By Adam Fraser
I’m not the world’s biggest boxing fan but yes I did get swept up in the hoopla surrounding the Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao fight last weekend. Taking over $400m just in pay per view revenue, drawing Hollywood stars a plenty to the venue and with black market tickets going for up to $350,000, this was unquestionably the dominant global zeitgeist of the weekend.
The fight itself, whilst technically interesting to deep lovers of the sport, was something of a disappointment to the broader masses. This much was clear from anyone listening in on the vast social media chatter around the event. Social media had a heavy involvement in the whole experience – so what were the key takeouts from a social media perspective?
- The sheer volume of global conversation was breathtaking. There were 5.8m tweets sent by 1.8m people about the fight, with the amplification effect evident in Twitter data showing that tweets were viewed 2.7bn times. Hard to get your head around. Facebook had even higher volume with 115m posts sent by 37m people. That’s close to double the level of activity seen for the Academy Awards.
There were more tweets on the day of the fight (5.4m) than the world cup final in 2014 (4.8m) and the Superbowl this year (2.0m).
- I recently wrote about live streaming, and the potential impact apps like Meerkat and Periscope could have on media rights for sporting events. This fight illustrated that the can is open and the worms are indeed everywhere. With a $100 pay wall to get around, Periscope in particular had a high level activity, ranging from people live streaming from the event in Vegas to others live streaming their own TV broadcasts. Breaches of IP rights a plenty and lots for sports owners and media companies (and their armies of IP lawyers) to think about. This issue is not going away.
- Gone are the days where focus groups are needed to get feedback on any form of media or entertainment. Thoughts on how Jamie Foxx sang the National anthem (not well) – Twitter told you on the spot. Ditto how the fight was progressing, what people thought of the result and even how the post fight interviews were conducted. The raw instantaneous power of social media, with its ability to tap into and reflect live sentiment, was illustrated in spades by this event.
- The challenges for traditional news media were evident. My own use of media around the event was probably typical:
- What time is the fight supposed to start? Forget websites or traditional media, answer identified in seconds on Twitter
- Due to start at 1pm Australia time, why is it running late? Pay per view technical challenges in the USA – answer identified in seconds on Twitter
- We’re 8 rounds in, how do you think the judges are scoring this? – answer identified in seconds on Twitter
- Whats the atmosphere like? Browse the hashtag on Instagram
- Do people agree with the result? Browse Twitter hashtag
- Chat with friends – hit WhatsApp
- etc etc
No need (or desire) to check any traditional news sites for anything. All user generated content, live in the moment. Many news sites did nothing more than summarise the Twitter conversation in the build up. On a recent podcast episode, Jay Baer said websites could become the am radio of the Internet. We were talking 5-10 years in the future. With the growth of mobile, social and app culture, is that day closer than we think?
- The fighters extensive own use of social media was a further illustration of the importance of social, the absence of media gatekeepers and the ability to control messaging (as well as monetise image rights). Manny P even took a selfie on his way into the ring ( 81,000 retweets, 125,000 favourties) as well as using Periscope to show behind the scenes footage in the dressing room pre-fight. Floyd Mayweather has 6.8m Instagram followers, a platform he used to good advantage in the predictable pre fight PR battle, as well as 11.2m Facebook fans and 6.1m followers on Twitter. No PR agents needed to get his message out there.
As one boxing promoter (Nisse Sauerland, CEO of Team Sauerland) said:
“Nowadays you have to be on social media to launch the fight and to build hype. It couldn’t be done without it.”
This boxing event generated more than the GDP of a number of countries, and was arguably more about the marketing than the sport. The central role of social media in the unfolding event was a good illustration of the power it has now cemented in societal norms and our day to day lives.