Against the ropes: Floyd Mayweather and his association with Hublot
Before last Saturday's fight I had very little knowledge of Floyd Mayweather and the world of boxing, having only heard his name in passing during conversations with my more sports-inclined friends. After watching all 12 rounds of the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, I was surprised when during his in-ring victory speech that Mr Mayweather prominently mentioned Hublot as the best watchmaker in world. Out of idle curiosity I wondered how long the partnership had been going on. After some research I found out that Hublot had officially announced sponsorship of Mr Mayweather only a few days before and were the first company to ever have their name or logo featured on his match shorts during a fight. According to CNN, Mr Mayweather's opponent Manny Pacquiao's shorts are worth approximately $1.5 million in sponsorship space with six companies having bid for the opportunity to be featured, which begs the question how much Hublot had to pay for the privilege of positioning on the shorts and the post-fight mention. Whilst trying to find this answer, I instead found out about Mr Mayweather's history of domestic violence.
Between 2002 to 2011 Floyd Mayweather was arrested for two counts of domestic violence, one count of misdemeanour battery, two counts of misdemeanour battery against two women, two counts of misdemeanor harassment and during that time received a six month suspended sentence, two days house arrest, forty eight hours community service, one year suspended jail sentence, a ninety days suspended jail sentence and was forced to pay a fine of $2,500 to the courts. This is a man about whom Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe said, "It is an honour and a privilege that we stand beside Mayweather in what will be the biggest fight of his career. His astounding achievements through his perseverance and commitment to his celebrated career have made him a great fit for Hublot".
Shortly after saying this, Mr Guadalupe presented Floyd "Money" Mayweather with a Hublot King Power WBC Full Pave with Emeralds (a piece originally produced in 2012 in a limited run of twelve to honour Hublot's partnership with the World Boxing Council which were all auctioned off for an ex-professional charity raising $1 million), remade for Mr Mayweather with forty eight baguette cut emeralds round the bezel and two hundred and forty eight diamonds totalling just over two carats set into the King Gold case.
Now I understand that Hublot are entering into a business agreement with Mr Mayweather and that their sponsorship of him is in no way endorsing his appalling behaviour, however it does beg the question of where the line is drawn when it comes to brand spokespeople and their past actions. It is now beyond question that Mr Mayweather is an impressive boxer (48-0 win/loss record) and excellent athlete, however if I were CEO of any company I would not want him promoting it in any way. Hublot obviously have factored in the risk of association with Mr Mayweather and perhaps felt that having millions of people worldwide see your logo and hear your name being spoken with praise is worth it.
This is not the first time Hublot have perhaps overstepped the mark when it comes to advertising their brand. Back in 2010 they used a photograph of Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone taken after a mugging to promote the Hublot F1 King Power. Underneath the picture of Mr Ecclestone sporting a black eye and swollen lip it read "See what people will do for a Hublot". It should be noted that these words were written after the attack by Mr Ecclestone to Jean-Claude Biver, who after receiving it thought it would make a good one-time advertisement. Beneath the quote it reads "Hublot condemns all forms of violence and racism". I can understand the reasoning behind the advertisement, however perhaps it should have stayed as a private joke between multi-millionaires and friends, not as an official advertisement for the brand featuring in the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune.
Most Swiss watch companies have some investment in sports, however they are usually more traditional and conservative affairs in keeping with the typically reserved Swiss watch industry. Longines are the timekeepers of Royal Ascot, Omega and TAG Heuer both sponsor different teams in the America Cup Sailing Race and Rolex are the timekeepers of Wimbledon and are a global partner and Official Timepiece of Formula 1. Given Hublot's ethos of "First. Unique. Different.", it is not surprising that for the most part they are alone in the world of professional boxing when it comes to watch companies. Hublot pride themselves on being avant garde and contemporary compared to the more classically reserved watch companies in the same price bracket. Given Mr Mayweather's talent for self promotion and profit, it's no surprise that from a business perspective Hublot decided to sponsor him. Now it is important to note that Mr Mayweather has not had any more charges against him since leaving prison in 2012 and could well be a changed man repentant of his actions, however I think the association between one of the world's biggest luxury watch brands and a man convicted of domestic abuse is rather ill advised. In fact Adam Craniotes, co founder of the Red Bar Gatherings, recently took to Instagram decrying the move as in poor taste.
I contacted Hublot to comment on the issue and was told that Hubot were given an exceptional offer to appear on the shorts of Mr Mayweather for this event only, and that because of the promotion and their strong ties to the WBC, they donated another $100,000 to the World Boxing Council Charity. After consideration Hublot were willing to take the risk to be part of this historic fight. When Mr Guadalupe spoke about Mr Mayweather he was "referring to the athlete of today assuming that what has been done in the past should be somehow forgiven and that it will not repeat in future" and that one (Hublot) "should always be concerned with how ambassadors/friends of the brand are behaving and that we all agree that some mistakes of the past should one day be forgiven". Hublot did make a point of note that there have been other professional athletes such as Tiger Woods who have had personal indiscretions that have been forgiven.
I'm sure there will be those out there that will disagree with what I've written and say that I've overreacted, but the watch community is something I care about deeply and I feel that its mistakes need to be pointed out. There will be some watch lovers out there unaware of Mr Mayweathers transgressions and I feel that it is an issue that more people need to be aware of.