By Coach Tim Walker – The current economic crunch spans the globe. Without sounding as though I’m standing on a soap box or having my words accompanied by a violinist’s sad song, in these tough economic times promoters are going to have to think outside the box if they want to continue attracting patrons. The days of overpricing fight admissions and pay per view purchases are at a standstill, at least for a while, and fight fans are demanding more for those hard to earn bucks..
In times of financial crisis what is and what isn’t a luxury is drastically redefined. Little splurges become less important as we focus on the basics; shelter, transportation, food and medical. Out dollar doesn’t go nearly as far so bargains become the norm. As much as die hard boxing fans crave the sport, it too will be ultimately relegated to the back burner once we tighten our belts and consciously classify boxing too lavish to be a line item in our budgets.
But promoters will still need to earn livings as will boxers. Professional boxing, according to boxrec, has over 15,000 registered boxers at any given time. That dwarfs the other major U.S. sports combined. The National Football League has nearly 1,700 active players, the National Hockey League has 947 active players, the National Basketball Association suits approximately 432 players while Major League Baseball outfits 1,200 players.
Participation is one of the only numbers where boxing surpasses those sports. Average annual rookie salaries for the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL range from $275,000 to $875,000 respectively and increases with every year of experience. In comparison, the average four round boxer gets paid about $500. Six round fighters get just about $750. Eight round fighters get $1,000-$1,500. To put that in greater perspective 12 fights at $500 equals $6,000. Not an awesome annual salary. Factor gym fees, trainers, travel and gear and you might break even. A twenty bout fighter with three or four years in the business can still earn similar amounts. For fighters it’s all about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If a fighter’s record and notoriety increases simultaneously then he is able to negotiate higher pay. The side effect of success in this sport is that popularity prices fighters out of local shows, which increases the need for management and promoters, who slice the pie thinner, which in turn increases fighter’s needs for bigger fights which creates a cyclical conundrum that most fighters never survive.
Revenue streams for local boxing shows are notoriously easy to calculate. With no sponsor money, endorsements or television rights that leaves the admission gate. A 1,000 person venue could produce $30-35,000 in gate revenue. Unfortunately that same card might cost nearly as much to promote. So what is Joe Blow promoter to do?
Change of Mentality
Stop mimicking major promoters. Not too many years ago signing a deal with a major record label was the only key to entertainment success. Over time independent labels learned the techniques, fit them to their individual success and forced their way into an industry that was not largely open to change. Local promoters should adopt this strategy. Gain and affinity for major promotion techniques but abandon the methodology.
Go Where Fans Go
Start thinking outside the box. With the advent of the internet the world is much smaller and more accessible. Boxing, as is the case with most professional sports, are viewed largely as exclusive events so start developing an exclusive audience. Break your marketing into specific audience types and market to each subgroup directly.
Make it more than a Show
From the time a patron enters your event space they should be excited and overwhelmed. Don’t just take the easy way out and only plan the boxing portion of your event. Make your show an event from the time patrons enter the parking lot until the last score card is read. Make it a spectacle.
A Florida promoter recently had an excellent fight card with a 2 for 1 special on boxing tickets recently. Awesome idea, horrible execution! Possibly unknowingly, he ventured into an excellent guerilla marketing strategy but seemed to lack the wherewithal to fully develop the technique. The end result was a less than to capacity venue on fight night. Pretty outstanding when you consider he had tickets for $25.
The next wave of successful promoters will understand the needs of these harsh economic times, designate considerably more effort to direct marketing strategies and be willing to sacrifice a chunk of the bottom line to give patrons a bigger bang for their buck. Let’s see who lasts.