The Sweet Science of the Boxing Ad

There’s something about boxing’s inherent grit and primal simplicity that transforms into cinematic beauty. Let’s examine a few of the best.

I’ll lay my biases on the table right away. As I write this, I am a mere 17 hours from my last foray into the boxing ring. So I definitely have allegiances to the sport. But you don’t have to go far to find a director, an art director, or anyone in film, who would be all over adding a boxing-related piece to their reel.

Make no mistake, the boxing spot is about as formulaic as it gets. The dramatization of hardship and a come-from-nothing background, to finding the perseverance to rise above the challenges — to stand face to face with the enemy. It’s a parallel that everyone can relate to. Now, if these spots aired during every other TV timeout (like a Canadian Tire or Trivago ad), the collective eye-rolling would be audible.

Alright, cue the bell.

I like this Powerade spot more for how it ends. The approach strays a bit from the formula; showcasing a rising fighter and using flashback references that show how he got there. But it’s the concluding line that enables this to resonate with the audience.

The next uhhh “ad”, we’ll say, is some independent spec creative. While, typically, this would be an unwelcomed element in an exercise like this, it’s kinda really well done. Since it can break all the rules, it does — lifting its voice-over of Mike Tyson from the film “Tyson”. But, together with the visuals, it conveys that inner battle that boxers face heading into the ring. And it does it well. Although its targeted directly toward the equipment-purchasing boxer, anyone who has experienced pre-presentation butterflies while walking to a meeting room can certainly relate.

Under Armor launched their Muhammad Ali collection with this short film. Although it’s devoid of much of an idea, the boxing club and training scenes — coupled with motivational clips from Ali, are pretty engaging for even casual boxing fans.

This final Everlast spot is definitely my favourite of the boxing genre. It showcases a clearly impoverished-yet-skilled boxer being tempted use those skills outside the ring. Alas, the young fighter opts to employ boxing’s less heralded aspects of respect and control. An emotionally gripping way of illustrating the Everlast’s “Greatness is Within” brand message.

The amount of fairly polished independent, portfolio-only, creative using boxing is telling as well. Without a doubt, the boxer’s story has an appeal. It’s a personification of the inner battle everyone, in all walks of life, faces. The visuals cue our adrenaline just enough to hold our attention and engage with story. Then, seeing fear and hardship being defeated is, as in any drama, the ultimate finishing touch. A solid formula for a satisfied viewer.

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