Influencer. Motivator. Icon. Boxer. How AJ became one in a million for Lucozade Sport
By Matt Riches, Senior Account Director
As AJ hit the canvas for the first time in his professional career a friend that I was with at Wembley turned and smirked 'looks like he needs some Lucozade, that’s the problem with sponsoring boxers...they are only one punch away’.
My response was one I've become accustomed to saying in the past two years since we first took the idea of working with AJ to Lucozade Sport – ‘he's not a boxer to us’.
After all, why would a brand with big ambitions to broaden appeal and get the nation more active want to make an association with a single athlete, in a male-dominated, niche sport?
Even for a big fan of the notable art of boxing, such as myself, it was going to be a tough sell and what is more, against the very strategy we’d worked on with the brand.
In the aftermath of such a dramatic sporting event that captured the very essence of ‘you couldn’t write it’, it’s easy to get caught up in the hyperbole. After all we work in an industry where we all to frequently refer to legends and must see moments.
But Saturday night, at Wembley stadium, in front of 90,000 spectators and the largest pay-per-view audience in the UK was a marketers dream.
The creation of the first billionaire boxer, countless articles, images and content and social commentary about the global icon, and the brand that is Anthony Joshua.
Oh, how his current partners have struck gold.
Hindsight makes geniuses of us all. But, there were three elements that gave confidence that the relationship would succeed regardless of boxing status.
Firstly - He’s one of a few genuine athlete influencers who transcends their arena. My wife follows him because he posts lots of great HIIT style content she can use in the gym (or so she says), my mum because he seems like a nice ‘boy’, my dad because of his gold medal in London 2012, my cousin because he’s friends with Stormzy and so on… everyone feels ownership of AJ.
We work with a host of influencers and there’s no denying that it’s hard to justify taking them through the line and for many brands that’s not what they are looking for from an influencer.
But for those who are? The bullseye lies somewhere between traditional profile and fame with pointed and credible engagement across multiple sectors.
Secondly - AJ gets it, his team get it. One of the first meetings with Freddie, AJ’s Commercial Director, it took until the end of the meeting to even mention boxing, rankings, belts and so on.
Most of the content AJ delivers is still based outside of the ring. As AJ told me, inside the ring is his job, outside is him.
Thirdly – It must work for both of us, a true partnership. The first thing delivered between AJ and Lucozade Sport, a flash run in north London, was AJ’s idea.
In 2017 we don’t want to work with mannequin rights holders or athletes that we can hang our campaign on, we want collaborators and creators.
Did we celebrate when AJ dug deep in the 11th round to stop Wladimir Klitschko? No doubt.
We are proud that we had the courage to challenge our own convictions. We’re thrilled that AJ continues to maximise his talents and reach stratospheric heights. But as his star continues to rise we need to remind ourselves we’re not in the business of boxing, he is.
We’re in the business of getting one million people moving more by 2020 to create a healthier society.
To us, AJ is one in a million.
Senior Account Director, Europe