What Can Championship Boxing Teach Us About Marketing?

Picture of Contrarian Marketing

The boxing championship below, featuring Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas, is instructive to building skills to understand how contrarian marketing is ‘not magic’, but rather ‘just math‘.


In the 1990s, the most fearsome and revered boxer in the world was Mike Tyson—a World Champion for many years. A kid from the streets, molded and mentored by the great Cus D’Amato, the media followed him with intense interest. With strength and precision, he dominated and decimated opponent after opponent.

On February 11, 1990, something strange and unexpected happened. An unknown challenger defeated the great, unconquerable champion. Buster Douglas, a 42-1 challenger, brought down the house and Mike Tyson was never the same.

George Foreman, the former world champion of boxing had memorable remarks and profound advice for Mike Tyson after his loss to Douglas. In George’s opinion, Mike Tyson was like a Ferrari – the greatest sports car the world had ever known. Except that Mike did not know what made him great because his success and skills came so effortlessly. His confidence and natural talent made him a champion. When Tyson lost the fight to Douglas—the equivalent of his Ferrari breaking down on the side of the road—Foreman related that Tyson did not know what he was, what he stood for, or what had previously made him unconquerable. In Tyson’s mind, he had always been a champion.

So when Tyson—using Foreman’s car metaphor—walked to the front of the Ferrari—and opened the hood to find out what was wrong, instead of seeing a powerful engine, Tyson saw a skinny-legged chicken that pedaled the car to supersonic speeds.

It was a powerful visual that captured Foreman’s advice to Tyson: since you have always been a champion, and now you are dethroned—go back to the basics. Understand what you are good at—even if it is a mirror of your past accomplishments. Appreciate your strengths and recognize them.

To excel consistently, it is essential that you understand why you are succeeding or failing

What happened and what is this story’s relevancy to marketing? Marketing is not much different than boxing or any other sport. To excel consistently, it is essential that you understand why you are succeeding or failing. Once you understand your customer base, you can determine where you want to go.

Source:  Excerpt from the Contrarian Marketing Book  Chapter 2:

By Nick Mavrick

You can find Nick Mavrick on Google+

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