Boxer Manny Pacquiao made $40 million in 2010, which made him the sixth highest-paid athlete in the world. Growing up poor in the Philippines, the furious-fisted warrior is now in position where money doesn't matter. His children's children are set for life.
But he should be making more money. Much more.
If you live in Southern California, as I do, you've seen the world's most intriguing boxer appear on a low-budget commercial for San Manuel Casino. It's a poorly made ad -- and somebody with Pacquiao's credentials and stature should never have appeared in it. The spot cheapens his name and weakens his brand.
David Beckham would not do this ad. Neither would Peyton Manning or Kobe Bryant.
So it got me thinking: Why exactly did the Filipino superstar do such an ad -- and why isn't he doing big-money spots like other famous athletes? While Manning and his brother are the face of global brands like Sony and Nike's Bryant appears in small feature film spots with hipster film directors like Robert Rodriguez, here's Pacquaio doing a small-time bit for a local gambling joint. It's the type of thing you used to see on Cable access, when Cable access still existed.
Turns out there is a reason.
First, Pacquaio agreed to do the commercial a few years ago -- and it didn't really hit the airwaves until after he became a household name in America. (In a weird way, It's like naked photos of a popular actress surfacing after her career takes off. She needed the money at the time -- so she posed for the photos, never thinking they would be a big deal. Now it comes back to haunt her.)
But why no other commercials? Why isn't Manny in a killer Vitamin Water ad or an hilarious beer commercial for Bud Light? The fact is, Manny Pacquiao is an extremely likeable individual. He has an infectious smile and a good heart. No, his English isn't perfect -- but his charisma and personality are marketing gold. There's no reason he can't be a commercial icon.
Well, if you listen to prominent ad people, they've desperately wanted to do ads with Pacquiao but they've found it extremely frustrating. Bill King at the Sports Business Journal explored this mystifying situation and concluded it's all about too many layers. King talked to one exec who wanted Pacquaio to appear on EA Sport's video game cover, which is a prized position and worth a significant endorsement fee, but he could never even get through to Manny.
When it came time to discuss a deal? No luck. And that's just one example. After being passed around and told to talk to somebody else inside Pacman's camp, many companies have simply given up on trying to get the world's greatest boxer to represent their product.
"It has been a consistent complaint of those who venture into the world of Team Pacquiao, a loosely aligned, often disorganized collection of associates and friends of the world’s most popular fighter, many of whom claim to represent him but few of whom deliver," King writes. "An iconic superstar of sport, television, music, film and now politics in the Philippines, Pacquiao remains largely untapped commercially in North America, in part because he is from the other side of the globe but also because he has not made it a priority."
The thing is, Manny will never be able to get back that lost money. His Canadian advisor agrees.
“I think we’ve been losing millions and millions in endorsements for Manny,” says Michael Koncz. “We know there’s a short span remaining in his boxing career. Now we need to look at how to sustain the lifestyle he has now without boxing. That’s a tall mountain to climb. The only way to do that is through endorsements.”
The realization that millions are being lost must be frustrating for one of the most disciplined, focused fighters in the world. His training regimen is impeccable and pre-fight focus is legendary. No detail is left to chance. But outside of the ring, it sounds like Pacquaio must streamline his business process.
As a matter of fact, he may be doing just that.
Top Rank, which manages Pacquaio may have had enough. On Feb. 25, CEO Bob Arum and President Todd DuBoef sent a letter to potential sponsors that began: “We’ve heard frustrations from many companies about their inability to explore personal endorsement and/or corporate branding opportunities with Manny Pacquiao."
Manny must tell his business advisor -- notice I didn't say business advisors -- that he's ready to become an international marketing machine. And most importantly, he's done making commercials like this: