Earning Wins vs Earning Media

How many current boxers can you name off the top of your head? What about UFC fighters?

Probably somewhere between three and seven if you aren’t cheating. It’s really hard to achieve success at a high level in combat sports, and it’s even harder to achieve mainstream popularity. Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather have managed to do both because as good as they are at earning wins, they might be better at earning media attention.

According to opendorse, Conor McGregor’s social following across all platforms increased 38 percent from the time their infamous 2017 fight was announced to just after. Mayweather’s was up 11 percent.

The idea that nonprofits can learn anything from these fighters in terms of media exposure seems crazy. But if you get past the content of the fighters’ coverage, there are useful takeaways from the bout.

Professional fighters are lucky if they’re able to fight twice a year. There’s no defined season for boxers or UFC fighters, which means no defined window of inherent coverage. So, what do you do to stay in the limelight?

You prepare, you actively seek out opportunities, and you develop a personality that resonates with enthusiasts and casual fans alike.

Persistence and a Consistent Message

Conor McGregor picked up a welfare check worth $238 in 2013. He made an estimated $100 million for his fight against Mayweather.

His meteoric rise was a combination of persistence and intense belief in himself on one hand, but on the other hand, like any success story, it has much to do with taking advantage of the opportunities he was given. Many of those opportunities came his way because of his consistent messaging that stands out. Being someone who can sell a fight is almost as important as being someone who can win one.

Try and find a post in his Twitter feed not talking about how hard he works and how good he is. Or that isn’t accompanied by a high quality photo or video. Consistent messaging builds strong brands. That is made evident by McGregor’s 7 percent engagement rate across his social platforms.

A mission isn’t based on some fleeting idea. It’s the driving force behind a nonprofit—an organization that was started because someone believed they had the power to change outcomes for the better.

You know what you are doing is important, and a big part of reaching goals and changing lives is ensuring other people know as well. Strong messaging drives donations just like it drives pay-per-view buys.

The mission of a nonprofit is more than likely a lofty proposition: ending global poverty, curing cancer, etc. But the beauty is in simplicity. If you’re heavily involved with a nonprofit, you’ve no doubt been asked, “What do you do?” The answer probably rolls right off the tongue. Messaging is as simple as that conversation.

Your overarching mission is simple and specific. It already dictates the operations of a nonprofit, and it should be the foundation of any communication that comes out of the organization. Finding an authentic way of communicating and sticking to it with the same persistence as was put into the work will pay off in continuity within an organization and a distinct outside presence.

Talking a Big Game & Seeking Out Opportunities

Fame just kind of comes with being a professional athlete, right? In some regard, yes. But boxers are put in a position that many brands and organizations find themselves in. They can’t afford for their message to resonate with just diehard boxing fans. How can you reach outside your established donor base?

There are 17 weight divisions across the four major boxing organizations. Fifty-seven fighters currently hold a championship belt. How many can you name (neither McGregor nor Mayweather hold a belt)?

In Kansas City alone, 2,474 registered nonprofits reported earnings above $50,000 in 2016. How many of them can you name?

Documentation is a wonderful thing. And it’s never been easier to keep people in the loop as to what work you’re doing. Mayweather and McGregor are on the extreme end of “letting people know,” but if you’ve built out key messages, the foundation is already there.

Keep a blog, take great photos, believe that the details matter. If nothing else, you’re keeping that established donor base close. Eventually there will be an opportunity to tell your story, and it will be a lot easier if you have one in your back pocket.

Stay on top of what people are talking about. There will be heavy periods of outreach and lighter ones, but keeping an ear to the ground in the industry and around the beat will pay off. Earning media attention is all about timeliness. It’s hard to pitch in August a story that happened in March. Picking your spots has a little bit to do with luck but even more to do with preparation.

While the majority of what was said and done in the lead up and aftermath of the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight is beyond off limits for most people and orgs, the underlying strategy is useful. Nonprofits know what they do is important, and while it may be a little counterintuitive, self-promotion does have a small role to play.

If you’re interested in learning how we can help your organization gain earned media coverage, drop us a line at—we’d love to chat!

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