The story of David versus Goliath provides a valuable lesson in modern day brand marketing, and yet most fail to recognize it. What few seem to realize is that David only exists in today’s lore because Goliath took the bait. Without Goliath, David is irrelevant. As comedian and actor Billy Crystal so eloquently put it: “Without Goliath, David is just a punk throwing rocks.”
And yet here we are talking about him. Why? Because David accomplished what so many underdog brands fail to: lure the market leader into the ring. By convincing Goliath to take the fight, David gained instant recognition and fame. Win or lose, the world would now know David’s name.
Not unlike the story of Conor McGregor versus Floyd Mayweather, a modern-day David versus Goliath. In 2015, McGregor (playing the role of David) was a fast-rising UFC fighter looking to make an even bigger name and fortune for himself. To do so, he needed to expand his reach and capture the attention of non-UFC fans. Insert Mayweather (playing the role of Goliath), widely regarded as the greatest boxer of his time and worth a reported $340 million dollars. Luring Mayweather into the ring would be McGregor’s ticket to global fame and a substantial fortune. So it began.
On July 2nd, 2015, while promoting a UFC event, McGregor appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, during which O’Brien asked McGregor if he would consider taking on Mayweather in a boxing match. To this the fighter responded with an emphatic “Duh!” while later adding “Who would not like to dance around the ring for $180 million?”
What would ensue from there was a legendary war of words that spanned nearly two years, all of which helped to build McGregor into a modern day folk hero and elevate his brand from a niche mixed martial arts star to global sports icon. More than two years later, on August 26th, 2017, the two fighters finally stepped into the ring in what was considered the biggest fight in combat sports history. And while many felt McGregor exceeded expectations and fought admirably, the Irishman would ultimately lose to the still undefeated Mayweather. But here’s where people fail to see the forest through the trees. On the surface, it would appear to many that McGregor failed. He lost the biggest fight of his career. But if you look closer, you realize he won the biggest fight of his life.
According to SocialBlade.com, on July 2nd, 2015 (the day of the Conan O’Brien interview) McGregor had roughly 660,000 Instagram followers. A solid, but by no means spectacular figure for an athlete. Fast forward to April 1st, 2018, about seven months after his fight with Mayweather and McGregor’s following had ballooned to over twenty-two million followers.
Pairing with Mayweather brought McGregor and his brand into the global spotlight, a space previously unattainable to him. In much the same way that David needed Goliath to create a lasting legacy, McGregor needed Mayweather.