Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury, and the rising disruption of YouTube boxing

By Megan Woods

March 7, 2023

4 mins


Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury, and the rising disruption of YouTube boxing

By Megan Woods

March 7, 2023

4 mins


Tommy Fury beat Jake Paul by an eight-round split decision in their long-awaited twice-cancelled boxing match. Despite both being social media stars and neither having a serious professional boxing background, it is estimated to be one of the most widely watched and lucrative boxing matches ever. Many traditional boxing fans may be quick to dismiss it as a mockery, but this fight offers a free lesson to traditional boxing that they shouldn’t ignore. 

 

Who are Jake Paul and Tommy Fury? 

 

The two only had a combined experience of 14 professional fights. Yet, they headlined a pay-per-view event that retailed for $49.99 with estimates registering over half a million pay per view purchases. Big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mike Tyson were in attendance. Additionally, celebrities like Drake got involved online, by sharing his $400,000 (£335,000) bet on a Paul KO win. Given the fight’s popularity and their contract negotiations, it is estimated that Jake Paul will make about $8.6 million for the fight and Tommy Fury $4.5 million. Not too bad for a Sunday night.

 

This just proved to be another example of the power of influencer self-promotion. Jake Paul has 70.1 million followers across social media platforms, huge in contrast to Fury’s 5.5 million. Yet Tommy Fury had the additional appeal of his brother being boxing legend Tyson Fury. Whilst they may not have the boxing experience, their large social media following meant they were able to generate headlines globally.

 

The Rise of YouTube boxing 

 

YouTube Boxing kickstarted in 2018 when two famous creators, KSI and Joe Weller fought for the first time. This attracted a peak audience of 1.6 million viewers, predominantly young teenagers who followed them on YouTube. The following year KSI challenged Logan Paul to a match, drawing more than 1 million pay-per-view purchases. The boxing event saw around 24 million views through fight replays across YouTube. Whilst the first fight may not have captured the attention of the Boxing world, this did, and since then it’s taken off.

 

Boxing gloves ringside

For years traditional boxing’s top fighters were avoiding each other to not damaging their perfect scorecards with a loss; leaving fans of the sport frustrated. In the past three months, big showdowns including Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury have fallen through. As a result from convoluted negotiations between organisers, promoters and broadcasters. YouTube Boxing has given the sport a new lease on life. Offering fans the action they crave with influencers and celebrities regularly stepping into the ring.

 

Is Youtube Boxing bringing in a new and more diverse audience to the sport?

 

Whatever traditional fans may think about the standard of boxing, one thing cannot be denied; YouTube Boxing is bringing in a whole new wave of fans to the sport. In the last 5 years, the top 3 fights with the highest percentage of new customers came from fights that featured a YouTube star.

 

Additionally, over 1 in 4 customers betting on the Tommy Fury v Jake Paul fight are predicted to be new customers. This is a stark comparison to the traditional boxing fight earlier this year between rivals Chris Eubank Jr vs. Liam Smith, where only 2% of customers were new customers. 

 

What does this mean for the future of Boxing? 

 

As sports and entertainment worlds collide with a new audience, YouTube Boxing is unsurprisingly becoming hugely lucrative with promoters and broadcasters acting quickly to capitalise on it. It’s interesting to explore the opportunity that YouTube Boxing is presenting for boxing associations to pull in new fans and monetise their engagement. Influencers bring with them the type of audience group that other sports typically chase. Bodies like the World Boxing Association need to make sure they are positioned to create and maximise value. 

 

Cricket is a prime example of a sport that has succeeded in this. In 2020, the ECB introduced a new format The Hundred which is faster than usual week-long test matches. The matches are designed to appeal to a younger and more female demographic who were beginning to show an interest in the sport. It was a huge success, with 55% of game attendees being new to the sport. To drive deeper customer engagement in the new sport format, Surrey & England Cricket introduced a membership proposition. The paying membership includes seat allocation, discounts on merchandise and local coaching courses. 

 

The World Boxing Council may be seen to have embraced YouTube boxing by offering a belt for the winner of the Fury Paul fight. But there is more they can do to build a direct relationship with this new wave of fans. First of all, like The Hundred, there is an opportunity to offer a different format of boxing. Where promoters have less power over event logistics and player contracts, taking inspiration from other industries that have structured leagues and regulatory bodies. Next, developing a compelling customer proposition to capitalise on new trends, boxing organisations could convert casual viewers into passionate fans. So that even when fans favourite influencer isn’t fighting they remain engaged with the sport.

 

Conclusion

 

As in any sport, the majority of revenues will always be media orientated. Boxing broadcasting and promoters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Boxing associations now have the opportunity to build long-term engagement and translate this into customer lifetime value with their own propositions or relevant partnerships/commerce.

 

High-profile fights like the Fury vs Paul event are interesting because they highlight the changing business of boxing. Yet writing this got me thinking about the sporting industry more broadly. What other sports face disruption by influencers? Do fans care about the quality of the game, or are they more interested in the spectacle and experience? Are sporting teams and associations ignoring valuable audience groups without realising? It’s not just boxing that’s facing new audiences and challenges, and it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds.

 


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