Joshua v Klitschko - the social media fight

Joshua v Klitschko - the social media fight

The biggest fight in British boxing history is here.

Anthony Joshua v Vladimir Klitschko clash for the IBF heavyweight title on Saturday in front of 90,000 at Wembley.

There is a vast contrast in age between the two fighters but, otherwise, they are relatively alike – tall, upright and technical inside the ring; methodical, professional and classy outside of it.

The latter qualities were reflected in their social media accounts in the build up to the fight. At 27, Joshua is a Millennial and, therefore, is social media-savvy. All boxers get busy to sell tickets to their upcoming bouts, but the Englishman is prolific outside of camp. It is a policy I have implored other fighters to employ. The construction of your personal brand should never stop. You constantly build and engage your audience, so they will respond to the relationship you have created when you need to sell a ticket or a pay-per-view subscription.

Of course, Joshua has stepped up his game ahead of this defining bout. Emotive training video – check, weigh-in shots – check, inspirational quotes - check, pieces-to-camera check. It is certainly solid stuff. As ever the nicest content was the most authentic, saying goodbye to his Mum before he bunkers down for fight night and retweeting/replying to fans on a daily basis*. 

Then there is the sponsorship side. Less than 48 hours from the first bell, he posted a video of him chatting online to Dr Dre. Presumably, it is part of the Englishman’s sponsorship deal with BeatsByDre headphones, they were plugged shortly before. Joshua also promoted Lynx, Stubhub, Lucozade and UnderArmour in recent weeks.

Klitschko also has 72,000 on VK and 26,000 on YouTube

Klitschko also has 72,000 on VK and 26,000 on YouTube

For me, that is a little too much commercialisation. The world heavyweight champion has the kudos to be a premium commodity. Also, there was virtually no platform-specific content. The same pictures and text appears on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which is slightly disappointing. Meanwhile, the website links out to an official YouTube channel with one subscriber. Something went wrong there.

At 41, Klitschko comes from Generation X. He exemplified this with his pre-fight mind games. Sportsmen have often tried to spook opponents by presenting plans and predictions in sealed envelopes, suggesting that they “have their number”. The Ukrainian put his on a memory stick – so last decade.

Otherwise, it is twee but true to suggest Klitschko’s content is like his fighting style – polished and professional but just a little dull. In fairness, his Facebook page had live video of the open training session and the weigh-in, Joshua’s only had the former. There was more difference between the platforms and he hammered the hashtag #obsessed.

But an eight-second video of his plane taxiing on the runway shot from a distance is not going to impress and there was a mistake on Facebook, see picture.

That poorly presented image on Instagram by Team Klitschko

That poorly presented image on Instagram by Team Klitschko

Overall, it lacked the personality and youthful style of Joshua. But then neither fighter trash-talked each other in advance of this bout. You could argue that is admirable and congruent with their classy personas, therefore the content followed that pattern.

But then sales were a relatively light burden. Tickets would have sold out twice over and, though pay-per-view numbers are unknown, the feeling was the fight had enough sporting value to survive without artificial hype.

That means, in contrast to recent bouts such as Haye v Bellew or Froch v Groves, the press conference was not essential viewing for me on Friday. Meanwhile, of the two combatants, only certain aspects of Joshua’s content seemed unmissable.

The bout, however, will be a different matter.

* I have no idea if this is managed or done by Joshua.

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