Brand Alignment: Why Floyd Mayweather Jr. Should Connect With Don King

Brand Alignment: Why Floyd Mayweather Jr. Should Connect With Don King

“For him it’s all a matter of the disrespect that he’s

feeling and them not listening to him,” King said.

“It’s all about pride and dignity. I understand him

completely because we share a common background

as rising from the ghetto.

“He wants his dignity, his respect and his pride to remain intact and he wants to get paid. That’s where

I come in. I’m the mix master.”

Don King on Floyd Mayweather Jr., as quoted in “Promoter Don King says he and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are ‘hanging out to see what happens’” by Tim Smith; August 1, 2010; New York Daily News

Last week’s Hip-Hoppreneur ™ “D.O.L.N. (The Death Of Live Nation?)” (https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/08/10/22329846.aspx) produced incredible feedback which struck me because the theme that each of the numerous emails I received from AllHipHop.com readers shared was some form of respect, appreciation or gratitude for my consistent willingness to deal with business aspects. One individual wrote, “I’ve stated before Mr. Muhammad that ‘a lot of people that do business, don’t know business.’ However, if they read your weekly editorials, they’ll learn business. I thank you for teaching business through your writings.” Another sent in, “The BOTTOM LINE is we truly can’t be dreaming big but still be ignoring business (& not ‘handling our business’).”

While I am honored to receive feedback like this (though I don’t see myself as a ‘Teacher’) and it indicates that my perspective brings something of value to the world’s most dangerous website and its amazing viewership (whom I always love to hear from directly), I still, to this day, find it sad that in a culture and industry with so much to ‘teach’ about economics and business, so few artists, publications, and Hip-Hop talk show hosts are willing to deal with substance beyond the celebrities, gossip, and creative artistry, despite the fact that their fans and consumers crave this kind of knowledge.

What’s even sadder is that this is partly the case because so many ‘opinion leaders’ in Hip-Hop fear offending the wrong celebrity or industry power center by speaking truthfully. I respect (and even admire some) artists, celebrities, and the industry’s power centers but I fear none of them nor do I depend upon any of them for my credibility. Whatever credibility I have is not tied to any Hip-Hop personality or institution, and I like it that way. I think that is what people respect about my perspective, however much they may disagree with it.

I don’t say this arrogantly (and I too continue to mature) but anyone who can’t speak straight words in this culture and industry – no matter how much money they have – is still a slave to me, and will never reach a certain level of respect (no matter how ‘popular’ they may be). At the end of the day, I feel, we must strive to be self-respecting men and women who can look at ourselves in the mirror, and show someone younger than we are the pitfalls of this system and how to do better navigate it than we have.

Still more, beyond ‘navigating,’ I think we should be building an independent reality more than whining about the limitations of the current one.

I maintain that Hip-Hop is the only art form, culture and industry where public discussion of business activity (beyond sales data, record label signings and endorsement deals) is deemed as ‘over the heads,’ ‘off limits,’ or even ‘boring,’ to the degree that it is. One day soon I hope to get into why this is, as it relates to some ‘secret’ or hidden history regarding the science of business and how it has been systematically kept back from the people and communities who originated Hip-Hop and but who are still the backbone of its economic support. It is a huge subject that connects politics, economics, and culture with the 5%, 10% and 85% concept that so many of us make reference to.

There is a way to ‘teach’ business and economics to the Hip-Hop generation very easily, by using illustrations we understand from areas where we hold the most intense interest.

In this, my last column before taking a few weeks off for vacation, I highlight an example from the sport of boxing (is this not the most ‘Hip-Hop’ of all sports with its emphasis on individual talent, competition and ‘beefs’?).

As many of you know, I have a very high level of respect for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. I think he is a great boxer (his defense-first/counter-punch style based on timing is almost unreal in terms of how sophisticated it can be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqOJp9Wmayo&feature=related) but I focus as much or more on his value as a businessperson. I see him as an intellectual too. He has mastered some pretty high level marketing principles which I wrote about a few months ago, “The Genius Of Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Caricature (And Character) Outsells Talent” (https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/04/20/22176925.aspx).

But it has not come without costs or a ceiling on his appeal and marketability.

