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How promoters are using 'Avengers: Endgame' to boost Terence Crawford-Amir Khan pay-per-view

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

When Terence Crawford’s promotional agreement with Top Rank was close to ending last year, the WBO welterweight champion was carefully considering his options before he signed a new deal. He was in his Colorado Springs, Colorado, training camp, and Top Rank president Todd duBoef drove from his home in Aspen, multiple times to talk in an effort to keep the pound-for-pound king in the fold.

And while money and opponents were a part of the equation, much of their conversations centered around duBoef’s vision for the sport and what ESPN could do for it.

“He pushed me and he wanted me to tell him the story,” duBoef said. “He wanted to hear in my words what my vision was and how I saw us using ESPN’s platform and how that all related to his career.”

Crawford signed a new deal with Top Rank on Sept. 6 and is now starting to see what duBoef was talking about, as he prepares to defend his title on Saturday at Madison Square Garden on pay-per-view against Amir “King” Khan.

ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Co., and so it is able to leverage Disney’s assets to help promote the fight. The Crawford-Khan weigh-in will be televised live on ESPN2 on Friday at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. It will include a new trailer for Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame,” which will be in theaters on April 26.

It is an example of a way to find a larger audience for the fight that hasn’t often been explored in the past.

“We are absolutely going to be opportunistic,” said Matt Kenny, ESPN’s VP/combat sports. “We look at this as clearly one of those synergistic opportunities that only the Walt Disney Company can offer. Really, no one else can bring brands together like this. This one in particular just made a lot of sense.

“Obviously, Crawford-Khan is a huge pay-per-view event and then, less than a week later, we have arguably the largest theatrical release in movie history with ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ So we looked at the calendar and we assessed the opportunities and we felt this made a ton of sense.”

In Times Square, a Crawford-Khan advertisement is continuously running above the ABC News ticker scroll.

It’s all but impossible to miss for the tens of thousands of people who pass by it on a daily basis. These are the kinds of things duBoef had in mind when he first began to talk to ESPN.

The fight logo is on the scroll on ESPN throughout “SportsCenter,” which duBoef believes just enhances the awareness.

“There are so many things, like integration into other things they’re doing like NBA playoff games, baseball games, whatever might be going on at a given time,” duBoef said. “Those are invaluable for us, because they’re being seen by sports fans and that’s who we are trying to reach. It was hard for us to reach that market as effectively in the past. Now, working with ESPN and this powerful platform, we have exactly the audience we want right in front of us. To see it on the scroll on ‘SportsCenter,’ I mean, I can’t begin to tell you how much that does for us.

“I would have to spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to get that real estate. Millions of dollars. The more I think about it, it’s almost not even buyable. But the fact we’re part of the system, the ESPN-Disney system, helps us do something that would have been all but impossible previously, and it helps us take boxing to another level.”

Kenny said the teams at ESPN and Disney collaborated carefully on the spot. And he said it’s not a one-off. It doesn’t always mean a movie trailer, but it will always be a way to build brand awareness for Top Rank on ESPN.

Anything that can help build the profile of the boxers and of the sport is good business.

“We want to try new things and we don’t believe this is going to be business as usual,” Kenny said. “We’re right now trying to come up with the next big idea, the next big thing, to help grow the sport.”

A scroll on Times Square in New York showing an ad for the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan fight is an example of the collaboration between Top Rank and ESPN. (Courtesy Top Rank)

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