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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Marketing of Manny Pacquiao

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By Steve Kim

Exactly one week before he was scheduled to face Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao was the center of attention this past Saturday night at the Montalban where a send-off celebration was staged in his honor by Nike. This event, which played to a full-house on Vine St.( just a few blocks from where he trains at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood) was hosted by MTV personality Quddus, and included video messages from the likes of Mario Lopez and Mark Wahlberg.

The focus of this event was Pacquiao and his team members( Alex Ariza, Buboy Fernandez and Freddie Roach). This hour long session included a short video presentation, a Q-and-A segment with the fans and for Pacquiao, an impromptu duet with Filipina pop star, Melissa R. The Swoosh has never really gotten involved in boxing but Pacquiao is one of seven athletes( that include the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Rafael Nadal) who are a part of the companies AW77 Pound-for-Pound campaign.( And yes, this shindig was also designed to sell some hoodies, too).

A Nike billboard of Pacquiao is located adjacent to the theater. (http://twitpic.com/osbdi)

While Floyd Mayweather and his minions may disagree, right now, Pacquiao is not only the biggest name in boxing, but also it’s most important figure. Mayweather gets some free gear from Reebok, Pacquiao gets to be a part of a world-wide campaign. And because of it, ’Firepower’ is gaining steam.

" I’ve never seen such a response, forget about the normal boxing sites, I’m talking about outside the general public- Time Magazine, New York Times with a huge Sunday blowout piece. New York Times!!!" exclaimed Bob Arum, who promotes the Filipino icon. " It’s significant because its reached out- not only to the sports people, but to the general public. People are fascinated by the fight because they’re fascinated with Pacquiao and they know that Cotto is a tremendous obstacle."

The New York Times covers boxing about as often as the Haley Comet comes around. Time Magazine, not only did a five-page spread, the Asian edition has him on the cover. Arum, has been around superstars for as long as he’s been involved in this business, from Ali, to De La Hoya and now Pacquiao. ’the Golden Boy’, who Pacquiao bludgeoned last December to exponentially increase his popularity, was the last fighter to have any transcendent appeal.

In contrasting the two figures, Arum explained," De La Hoya, had going for him- in addition to good looks, obviously, and a certain type of charisma- he was an American kid of Hispanic heritage and therefore you could exploit all of that in promoting him. Manny, has been much more difficult because he’s a foreigner, he comes from half-way across the world and he’s not an athlete that the American public would generally seem to cotton to and adopt. But through his body of work and through what people have seen and because he is the kind of kid he is, people are fascinated by him. And that is something that was more of a stretch than it was for Oscar."

His week began when he made an appearance on ’the Jimmy Kimmel Show’ on ABC, where he not only hammed it up a bit with the shows host, but also belted out a song for the audience. This outing was well-received.

" Better than any of us hoped for," said veteran publicist, Fred Sternburg, who has worked closely with the camp for this promotion." First of all, they had a line around the block to get tickets, which was unheard of. The crowd was about half Filipino. It was bedlam inside. Jimmy, was pleasantly surprised by just how at ease Manny was and just how great he was in front of the camera."

The media day which took place the next day at the Wild Card was another example of the claustrophobia that Pacquiao brings nowadays wherever he goes. He’s about the only prizefighter that needs the presence of a fire marshall to quell the crowds he can attract. It’s been unspoken by those running this promotion, but their goal is to exceed the surprising number of pay-per-view buys( one million) that Mayweathers bout did against Juan Manuel Marquez did in September.

This promotion has certainly gained a great deal of momentum.

" It’s not even an incremental increase," Sternburg, pointed out last Thursday as Pacquiao went through his days work." It seems to be snow-balling, it’s very exciting. People think,’ Oh, it just happened,’ a lot of these stories had been designed, pitched and planned in the summer- including Jimmy Kimmel, we had him booked in July. So we kind of knew it was coming up but they way everyone is just getting on board and it’s no different than the message we’ve been preaching since the first ( Erik) Morales fight: this guys the goods. And I think the public in general, the sports public is becoming more and more educated in Manny Pacquiao and Pac-mania and what it all means."

There was a time when the narrative surrounding Pacquiao was the idolatry he received in his home country. Yet now, the question is, does he play in Peoria? Based on the number of press credential requests that have been filed, the answer seems to be yes.

" Outside of something like a De La Hoya or Sugar Ray Leonard fight that I’ve done, this is probably the biggest I’ve seen," said Sternburg, who mentioned that even the Wall St. Journal will be covering this event." It’s world-wide and it hasn’t stopped. I’m wondering where we’re going to put everybody." Because of this demand on Manny’s time, they long ago stopped fulfilling requests for advanced interviews. But that still hasn’t stopped the onslaught.