In that article I made the following points:

“In trying to balance a billionaire’s caricature, with his more genuine personality as one who gives back and who is a thinker-strategist, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is dealing with some of what such wealthy men as Andrew Carnegie once experienced. In his excellent biography titled Andrew Carnegie (which I hope someone will give to Floyd) David Nasaw writes of the dilemma of the self-made millionaire, “He was thrilled with his success as a businessman and capitalist, but far from satisfied. He wanted more from life – and would spend the rest of his days in pursuit of it. His ultimate goal was to establish himself as a man of letters, as well known and respected for his writing and intellect as for his ability to make money.” The author sums up the challenge of the billionaire’s brand when he writes:

‘Yet for all that he accomplished and came to represent to the American public – a ferocious businessman and capitalist, a self-educated writer, peace activist, philanthropist, lover of culture, avid self-promoter, and vehement proselytizer of the virtues of American democracy – Carnegie has remained, to this day, an enigma and a man of striking contradictions.’

When you hear or see Floyd speak intelligently on the realities of race relations, poor communities, and even bringing standards to the sport of boxing you can see a bit of the struggle he faces as he wrestles to reconcile the self promoter in him with the philanthropist-activist – an image that his external business partners and associates have little interest in promoting.”

It is from that point of view that I appreciate the latest – that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Don King are publicly flirting with one another in a possible business courtship.

People have underestimated Floyd Mayweather Jr. for years. I have always seen more than the ‘Money’ Mayweather persona and have felt that if he were guided into a more public embrace of his consciousness, he could become a ‘Diasporic Personality’ on the path of Muhammad Ali – someone who is bigger than boxing not just because they are more entertaining than other boxers and can attract casual fans to the sport, but because their ‘story,’ and ability to represent causes and connect with cultures makes them popular at home and abroad.

In short, with the right moves and advisers, Floyd’s ‘Money’ caricature could become a ‘Movement’ character.

“Associative/Referent Power is the power that derives from an association. This power can exist when one has access or a relationship to a powerful person. The very best example I could give you is that of the Reverend in the Christian tradition. The Reverend claims to know God. You can’t name-drop any better than that! So, if a person is a Believer in God, when someone they respect says to them, ‘God told me that if you don’t do this, you will go to heaven or hell,’ that person has a lot of influence over them. But we all have this power based upon our relationships and access to others who are perceived as powerful or having that which others need or want. By associating ourselves with other powerful people we can gain influence. Another good example would be the many companies that sell products by using celebrities in television commercials. The endorsement of the celebrity can give credibility to the product or make it attractive.”

From ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ (http://the Esecret.com/)by Cedric Muhammad

As good as he is of a boxer, and as brilliant as he is as an entertainer ,and as shrewd as he is as a businessperson, ‘Money’ Mayweather has yet to become an international icon with a Diasporic Personality and the ability to influence social and ‘geopolitical’ change. He has a ‘positive’ image and has movement potential but no movement energy, and no movement persona, yet.

Linking up with Don King I believe could give him that.

It would add value to his storyline and name which I insist is the greatest area where we all create wealth. That is why I wrote of Mayweather – before Lebron went to Miami , “In a sense, he is the only person I would put above LeBron James (see my “The Crossover Journey: Why Lebron Comes To New York” (https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/02/24/22133531.aspx), in terms of the potential for being both a ‘billionaire’ and force for social change – answering the challenge of Jim Brown and even Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers who perhaps framed it better than anyone in the track ‘Black Business,’ ‘Where do Blacks with crazy cash and knowledge of themselves live at? Teacher haven’t seen none. Many sold their souls for cash.’ ”

As you will remember in terms of the value of his story and name, I wrote that LeBron should only leave Cleveland, after winning a championship, and then, only for New York. I understand LeBron’s decision to move to Miami as more of a personal (having to do with the stage his relationship with his Mother has reached) and ‘love of the game’ decision. But it was clearly not the best one in terms of the alignment of his brand-image-reputation which I believe is the key to a successful career. It is what I believe makes individuals as diverse as Jay-Z and Immortal Technique as magnetic as they are – whether calculating or naturally done, they both stay in alignment.

