Next Steps…Horse Racing and Boxing…

The weekend brought more hope for boxing and horse racing…again. Manny Pacquaio’s win over Shane Mosley continued to raise his stature in the sports and entertainment world, while Animal Kingdom captured the Kentucky Derby with great fanfare and record attendance. So what’s next?

In boxing, the next step for Top Rank’s integrated marketing approach should be a renewed and expanded agreement with CBS and all its broadcast arms. The pre-event promotion boxing received as a feeder for the pay-per-view event was a positive not just for the sport, but for all the brands associated with Top Rank and Pacquaio, and the exposure for his next big fight should grow exponentially for all involved. The downside of boxing is there is no immediate next result for the champion…that takes months to hatch and market. However the positive side is that same hype machine, which can take the champ on an extended media tour to help grow sponsors and the sport in the coming weeks. All of that positive energy should feed not just into Pacquaio’s next fight, but into other subsequent bigger cards that can also be promoted. Now CBS is not about to jump whole-hearted into the boxing business, although Saturday’s promotion bodes well for future cross brand and channel promotions. Maybe there will be a championship fight back on broadcast TV at some point, but for now using broadcast promotion to build to a big pay per view still makes great sense, and Saturday’s event could now be a solid framework for the sport and its better promoters to build off of.

On the horse racing side, the exciting win at the Derby creates a bridge to The Preakness, and could lead to a month of hype toward the Belmont Stakes. The large window NBC created to promote the race Saturday was encouraging, but leveraging that window across all the NBC Comcast platforms…news, sports and entertainment…leading to The Preakness will not be easy. The competition with a well planned multiplatform effort by the NHL for the Stanley Cup playoffs will be a challenge, as will access and managing the various story lines consistently leading up to the race. A few years ago UPS seized the popularity of Big Brown by creating a successful sponsorship platform around the horse during its Triple Crown bid, could a brand find a home with Animal Kingdom and its jockey, owners and trainer to seize the moment? More importantly can the sport itself find ways to harness Saturday’s buzz and translate it into positive messaging for the sport overall? Time will tell, but record crowds and excitement certainly can’t hurt.

The obvious difference between boxing and horse racing from Saturday is time. Boxing has a charismatic champion to build off of for months, horse racing must seize the moment now. Regardless, Saturday again showed the value of the big event in sports and the potential leverage it can have with brands and the public. Now the leverage must be translated into results.