unless it’s completely on his terms?
The recent outcry against Mayweather’s domestic violence suggests a different story. It suggests that brands are turning down Mayweather, not vice-versa. CNNMoney calls him, “the star athlete no sponsor will touch.” Sports Illustrated calls him “the most hated athlete in professional sports.” The sports web site Deadspin has published a slew of posts in the criticizing not just Mayweather, but also any reporters who scored an interview with him and did not push him on his past. A Bloomberg View column questions the vilification of Yankees star Alex Rodriguez by pointing out that Mayweather is much more objectionable. All of this bad press could scare sponsors away.
But for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, three brands deemed it worth the risk of bad publicity, and worth the million-dollar price tag: Burger King BKW , daily fantasy sports site FanDuel, and Swiss watchmaker Hublot. Sources have confirmed to Fortune that each company spent around $1 million to get into the ring with Mayweather.
Hublot had brand placement at the waist of his boxing trunks, while FanDuel had its name at the bottom of one trunk-leg. In terms of exposure, each of those brands got 36 minutes (a full 12 rounds, at 2 minutes per round). Burger King, on the other hand, only got the two minutes or so of its mascot, the Burger King, walking in with Mayweather and his entourage. Mexican brewer Tecate spent a bit more for its 36 minutes: ESPN reported that the company paid $5.6 million to be the official sponsor of the overall fight.
Judging purely by pay-per-view receipts, the brands may have gotten their money’s worth. Deadline reports that the fight generated more than 3 million PPV buys, which sets an all-time record. And far more than three million people watched the fight, since so many watched at bars or with friends. But the number of eyeballs was certainly nowhere close to the 114 million people that watched the Super Bowl last February. For a 30-second ad during that event, brands spent $4.5 million. So the companies involved with the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight spent a quarter of that, but for far fewer eyeballs and at the risk of backlash.
When asked why it chose to stand with Mayweather, Burger King’s official statement was: “There’s a reason we call him the King.” (The comment referred to its mascot.)
FanDuel’s response today, through spokesperson Justine Sacco, is that sponsoring Mayweather allowed the company to offer its users a rare experience: “As part of our sponsorship agreement, FanDuel offered three fantasy contests, with an entry fee of $2, in which the winners were awarded two tickets each to the biggest fight of our lifetime… This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our users, who would have never had the chance to be at MGM, and witness boxing history, otherwise.” More than 200,000 FanDuel users entered the three contests, which FanDuel says “validated that we offered one of the most desirable experiences to sports fans across the country.”
Hublot did not respond to a request for comment. In a press release the day before the fight, the company called Mayweather a “a great fit for Hublot” and said, “We will lay witness to greatness tomorrow.”
HBO and Showtime reportedly made more than $400 million in revenue from the fight. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas sold $74 million in tickets to the fight. The fighters themselves divided up a $300 million purse (60 percent to Mayweather, the bigger draw). These entities all made their money. Burger King, FanDuel and Hublot spent theirs. Was it worth it? Additional brands may be asking themselves that question in anticipation of September, when Mayweather will fight for the final time in his career.