You can say whatever you want about Don King. We all have heard the rumors and court case ‘evidence’ that many say proves he has deceived and robbed boxer after boxer. But the obvious question – that Don King has posed himself is, if these charges are true and so well known why do so many boxers continue to seek him out or do business with him?

It’s a legitimate question that I believe is not simply answered by the charges that Mr. King buys off boxers with suitcases of cash (although I don’t doubt this has happened – smile).

No, I believe what makes Don King most attractive, even seductive to boxers (and other entertainers) is the power of association and his ability to add value to their ‘story.’

The root of his appeal is the ability to add new dimensions, twists, and angles to a person’s name and storyline which can be marketed and monetized. Nowhere is this more clear than in what Don King did for Muhammad Ali by putting together the fight with George Foreman in Zaire (It should be noted that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad persuaded Ali’s manager, his son, Herbert Muhammad to give Don King a chance).

Don King understood that a fight in Africa for Ali built perfectly upon and was in total alignment with the ‘brand-image-reputation’ that Muhammad Ali’s colorful personality, boxing style, and market profile as an entertainer-leader (due to his stance on the Vietnam War and membership in the Nation of Islam) had created.

If you ever wanted to understand the value of this storyline, which Don King helped to ‘write,’ and feel the ‘movement energy’ around Muhammad Ali as a result, you only need to reflect over the words of Nation of Islam Minister Jeremiah Shabazz:

“That night in Zaire will stay with me for as long as I live. It was more than a fight. It was a vindication of everything that we in the Nation had struggled for over the years. Everything about it was right. Ali, the underdog; an awesome foe. I even thought we had a promoter we could be proud of, because Zaire was where Don King made his mark. Later, I learned that black doesn’t matter to Don, except when he’s using it to rob some fighter. The only color Don cares about is green. But in Zaire and for a short time afterward, I thought Don King was all right. And even today, I’ll give Don credit for one thing. Other promoters could have made that fight, but Don was the one who brought it to Africa.” 

How many of us when we think of Muhammad Ali don’t think of the ’Rumble In The Jungle’ or the ’Thrilla In Manilla’ – both promoted by Don King.

It is this kind of respect (even given grudgingly) for Don King that speaks louder than views of this man from Cleveland rooted more in ideology and ethics. There is a science to what Don King does, and any person with any kind of appreciation for business and marketing respects it.

In a recent article by ESPN’s Don Rafael, “Does Don King Hold Key To many Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather?” (http://espn.go.com/sports/boxing/blog/_/name/rafael_dan/id/5445183/does-don-king-hold-key-manny-pacquiao-floyd-mayweather), Don King explains what he feels differentiates himself from Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s current representatives and team infrastructure:

”King’s point of view is that Haymon and Golden Boy do not understand Mayweather or know how to treat him.

King said he’d make Mayweather ‘a people’s champion’ and be able to create and generate more money than he’s ever had before with dignity, pride and stature. ‘Like it is now, he’s being degraded, vilified, accusations, you know. Some of it goes for the hype, but when it gets to the substance of the man, the substance is not there. And they don’t understand because they can’t communicate with him because Floyd speaks Ghetto-ese and they don’t understand because it’s hieroglyphics.

‘They look down on him and put him in disrepute and disregard, the people who’s with him. And they don’t defend him. He goes out and says, ‘Money, money, money,’ and that don’t win it. That don’t give you what you need as a human being.’ “

If Floyd Mayweather sincerely wants to evolve his image in a more ‘mature’ direction, he’ll have to do so carefully in a way that is in alignment with his brand.

Don King is outright stating that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has reached the limits of his ‘Money’ persona and that the next place to go is from ‘colorful’ villain to underdog— a ‘people’s champion.’ Whether this can be done without Mayweather, Jr. losing first is debatable (although I think the killer right-hand shot from Shane Mosley in the second round that Mayweather, Jr. withstood has added more respect and the element of ‘warrior’ to his storyline). Perhaps an epic fight with Manny Pacquiao where he comes from behind or wins despite being cut or knocked down will do the trick. Maybe the risk of fighting Paul Williams will do it or taking on Sergio Martinez the middleweight champion, at the bigger man’s weight.