On this day, after he had finished his days work, which took approximately two-and-a-half hours, he would then get changed for his customary dinner at the near-by Nat Thai’s, which is located on the same strip mall as the Wild Card. As various memorabilia was walked in for him to sign, an interesting exchange took place between Sternburg and Rob Peters, head of Pacquiao’s security. Camera crews from both the Versus Network and Fox Sports had come to the gym to film segments with Pacquiao, with several other reporters( including this one) hovering around, hoping to get a few minutes with him.

" Rob, Manny has to do these guys over there," said Sternburg, pointing towards the back ring, where a green-screen had been set up hours ago.

" How long?" asked Peters, getting a bit nervous at the thought of telling his boss.

" Oh, about ten minutes each."

Just then a producer for Fox Sports, chimed in," It will actually be about five, it shouldn’t take that long."

Pointing at him, Peters says," I like his plan much better."

After about a half-hour in the dressing room, Pacquiao finally emerges, and only the presence of Peters and Sternburg keep him from being swarmed. By that point, more than a few visitors had been let in. As he walked towards the back part of the gym, he said of this aspect of his life," This is my responsibility being Manny Pacquiao or being famous. If you want to be famous, that’s your responsibility to take care of your responsibilities."

He understands that being who he is and maintaining that brand, is work. Just about every hour and minute of your life is now planned out, with people pulling you in a multitude of directions. Even your supposedly ’private’ sessions in the gym, are really just a relative term. In the past few weeks, people like Jeremy Piven and Ron Artest have come around to catch a glimpse of Pacquiao. And there will always be that family who traveled a long distance with a sad story and puppy dog eyes for Peters( that big softie) to deal with. As you walk out of the gym and into the parking lot, you see a congregation of at least 50 fans wait around hoping just to catch a glimpse of ’the Pac Man’. It’s a pattern that is repeated every twilight. The sun goes down, and the crowd gathers. There’s nothing that Peters, the LAPD or the National Guard can do about it. There’s no stopping them. They love themselves some Manny Pacquiao.

It’s almost incomprehensible that he’s even reached this plateau of popularity. Small little guys, who come from third-world countries, who don’t really speak the language aren’t supposed to be where Pacquiao is today. It’s even surprised his own promoter- who’s never been a stranger to hyperbole or exaggeration.

" No, I must say no," admitted Arum, when asked if he ever envisioned this for Pacquiao." I had real great aspirations for him. Much more so than most people had but not at this level. No. Not that we would somehow come up with an Asian Ali. He is, somebody said,’ the Bruce Lee of boxing.’"

It’s even stunned the fighter, himself.

Pacquiao says of his ever-expanding appeal." It’s amazing, and it’s all from God. I didn’t expect anything like this."


Arum took great umbrage over some comments made by De La Hoya in his blog at Ringtv.com where he basically stated that there is a very specific reason why the ring next week will be 20-by-20 feet.

" That Ring Magazine, that alleged site, which allows it’s owner, Oscar De La Hoya, to have a blog, did you read his blog?" asked Arum on Friday afternoon, who can still take umbrage with the best of them." He knows that I favor Manny and therefore I rigged the fight by bringing in a big ring. Doesn’t this guy know that in Nevada ALL rings must be 20-by-20, that Oscar whenever he fought in Nevada- which most of his fights were, fought in a 20-by-20 ring and this fight is no different. It’s a matter of law in Nevada. That the ring has to be standard 20-by-20.

" So how does he have the nerve to say that? I brought in a big ring because I favor Pacquiao. Now that’s outrageous for Ring Magazine to allow that to go on."


Here are some photo’s of the event on Saturday night.






While he conclusively out-pointed Glen Johnson this time around, I’m not sure that Chad Dawson really helped his cause all that much with his safety-first approach he took on Saturday night at the XL Center in Hartford, CT., where more than a few boos could be heard.

One of the key facets in the popularity of Pacquiao is the fact that he’s an exciting fighter who gives you your monies worth, each and every time he gets out there. Professional boxing, is entertainment and quite frankly, while Dawson was effective, he certainly wasn’t exciting. And unlike a Mayweather, he doesn’t have that type of personality that can polarize people and create an emotional stir.

So while he may have won. To a certain degree, he also lost.

Source: http://www.secondsout.com/news?ccs=1624&cs=114185

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