Betfair Offers New Take on Sponsorship Deals with Rio Ferdinand Boxing Challenge

Online poker and betting site Betfair has entered the world of sports star endorsements with a bang thanks a new deal with former soccer star Rio Ferdinand.

Rio Ferdinand

Former England soccer star Rio Ferdinand is training to become a professional boxer as part of the new deal with Betfair. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org/Илья Хохлов)

Following the recent trend of recruiting celebs and professional athletes to promote the virtues of online betting, Betfair is now working with ex-Manchester United and England defender Ferdinand.

Much like PokerStars and partypoker have done in recent years, Betfair will be using Ferdinand’s profile in Europe to bolster its brand image and, moreover, emphasis the competitive aspect of poker and betting.

A Different Deal for Ferdinand

What’s different about Betfair’s deal with Ferdinand, however, is that it has a slightly harder hitting angle those used by other sites. Following the same “challenge” format used to turn former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton into a professional jockey, Betfair is aiming to transform Ferdinand into a boxer.

Despite having no amateur bouts to his name, the soccer player will train with former champion Richie Woodhall under the banner “defender to contender.” Boxing is currently going through a mini-revival thanks to the recent Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather and Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez fights.

Tapping into this surge of interest in the noble art, Betfair will provide all the support Ferdinand needs to step in the ring as a professional and, potentially, challenge for a title.

It’s the Age of Sports Star Sponsorships

Although it’s a longshot, Betfair’s move is not only in line current zeitgeist but something that’s becoming the standard MO of online operators.

At present, PokerStars is working with Jamaican sprinter and the fastest man to ever live, Usain Bolt while partypoker has former super-middleweight boxing champion Carl Froch as an ambassador.

The desire to attract casual fans and exploit new social media networks is behind this recent wave of endorsements and Betfair’s initiative certainly puts a different spin on the concept.

But as much as this is a PR exercise for the betting operators, it will also be a personal journey for Ferdinand. Boxing is a dangerous occupation and in a press conference held by Betfair, the sportsman admitted he faces a tough challenge.

However, also insisted that he wasn’t doing this out of disrespect for boxing, but as a way to satisfy the competitive urges he no longer has an outlet for since he retired from professional soccer. Love it or hate it, the news has caught the attention of sports fans, but whether it proves to be a knockout move or a fatal blow for both parties remains to be seen.

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