In a sense, ‘Money’ Mayweather is maybe too colorful and too much of an ‘untouched’ fighter for people to relate to. It was that way a bit with Muhammad Ali until Joe Frazier dropped him at Madison Square Garden, only to see Ali get back up (to this day Frazier still admits he thought Ali would not get back on his feet). ‘Getting back up,’ is all that some may need to see Mayweather do in order to feel that he finally represents them. Perfection is what we seek, but overcoming adversity is the universal language we all speak.

Don King, as an elder, with a track record, and an international network that Mayweather’s current team probably lacks may be the one best qualified to help Floyd Mayweather write the next, and most lucrative chapter of his career.

“Like it or not, you are a negotiator. Negotiation is a fact of life. You discuss a raise with your boss. You try to agree with a stranger on a price for his house. Two lawyers try to settle a lawsuit arising from a car accident. A Group of oil companies plan a joint venture exploring for offshore oil. A city official meets with union leaders to avert a transit strike. The United States Secretary of State sits down with his Soviet counterpart to seek an agreement limiting nuclear arms. All these are negotiations. Everyone negotiates something every day.”

– Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury

If the talk of Mayweather and King partnering is nothing more than an attempt on the part of the boxer to obtain more favorable terms from his current representatives it would be understandable but I think a shame, but even if that is the case, Don King’s understanding of this dynamic and comfortably expressed awareness of self, shows how much of a master of the art of negotiation he is. He even seems to embrace the possibility that Mayweather may be using him.

Dan Rafael writes:

King said he when he tried wooing him last year, Mayweather ultimately went back to Haymon and Golden Boy because they gave him more money.

“He profited from me. He got more money for the Marquez fight,” King said. “He wouldn’t have got what he had. He can use me. I don’t mind being used because I understand Golden Boy, Al Haymon.”

…King said his pursuit is not a hard one as he has done with so many fighters in the past. He said he hasn’t presented him with a duffel bag of money — one of King’s favorite moves — to get him to sign. He didn’t jet off to be at Mayweather’s side. No, King is playing it cooler than that.

“Never made him an offer. If he wants me, he come and get me. I’m there for him all the time, either way,” King said. “It doesn’t matter whether he comes or he don’t come. I love him, I understand him because I’m one of him. I am one of the masses, not the classes. I’m from the hood too and I also speak Ghetto-ese. I can relate, communicate and identify. And that’s something [Haymon and Golden Boy] don’t do.”

“Floyd keeps telling me he’s free,” King said. “I keep hearing from Golden Boy and other people that he ain’t free. So who knows? They may have done tricked him and he thinks he’s free. They promise you everything and give you nothing and he finds himself in a quagmire. That’s what happened to him last time.

“So now he’s back saying he got it straightened out, and ‘me and you gonna talk; me and you gonna do this and that.’ I say, ‘OK, OK.’ I never ever disagree because he’s the man. So whatever he says, that’s what it is. But I would be delighted. It would be an honor and privilege for me to be with Mayweather.

“He has done a tremendous job of self-promotion. He’s done a tremendous job of fighting and winning. I love Floyd.”

Don King clearly understands that the best deal is the one you don’t need. It puts you in the stronger negotiating position.

I have great respect for ‘Money’ Mayweather’s current team of advisers – Leonard Ellerbeee and Al Haymon (whom I believe is the greatest concert promoter in the history of Black music) but there are places that I believe only someone like Don King could take him, in terms of his ‘story.’

Perhaps the best of all worlds would be for the three Black men to work together in this direction.

What I hope the Hip-Hop generation will take from this episode, regardless to ist outcome, is the importance of knowing how to negotiate and a concept I have harped on repeatedly – and that is the importance of keeping your brand-image-reputation in alignment, appreciating the value that an authentic story can produce for your name.

Marketing and Business.

They do not respect ideology but their natural and universal principles treat everyone equally – whether street, conscious, or ‘mainstream.’

The sooner we learn that lesson the more power we’ll have to protect art and culture with commerce.

Here’s to a ‘perfect combination’ that may be able to teach us all a thing or two about these subjects and maybe even provide a couple of great fights along the way – maybe even in Africa and the Philippines.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and all of us deserve that…

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Union’s First Congress of African Economists. Cedric’s the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ . His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.

[Cedric Muhammad’s Hip-Hoppreneur column will return the week of September 13th]

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