Sunday 22 September 2019

Has Conor McGregor's market appeal suffered a knock-out blow?

Guru warns punch-ups will hurt MMA star

Controversy: Conor McGregor reacts after losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last UFC fight in Las Vegas in October 2018. Photo: AP
Controversy: Conor McGregor reacts after losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last UFC fight in Las Vegas in October 2018. Photo: AP

Ralph Riegel

One of the world's leading sports marketing experts has warned that Conor McGregor's latest controversy could herald the beginning of the end for the fighter's commercial appeal.

The mixed martial arts fighter again found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons after video footage emerged of him sucker-punching an elderly man in a Dublin pub.

McGregor went on US sports channel ESPN to admit he was "in the wrong" in the incident and claimed it was "like a dagger into my heart as a martial artist".

However, leading sports marketing guru Kim Skildum-Reid - who is due to address the prestigious One Zero 2019 conference at the Aviva Stadium on September 17 - warned that the latest controversy to involve the fighter could prove fatally damaging for his all-conquering marketability.

She has run Power Sponsorship since 1994 and the firm's clients include Target, Unilever, Dubai, Qantas, ANZ Bank, Virgin, Singapore, Mazda and Estée Lauder.

The marketing guru warned that the succession of controversies involving McGregor could effectively accelerate the end of his career in commercial terms.

"With his repeated run-ins with the law, all along a similar vein, his brand is turning from 'fearsome competitor in a violent sport' to 'violent, entitled bully.' Some very edgy sponsors may - may - be able to wear that, but he's been getting in the neighbourhood of $7m a year from Reebok, Beats, Burger King, and Budweiser," she said.

"There's a huge chunk of their marketplaces that would view continued sponsorship of someone who is making it a habit of violent outbursts against the public as endorsing that behaviour, and they would be right.

"They would have been right 10 years ago, but with toxic masculinity so much at the forefront with consumers, and major corporations undertaking huge staff training programmes to stem inappropriate behaviour, continuing to sponsor someone who appears not to be able to control his violent impulses is both a marketing and management minefield that few companies would have the stomach to risk."

The 31-year-old Dublin fighter has been the focus of multiple controversies over recent years but has managed to juggle them with a hugely successful commercial operation.

His commercial team is considered one of the shrewdest in global sport and has built his brand into a vast operation. He even has his own Proper No 12 Irish whiskey brand and boasts his own special clothing line.

His career arguably peaked in 2017 when he fought Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in a boxing bout which had been in negotiation for over three years - McGregor is thought to have earned $85m for the fight that he lost.

Irish Independent

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