Notoriety v Money - The C(l)ash of Styles in the Fight before the Fight
Like most boxing fans, I see Mayweather v McGregor as more of an event than a fight.
Unless the Pretty Boy has aged worse than the Nazi who chose the wrong Grail at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the American should box the cauliflower ears off the Irishman.
However, their mouths have already done the job their fists could not. A worldwide press tour has lifted the bout to the second biggest grossing fight of all time. And, who knows, it may still pip Mayweather-Pacquiao to the top prize.
I analysed the two fighter’s social media posts a few months ago and found MacGregor’s team to be the more skilled practitioners while Mayweather was remarkably unsophisticated. It was as if the much-talked-about 11-year age gap was a minor factor in the ring but clearly evident on Twitter, instagram and Facebook.
Reassessing their accounts in the weeks before the fight, McGregor has started to monetise his account with differing levels of success. Meanwhile, Mayweather continues to do his thing, largely ignoring best practice.
@TheNotoriousMMA has documented his preparation with high-quality, emotive images of training. The other main shtick is his lifestyle, clothes and cars in particular. Most of the time the brand is tagged.
Elsewhere, the more subtle integration of Monster worked very well. You can maybe forgive the consistent push of his conditioning programme, “Conor McGregor Fast”, as it is congruent with his super-fit persona and the content he produces. Even the MacApp, in which the 29-year-old recites phrases at the push of a button, possesses his humour and trademark turn of phrase.
No-one begrudges an athlete exploiting a short, intense career full of sacrifice but McGregor’s carefully crafted social media profile helped to create this fight. He has gone for a few quick bucks before the bout. But then, should we be surprised? Boxers talk openly about their money motivations in a way that footballers cannot.
McGregor saves himself with a fine example of narrative branded content with his major sponsors, Beats. A two-minute video dramatises his early days in Dublin with flash forwards to his current success. The product is subtle, but it is there.
Contrast that with Mayweather. At the time of the weigh-in on the eve of the bout, his last six Instagram posts were promotions for his nightclub, the Girl Collection.
There were a few training shots but even when he has a point to make, such as his acceptance of 8oz gloves or highlighting his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, it was poorly executed. Often there are no images, sometimes it is just a link.
Then there was the advertisement for PA for the Money Team on Facebook. It was presented as an image of the text and you were asked to apply to a Gmail account. In the comments, his fans thought that such amateurism meant it was a Phishing exercise by hackers. It probably was not.
Mayweather’s career has pivoted on financial acumen after taking personal control. In 2006, he paid $750,000 to leave promoter Bob Arum and become a free agent. He formed the Money Team, which did exactly what it said on the tin. Often, it seems, at the expense of his credibility, his legacy and his sport.
At times, he comes across as crass, humourless and obsessed with dollar bills, stacks of them feature in his content.
However, there are still hints of something more. There are charity posts and then there was a repost on Facebook from an associate of Mayweather tucked away on July 15. It decried the antics of McGregor during those press conferences and their effect on his opponent’s daughter. As a gay, black man, the poster also denounced the Irishman’s racially-tinged language and sought to soften the prevailing media view concerning Mayweather’s reported use of the word “faggot”.
If those press conferences have brought out the worst of the pair then carefully planned social should be the best of them. McGregor’s pictures with his new-born son in the ring and dressed up as the “boss baby” were among the most personal. And the response from diminutive actor Verne Troyer was arguably the best riff on the fight’s build-up.
So McGregor has won the pre-fight social media battle via a wide points decision.
But the bout should go Mayweather’s way in similar fashion.
* Got a view? Let me know in the comments below.