Insights: Punch-Drunk Over Social Media’s Pugilistic Profit Plans

By 06/10/2021
Insights: Punch-Drunk Over Social Media’s Pugilistic Profit Plans

Once again this past weekend, millions of lucky internet users were treated to the rich pleasures of watching someone punch Logan Paul in the face. Perhaps we should have declared a national holiday so all could enjoy.

The occasion this time was an “exhibition” between Paul and one of the greatest boxers of all time, the now decidedly past his prime Floyd Mayweather, who’s also 44 and, technically, retired. 

Nonetheless, the two part-time pugilists climbed in the ring to bash on each other, doing little enough damage that both could climb back out. Indeed, as an exhibition, no judges scored the fight, and no winner was declared. 

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Except of course, the bank accounts of both Mayweather and Paul. Their bank accounts won big.

As Tubefilter reported this week, more than a dozen sponsors backed the event produced by a Cameo competitor called Fanmio and companies owned by Paul and Mayweather.

The boxers’ sponsors included OnlyFans, a fast-fashion company, two online gambling sites, two fintech sites, three cryptocurrency outfits, and other companies selling cannabis products and dietary supplements. Together, that sponsor roster reads like the Federal Trade Commission‘s top 10 list of Most Scrutinized Internet Sectors, but I digress. 

Online, where’d you expect an event featuring a prominent influencer/huckster to do well, it created a mini-industry of media, generating some 326 million views from 9,400 YouTube uploads, according to Tubular Labs.

No surprise that Paul himself was a particular beneficiary, with the most popular (Face to Face with Floyd Mayweather), and fifth most popular (My Last Words to Floyd Mayweather) of those thousands of videos about the fight, according to Tubular. 

Most importantly for the bottom line, though, Showtime Sports streamed the event as a pay-per-view for $50 a pop. A few days after the fight, Mayweather said the PPV stream generated a whopping $300 million. 

Even before the fight, Mayweather was boasting that he’d already made $30 million in what he called “legalized bank robbery.”  As Mayweather went on to say, “…that’s not bad for a guy that’s retired.”

No, indeed. Wonderful to see one of the sport’s greatest champions put a little nest egg aside for his old age, which for boxers often arrives far sooner than they expect. Also, Mayweather punched Logan Paul in the face.

But with that kind of money floating around for “exhibitions,” perhaps it’s not surprising to see influencers make like pro boxers and increasingly opt to climb in the ring too. The money’s big, the stakes are small, and it’s a chance to generate new fans, sponsors, and business deals. 

That’s why Robert Ellin, the founder and CEO of LiveXLive Media, told me this week that we should get ready for a lot more such events (including his own).

As the money generated by the Paul-Mayweather event suggests, fans are increasingly getting into live events that mash up celebrities, sports, and music–and not just with boxing, where there are occasional potential downsides like dying. But the fights aren’t anything like the level of intensity Mayweather brought in his professional career.

“For our kids, this is fun, this is Disney, this is Wrestlemania,” Ellin said. “They’re not claiming to be the next great boxing star. It’s a show, and you’re going to see, I think this is going to be the beginning.” 

Soon to come, Ellin said, are more kinds of crossover events like the basketball league that features hip hop stars, and celebrity car races. And it could revive American interest in boxing, which has been down for the count as mixed martial arts and even pro wrestling grabbed far more attention among younger fans of combat sports.

“This is going to bring boxing back,” Ellin said. “Boxing was dying. This is going to bring really young people back into boxing.” 

LiveXLive Social Gloves poster

Poster for Social Gloves: Battles of the Platforms event (PRNewsfoto/LiveXLive Media, Inc.)

LiveXLive will produce and stream this Saturday’s Social Gloves: Battle of the Platforms, featuring seven fights between influencers/amateur boxers mostly from TikTok and YouTube. 

The headline match pits Austin McBroom of YouTube’s The ACE Family (19 million subscribers) against TikTok teen idol Bryce Hall, with other matches featuring Danny Duncan, DDG, Deji, FaZe Jarvis, Michael Le, Nate Wyatt, Tanner Fox, Tayler Holder, and Vinnie Hacker

The event at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium (where Paul fought Mayweather) will also feature “a unique music festival” headlined by DJ Khaled, Lil Baby, and Migos, plus prefight live and on-demand programming, behind-the-scenes content, interviews, and red carpet appearances. 

“This is going to be that opening trade, where we prove that we can build an audience for live events, we can sell merchandise for live events, sell alcohol and food in private boxes, and prove that the consumer wants this,” Ellin said. 

The event is intended to be the first in a series of Social Glove PPV boxing and music events in conjunction with Hard Rock Café, which is streaming the event to its resorts and restaurants, and co-creating merchandise. 

And no surprise, given recent crypto craziness, Social Gloves signed a partnership to create licensed non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, tied to the events, beginning with digital trading cards of family man McBroom and teen idol Hall. 

So, it’s going to be A Thing. 

Of course, even as influencers move into sports and competitions far from what made them Online Famous, some things haven’t changed, like jerky behavior from a Paul brother. 

In a May media event, Mayweather scuffled with Logan Paul’s brother Jake when he grabbed Mayweather’s hat, and reportedly also talked trash about the mother of Mayweather’s children, who had recently died. Little surprise the G.O.A.T. took offense.

“There’s a difference between respect and disrespect,” Mayweather said. “Untying my shoe, my children’s mother passed away last year, talking about her, touching my hat…It’s all about reciprocation. Treat people like you want to be treated.”

That sounds about right. So, let’s treat the Pauls the way they want to be treated. Can we just arrange for people to punch them in the face every day? The pay-per-view take would be huuuuge. And it seems like just the sort of spectacle the internet really needs. 

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