News that former Manchester United and England footballer Rio Ferdinand is to turn his attention to boxing at the age of 38 raised eyebrows among the sporting fraternity, and the public at large. The change in discipline is part of a campaign – ‘Defender to Contender’ – which will be chronicled in a documentary.
Many questioned whether it would be a responsible move from Ferdinand, his promotion team, and Betfair – the brand that is behind the activity. One critic labelled it as ‘white-collar boxing’ but suggested people should ‘stop treating it as sport.’ But what do the public make of it all and what do they make of Betfair’s wider marketing strategy?
From a publicity standpoint, the arrangement seems to make sense YouGov Profiles data suggests that those that would consider using Betfair are more likely than the population at large to have an interest in both football (63% vs. 40% of the public) and boxing (21% vs. 12%).
However, it appears as though the public are for the moment unmoved by the announcement and the adjoining campaign. YouGov brand tracking data indicates that Betfair’s Attention score (whether someone has heard anything about the brand in the past fortnight) has remained relatively static, with a constant score of around +4.
Of course, the campaign is not necessarily aimed at all of the public, as its target audience is instead more likely to be those with an interest in sport more generally as well those open to gambling online.
Among football fans Betfair’s Buzz score (whether someone has heard something positive or negative about the brand) has decreased by 5 points, indicating that those in this group may have picked up on some of the negative reaction levelled at the betting company, or at least some scepticism about the campaign’s motives.
However, the positive news for Betfair is that among those who have gambled online at least once in the last six months, its Buzz score has climbed from -3 to +7.
Of course, this is not the first time the betting company has encouraged a sportsperson to try a new discipline. Betfair was heavily involved in a similar sporting switch last year when Victoria Pendleton’s moved from track cyclist to Cheltenham jump-jockey. At that time, Betfair’s Buzz score among online gamblers rose from +2 to +6.
Similarly, Paddy Power is well-known for having an irreverent attitude to marketing. Back in January 2015, YouGov reviewed David Ginola’s ill-fated attempt to become FIFA President – which was backed by the Irish bookmaker. At that time overall perception of the brand dipped, indicating that the general public may have been turned off by the stunt. However, the percentage of people talking about the company increased, no doubt justifying the deed.
It may well be a similar situation this time around. Though boxing experts may not be enthused by Ferdinand’s fight as a sporting content, the whole event should garner enough publicity in the coming months to justify Betfair’s involvement. However, whether it truly shifts consumer perception is debatable, and the brand may have decided that engaging prospective customers in this way is crucial to keeping up with its competition.
This article originally appeared in EGR Magazine