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Sponsors in HBO's Corner

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HBO believes the Dec. 6 Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view event still has all the makings of a “megafight,” KO’d economy be damned.

The pay channel will charge $54.95 for the welterweight bout, a not-insignificant fee given the state of consumer confidence. With that in mind, HBO is hedging its bets, joining forces with two sponsors who will effectively underwrite the event, offering $20 rebates that can be applied to a subscriber’s cable bill.

First into the ring is Heineken USA import Cerveza Tecate, which has a relationship with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Consumers who purchase a 12-pack of Tecate in one of 4,500 participating retail outlets are eligible for the rebate. “This fight creates a great opportunity for us to reinforce our prominence within the sport,” said Carlos Boughton, Tecate’s brand director.

Also lacing up the gloves is Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle energy drink, popular among Hispanic males. As with the Tecate promotion, Coke will foot the bill for the rebates. “This was done because Golden Boy is keenly aware of the state of the economy right now, and they wanted to provide an incentive to younger fans,” said Mark Taffet, HBO senior vp, sports operations and PPV. As De La Hoya put it during a Nov. 17 conference call, “If you buy every single product, you’re going to watch the fight for free.”

Taffet predicted the fight will be the biggest PPV event of 2008. “In 18 PPV fights, Oscar has brought in $626 million, on 12.8 million buys,” Taffet said. “This could be up there with the Mayweather fight.” If so, HBO could get an early Christmas present. The De La Hoya-Mayweather tilt last May notched a record 2.4 million buys and $134.4 million.