In 2020, during the lockdown, there weren't many sporting events going on initially, and everyone was finding different ways to keep themselves busy and absorb content. We all learned during this time that we could conduct more of our daily activities virtually, and the days of having to do something in person were slowly disappearing.
During this time, I reached out to Digital Sports Executive Jay Chaudhry, who has been stomping on the ground trying to get everyone's attention regarding sports and its future. Many have seen his tweets and ignored them as something they don't have to pay attention to, but how quickly things have changed within the last two years. Many of the things he mentioned have come to fruition, and the sports world has only scraped the surface regarding their presence in the digital future.
The initial article explored the history of social media and how it reached its current status. When it comes to boxing, the sport has been a lot slower incorporating some of these futuristic marketing strategies. Still, it seems like they are finally turning the corner as fighters like Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis are leading the new generation of fighters and the sport into a new playing field. Social media presence was stressed in this column, and if you want to thrive with the current wave, you as a fighter have to adjust how your profile is valued in the digital space.
The second part came later in 2020 and spoke more about “Name, Image and Likeness” (NIL) and how the NCAA was beginning to allow their student-athletes to participate in this so they could start to earn money while in school. This was a breakthrough as for many years, student-athletes were not allowed to earn or receive money while playing for the school. That opened up the flood gates, and as recently as March, Adidas announced: “it’s creating a program for up to 50,000 college athletes to become paid endorsers for the brand.”
This is a massive step into the future, and I brought Jay Chaudhry back to discuss this and much more. Chaudhry told NYF, “Imagine if that happened in boxing where a major corporation is funding amateur boxers. NIL is moving the way it was promised to move two years ago when it was initially introduced. More than half of the college athletes are verified on Instagram with local and regional deals tied to their names.”
The digital age is here, and along with that, social media presence is more important than ever if you, the fighter, wants to earn money outside of the ring. Everyone knows that boxing has a short life span, and not everyone makes it, so wouldn’t it make sense to try monetizing your profile as much as possible outside of the ring? Chaudhry said, “I've been telling fighters for years and helped them create their own Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok channels. The ones who are taking it seriously call me up to tell me about a new sponsor they got or how their latest video cracked a new record of views.”
Chaudhry continued, “Ryan Garcia has over 618 million hits on TikTok, and the second closest boxer to him is Gervonta Davis at 148 million (Davis' epilogue from the Romero fight has surpassed a million views). The youth follow where the entertainers are and not necessarily where the boxers are. In five years, the A-side may be the fighters who have the larger digital audience.” Many will read that last line and laugh, but if you do your homework, we are currently going through that phase right now; insert Jake Paul.
Showtime recently sent out a press release that highlighted Paul’s social media presence when they wrote, “A YouTube star and influencer-turned-pro boxer, Paul’s perfectly placed right hand in the sixth round against Tyron Woodley last December was the No. 1 trending video worldwide on YouTube the day following their December 18 bout. It retained it's staying power with a No. 2 ranking two days later. The dramatic knockout also recorded 7.5 million views in less than 24 hours on YouTube, making it the most-watched video in a 24-hour period in the history of SHOWTIME SPORTS®. “
Chaudhry looks at Paul as a prime example of a fighter's potential and how they can maximize that presence. Jay told NYF, “As we get into a space where digital assets are becoming people’s assets, an athlete who has their own channel, as they continue to progress in the sport, are able to monetize their following. For example, Jake Paul sold 65k PPV, which was shit from a business standpoint. Do you know how much he made on the backend with merchandise, sponsorship, and his YouTube channel? It’s rumored that he made an additional 50-60 million dollars just from that. Who cares about PPV numbers at that point?”
When looking at things from that lens, it makes sense that the real money is made on the front and back end in the case of someone as big as Jake Paul. The same can be said for young gunns like Ryan and Tank. I would even throw in Teofimo Lopez, who signed a deal with Budweiser last year. Chaudhry added, “We live in an age where 93% of millennials do not feel guilty about illegally streaming content. The kids are smart these days and will find a way not to pay for the fight, but that doesn’t mean they won’t subscribe to the YouTube channel or purchase merchandise.”
Jay mentioned that the issue with boxing and the networks that host them is that they rely too much on the event to make money for them instead of investing resources on the front end. He points to the Fury vs. Wilder fight in which FOX had a prime opportunity to create a commercial that would bring awareness to the event; instead, they ran a 30-second promo and were satisfied with that. That was a missed opportunity, and one that cost them as the fight failed to crack a million buys.
Speaking of the future, Chaudhry mentioned the use of A.I. technology being used in sports arenas all over. Something that promotion companies can indeed look into in order to develop and maintain a fan base from year to year. Chaudhry told NYF, “A.I. tech is being used at sports arenas all over as a way to keep fans engaged even after the event. It is a way to acquire an audience. They are tracing fans digitally so they can be sent offers and reminders about events. This is a way to remind fans about the event or team and make them feel like a VIP. The machines at the stadium that ask for your email and info is a means to collect a fans' data so that they can stay in contact with them.”
Although that sounds more like something you would see in a movie, we are literally in the digital age where people buy and sell property in the metaverse. In the not-so-distant future, will it be crazy to think that we won’t be watching boxing with goggles on, giving you an arena-like experience from the comfort of your home?
Bringing it back and closing the loop on this series, boxing must catch up with the current times. If fighters want to earn money when they aren’t fighting, a solid social media presence will provide opportunities they may not get anywhere else. Could we see a significant social media presence be used when negotiating fight contracts in the future? We see that already, and if you look closely enough, it’s more relevant than you think. That last line is for those still waiting for the neighborhood kid to deliver the morning newspaper. I’m kidding of course but am I really?