Gen Z fuels boxing comeback, branding and marketing
Advertising spend on boxing programs on the network and cable TV rose from $ 23 million in 2018 to $ 48 million in 2019, before dropping last year to $ 45 million during the pandemic, according to Kantar.
Boxing’s popularity in the United States declined rapidly after its most recent heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, when stars like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Leon Spinks, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield were household names. But it has seen a recovery in the past five to six years, in part thanks to its growing reputation as a global sport, says Bryan Harris, chief operating officer and managing partner of sports marketing agency Taylor in New York. York.
“Boxing has always been popular around the world, but the epicenter was always in the United States. It’s no longer the case, ”says Harris. “It’s always very important – Canelo has a huge American fan base and largely fights here – but if you look at the top ranked fighters and the big cities in the world that host big name events, the sport is too. global than ever before. . In 2019, boxing matches represented four of the top 10 events broadcast on DAZN (an OTT sports subscription service), including the best event, a heavyweight match between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua II which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“Boxing’s status is not where it was in the ’80s and’ 90s, but there are more opportunities for marketers to get involved today given the global nature of the sport and the makes traditional broadcast networks no longer the exclusive partners, ”says Harris. “I would say it’s a pretty strong comeback.”
Part of the explanation for the resurgence of boxing in the United States has to do with the sport’s multicultural appeal. Boxing is the second most popular sport among Spanish-dominant Hispanics and the fourth most popular among English-dominant bilingual Hispanics, Kelly says. “If you look at the combination of Hispanic and Asian American demos, Top Rank [boxing] offers a higher index than any other sport, ”he says.
But it’s boxing’s disproportionate strength within the Gen Z cohort – with more than $ 140 billion in collective purchasing power – that could tip the scales for skeptical brands. Boxing is ranked # 8 among Gen Z’s most favorite sports / leagues to watch on TV, followed closely by # 9 Ultimate Fighting Championship / MMA and just behind # 7 in the National Hockey League , according to a new poll of 500 Gen Z sports fans led by research firm Knit, in Austin, Texas, which studies the demographics of Generation Z. A separate survey from Two Circles put boxing even higher with Gen Z: It ranked # 4 behind soccer, basketball and soccer, according to the survey, which polled 6,000 consumers and was released last month.
Boxing’s youthful appeal is often attributed to its ability to produce short bursts of shareable entertainment content, such as punches and knockouts. The Knit survey found that ‘action packed’ was the most important characteristic in attracting Gen Z viewers to boxing, followed by the value of entertainment (33.6%) and social interactions (32, 2%). Boxing and the UFC both go against the declining trend in Gen Z viewership in major sports leagues, according to Aneesh Dhawan, CEO of Knit, in his 20s.
“In our previous work, we found that the biggest thing Gen Z wanted were more engaging and interesting TV shows,” says Dhawan. “The format of boxing and the UFC really resonates with Gen Z, which is why these sports have become more popular on television.” Notably, the study found that boxing and the UFC were not in the top 10 rankings (at 11 and 13 respectively) of the sports Gen Z prefers to watch in person. “Other sports are more appealing to Gen Z to watch live because they provide more downtime between the action for people to talk to each other and have a conversation on social media,” Dhawan says.
Brands can seek sponsorship opportunities based on what athletes eat, drink and wear outside of the ring, says Julia Vanderput, director of strategy at The Marketing Arm. “The entry of CBD into CrossFit illustrates this well,” she says. “[CBD brands] have focused on lifestyle rather than competitive performance, making the product more accessible to consumers who are not competitive but imitate professional CrossFit [regimens]. “
Boxing still has a way to go to prove itself as a viable sponsorship vehicle for all brands. In the Knit survey, only 28% of Gen Z respondents said they were likely or very likely to buy brands that sponsor boxers or UFC fighters, which is exactly half of the response (56%) to the same question on sport in general. But the UFC has always been successful in attracting new brands. According to the limited partnership consulting firm IEG, the following brands have entered into new UFC deals in the past two years: Love Hemp (CBD); Venum (combat clothing); Howler Head (banana infused bourbon); DraftKings; Thorne Research (vitamins / supplements); and the Chiliz and eToro cryptocurrency brands.
“Part of what makes boxing and mixed martial arts so appealing to fans is the controversy of a fighter saying something outrageous or offensive, and conservative brands are running a mile from that,” Yardley says. “The challenge for combat sports is how to legitimize itself in the eyes of big brands.”