At the end of February, a deal a decade in the making came together: the two boxers billed as two of the world’s best ever — Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao — finally agreed to the super fight for which boxing fans had long been waiting.
The deal was signed February 20, and the fight was scheduled for Saturday, May 2. That allowed for about a month to put together a promotional package, and that meant getting two rival camps — Mayweather’s and Pacquiao’s — and the two rival networks that represent them — HBO Sports and Showtime Sports — to sign off on the creative.
2C Media had recently produced an arresting creative campaign for HBO Sports’ Hard Knocks. But once 2C Media won the deal, the work had only just begun. And producing the creative was the least of it.
“The hardest part of the whole thing was having to present the concept 15 different times,” says Brian Eloe, 2C Media’s creative director.
“This was the most heart-stopping, high profile thing we’ve ever been able to be involved with,” says Chris Sloan, 2C’s founder and chief creative officer.
2C initially didn’t expect to have access to the fighters, both of whom were in training and notoriously hard to schedule. So it developed an initial campaign that wouldn’t include them. But on March 4, 2C learned that it would get the fighters. Plans quickly changed.
The concept for the promo was not that complicated. “Metaphorically, this spot is about the different paths these two titans have been on throughout their careers, all leading to this inevitable conclusion, to a crossroads and a showdown taking on the feel of a classic Sergio Leone gunfighter standoff,” says Eloe. “In the end, we all know the classic marketing rule, which is ‘keep it simple.’ What we are talking about here is arguably the two best welterweight fighters in the world finally getting to face each other.”
Once the creative plan was determined, the execution phase kicked in. First stop: Los Angeles to shoot the fighters. Both men and their vast entourages were in town for the pre-fight press conference. Both could only offer about an hour to be shot for the promo. But not together, of course.
2C found Occidental Studios in downtown Los Angeles that was ten minutes from where the press conference was held. The agency had to build a green screen studio at the site, and it also rented a complex and expensive piece of technology called MILO, a motion capture robot that comes with its own technician.
The beauty of MILO is that it can be set to perform the same movements over and over, so that if the subject is set in the same place, the camera will capture exactly the same perspective. That was key considering that no pieces of this promo were shot together.
“What MILO does is memorize the data, how fast the camera moves forward, how its arm moves around,” says Eloe. “And then you can repeat that in different environments. It’s amazing how sensitive the human eye is to perspective. You can tell when something doesn’t line up.”
Mayweather and Pacquiao each were shot separately, the crossroads was shot in Lancaster, California, and Las Vegas itself was built from still frames, stock footage and animation.
“The truth is if you do something like this wrong, then you think about it,” says Eloe. “If it’s right, you don’t think about the fact that everything has been created and then pieced together.”
Typically, the backgrounds are shot first in a spot like this, but because of the time constraints, the fighters were first up.
“It just made the motion control unit that much more important. It had to do camera moves that were more complicated than just pushing forward. It orbited around them, allowing them to grow in scale.”
While the final spot emerged with the perspective perfectly balanced, achieving that was no mean feat.
“It was very much a high-wire act,” says Eloe. “When you don’t have a lot of time to plan, that’s when mistakes happen. And there was a lot riding on this. It’s only the biggest fight ever.”
Once the fighters were shot, the crew moved on to Lancaster, California, where it captured footage of a lonely crossroads in the middle of the desert.
From there, the whole thing went into the all-important and laborious post-production process, which includes correcting the color and lighting, and rotoscoping edges to clean up any green or blurring.
“We had to have the spot almost finished before we could show anyone,” says Eloe. “Usually what happens in post like this is that you get into a protracted ground war because you can fix so much in post now, but there wasn’t time for that. My post team deserves super kudos for the kind of work they put in.”
In the end, everyone — boxers, networks, 2C — was happy with the final product, which went on the air about six weeks after the fight was first announced.
“We literally had one month to produce the whole thing from start to finish,” says Eloe, “and there were 82 versions of it in all kinds of languages. As a marketer, the thing you hope for most is that lots of people will see what you create.”
And those 15 upfront meetings paid off in the end.
Says Eloe: “This was a true collaboration between the networks, the boxers and the different camps. Something like this doesn’t happen without everyone’s egos being set aside for the greater good.”
Creative Director – David Roofthooft
Senior Writer/Producer/Director – Noah Lerner
VP, HBO PPV – Tammy Ross
Vice President, Creative Director – Earl Fash
Creative Director – Jason Bowers
Writer/Producer – Derek Barbanti
Chief Creative Officer – Chris Sloan
Director/Creative Director – Brian Eloe
VFX Supervisor/Design Director – Luis Martinez
Visual Effects Artist/Colorist – Dmitri Zavyazkin
Preditor – Claudia Castaneda
DP – Thomas Camarda
Line Producer – Chris Stoerchle