THERE is no reliable blueprint on how to develop a superstar, but when you ally an outstanding talent who won an Olympic bronze medal and was unbeaten as a professional with arguably the sport’s finest publicist, it can be considered a solid start. Top PR manager Kelly Swanson had a firm strategy in place when she began working with Floyd Mayweather in 2005, but says the boxer made her job easy.
“I don’t like to make things up,” Swanson points out in an exclusive chat. “I like to see what I’m working with and then use it to the person’s advantage. I looked to things that would work for him, tried to broaden his scope of reach – of course the boxing media world was already engaged, but we started to reach out farther and one area that was important to him was to become more known in the urban community, so we targeted a whole wealth of urban publications and media outlets. We used his personality to propel those relationships, because once you meet him and get the chance to sit down and talk to him, he really likes the press, so he’s a good interview.”
As Mayweather’s fame grew, his team sought to capitalise on his versatility and willingness to experiment. He played a key role for World Wrestling Entertainment, including taking a ‘win’ in their annual Wrestlemania extravaganza in 2008, the year after he had appeared on network (ABC) reality show, Dancing with the Stars.
“That was all Leonard Ellerbe,” credits Swanson, citing the key part played by the Mayweather Promotions CEO. “ The role I could say I played is because of the publicity he received through fighting. I didn’t have anything to do with those decisions but once they were made, they asked me how to publicise it to cross him over. For a fighter, I think the goal is always to cross over into the mainstream. Those were opportunities to do that and they came about, too, because he was getting so popular. Where I helped with that is being able to get the press I got him to enable him to get to that level of popularity.”
Mayweather has sometimes made the news for the wrong reasons, including questionable comments about Pacquiao and flaunting his wealth, but Swanson feels he has matured over the years and is unruffled by having to explain away any misdemeanours either real or perceived.
“I don’t lie so I’m not worried about that,” Kelly states. “I don’t really tell stories and fibs to get through situations that might not be as comfortable as we would like them. But I’m proud of Floyd; for all of his adversity he handles himself really well.”