- UFC star Conor McGregor may have fewer social followers than Floyd Mayweather, but he is winning the battle for engagement.
- Social media firm Hookit estimates that McGregor’s accounts could be worth “tens of millions of dollars” to sponsors.
- The Irishman is free to strike deals beyond his usual UFC contract for the Mayweather fight, but becoming more promotional online could damage his authentic brand.
UFC star Conor McGregor goes into his super fight with Floyd Mayweather as the underdog. But if the battle was contested on social media, the Irishman would beat his opponent.
That’s according to Hookit, a US company that tracks sponsorship value in social and digital media.
Hookit said McGregor has built a “social media powerhouse” that could be worth “tens of millions of dollars” to blue-chip sponsors. Now all he has to do is make money out of it.
“McGregor certainly has the upper hand when it comes to connecting with and engaging his fans in social media,” Hookit CEO Scott Tilton told Business Insider.
“McGregor trends way higher with fans on social media,” he added. “Based on [our] one year report, Conor added 12.7 million new followers in the past 12 months versus only 3.4 million for Mayweather. McGregor’s posts generated 419.0 million interactions, more than three times that of Mayweather.”
McGregor has fewer followers but more clout
Just one tweet shows the disparity in online engagement between McGregor and Mayweather. When both fighters announced their August 26 showdown in Las Vegas last month, there was only one winner.
McGregor’s post, which made light of Mayweather’s age, prompted 96% more replies, 156% more retweets, and 311% more likes than Mayweather’s post.
The UFC star has a combined 24.4 million followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This is 10 million fewer than Mayweather’s 35.9 million followers across the same platforms. McGregor clearly punches above his weight.
“We encourage clients to focus on the engagement (likes, comments, shares, video views), that athletes generate in social media [rather than] the number of followers they have,” Tilton told BI. “This is the true indicator of how engaged an athlete’s fan following is and how to assess their potential value.”
Mayweather is better at promoting his interests, but McGregor is more authentic
This matters to sponsors. How an athlete trends on social media can play a significant part in how valuable they are to sponsor brands. As an example, Cristiano Ronaldo’s social media channels are worth £410 million a year to Nike alone, Hookit estimates.
Big brands will be looking at McGregor, who is effectively a “free agent” for the Mayweather fight, according to Vox Media-owned blog MMA Fighting.
UFC fighters are commercially obligated to wear Reebok uniforms inside the cage. As McGregor’s fight with Mayweather is in a ring and not a cage, he is free to negotiate with kit sponsors on what would effectively be a one-fight agreement before he returns to mixed martial arts in December.
Part of that agreement could include social media integration, an area where McGregor is the more marketable athlete than Mayweather, according to Hookit.
But Mayweather has a headstart here. He regularly promotes his clothing brand The Money Team and his strip club Girl Collection on social media.
“Based on the data Hookit collects, Mayweather has done a better job of properly promoting his sponsors with the use of hashtags, mentions, and branded content,” Tilton told BI.
If McGregor replicated Mayweather’s posting habits on social, he could make serious money. Tilton explained: “During the one-week timeframe surrounding the announcement, McGregor posted 25 times and generated 22.4 million interactions.
“This type of engagement has the potential of creating tens of millions of dollars in media value for sponsors. The only challenge is balancing the authentic, raw content he posts that resonates with his fans with the content goals a blue-chip sponsor would expect.
“The fact he hasn’t been overly commercial with his content makes it difficult to know how his fans will respond if he does start sharing posts with heavy sponsor promotion.”
McGregor a social media “powerhouse”
Steve Marcus / Getty Images
Tilton said Mayweather was second only to Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo when it came to athlete popularity on social and digital media earlier this year.
“In April, he drove 45.8 million interactions and was ranked number two in Hookit’s Most Engaged Athletes behind Cristiano Ronaldo who is by far the most popular athlete in the world when it comes to social engagement.
“McGregor has done a tremendous job to build a media powerhouse for himself in social.”