They may be changing. With the booming interest in the fight game among Hispanic consumers, and with the first Mexican-American-run fight promotion company founded by a star who transcends the sport, at least one brand--Cerveza Tecate, imported by Heineken USA--is boosting its presence in boxing.
The company will launch a promotional multi-platform effort supporting fighter and Golden Boy Promotions founder Oscar de la Hoya's bout in L.A. versus Steve Forbes.
Saturday's fight--widely seen as a tune-up for de la Hoya's maybe-rematch against the best pound-for-pound welterweight fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.--is being touted as de la Hoya's "homecoming" since he hasn't fought in his hometown for seven years. Per Tecate, 35,000 are expected to attend the fight, and it will be broadcast on HBO.
Tecate's involvement ties Cinco de Mayo to the event with programs like a commemorative 24-ounce can of Tecate available in 36 U.S. markets that features pictures of de la Hoya and Forbes, party booklets and a $20 discount on a two-month HBO subscription. The company will also tout the fight on Spanish-language (and some English-language) TV and outdoor advertising in key markets.
In the general market, interest in the sweet science has waned over the years, partly because of a confusing, meaningless array of international sanctioning bodies leading to an alphabet soup of meaningless belts and titles; the decline of the heavyweight division post-Tyson and Lewis; and also because of the rise of ultimate fighting/mixed martial arts.
Not so among fans in Latin America and among Hispanic-Americans, for whom boxing is the second-most-popular sport after football (soccer). Says Arturo Vargas, events and sponsorships manager for Tecate: "The numbers are really close and getting closer between soccer and boxing."
Why? Credit a group of Mexican fighters past and present--Antonio Marco Barrera, Eric Morales, Manuel Marquez, and of course Julio Cesar Chavez--and at least two current non-Mexicans--Brit Ricky Hatton and Filipino Manny Pacquiao--with generating pay-per-views and sold-out fights with aggressive ring styles. They have also moved the center of gravity from the moribund heavyweight category to the lighter divisions.
"I think the Hispanic fan base grew because of Chavez; he was one that really got everyone interested in boxing again, and from there I think everyone started watching," Vargas says. "And Oscar has a big following among Hispanics in U.S."
Tecate, which inked a six-fight deal with Golden Boy last year, is also title sponsor of Solo Boxeo Tecate, a 50-week sponsorship of Telefutura's Friday night boxing program. Vargas says the company renewed its contract with Golden Boy this year for two years.
Starting this week, Tecate grassroots promotions in SoCal include autograph sessions with Golden Boy's stable of fighters, inflatable boxing rings where consumers can square off, and a bevy of ring-card girls, Chicas Tecate. Tecate will also run an event this weekend called "Noche de Boxeo y Musica" that mixes boxing matches with music.