Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao slug it out on social media

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Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao bout set to be the largest purse in boxing history

Fighters take to social media to boost viewership

Instagram accounts highlight personality clash

CNN  — 

A chiseled boxer’s Instagram feed shows him making constant references to the Bible and enjoying gospel singing with his wife.

Another features his formidable opponent counting stacks of money, hanging out in strip clubs, and flashing diamond watches and Ferraris.

Welcome to the world of boxing promotion, circa 2015.

American Floyd Mayweather and Filipino Manny Pacquiao are set to officially announce their heavily anticipated boxing match at a press conference in Los Angeles Wednesday.

With the combined purse for the May 2 bout in Las Vegas reported to touch $300 million pending viewership numbers, the incentives to self-promote could not be higher.

“Nowadays you have to be on social media to launch the fight and to build hype,” says boxing promoter Nisse Sauerland, CEO of Team Sauerland. “It couldn’t be done without it.”

Thirty-eight year old Mayweather (47-0, 26 knockouts), who favors the moniker “The Money Man” or “TBE” (The Best Ever), boasts nearly five million Instagram followers, 5.65 million followers on Twitter and 9.2 million Facebook likes.

He famously confirmed the fight via Shots, a photo sharing social media application that he’s invested in, and displays links to his clothing brand, The Money Team, on all his accounts.

Along with professing to the be the best fighter of all time, he could also stake a claim to be one of the greatest social media users in sports.

“I think they’re both playing their roles,” says Sauerland, who promotes over 45 boxers. “You’ve got the bad guy and the good guy, really. You’ve got the guy who throws the money around (Mayweather), that’s his image, and Pacquiao, he’s the hope of a nation.”

Although Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 knockouts) also sports millions of followers, his social media numbers lag behind that of his opponent.

The 36-year-old Filipino counts 1.7 million followers on Twitter and just 647,000 on Instagram, although his popularity on Facebook is much closer, with 6.3 million page likes.

Has this disparity had an impact on Pacquiao’s share of the fight’s heady purse, which is reported to be split 60/40 in favor of Mayweather?

“If you have five million Twitter followers it does give you power in negotiation, because it reflects popularity, ” says Sauerland.

“But Mayweather needs Pacquiao too; you need a storyline to make a good fight … (Pacquiao) is the route to make it the biggest purse in history.”

The disparity is probably due to Pacquiao’s less flashy posts. Without exception, they show him in training, in church, or with family – always with a nod to Jesus in the text – as well as his nationality, says sports media consultant Daniel McLaren and Cast Digital chief executive officer.

“Manny is a little bit more of a private person; he’s not going to be as outspoken and give away as much, so he’s always going to have a smaller following,” he says, while noting that Instagram is less popular outside of North America and Europe.

Pacquiao’s followers in his home country are more likely to track his moves on Facebook and Twitter, adds McLaren.

Either way, both fighters are likely to experience a surge in followers.

“If the only place you can find out what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead-up to the fight is via their social media feeds, you’re going to follow them,” McLaren says.

“So I think they will see quite a big increase in followers and the amount of mentions they’re getting as the fight gets closer.”

Athletes who participate in individual sports are more inclined to be active on social media, says McLaren, because they don’t receive regular salaries, and product endorsements can be a much larger portion of their income.

“A boxer or a golfer or a tennis player has to use it as a commercial platform or a brand building platform,” he says.

“If you have the choice between a different number of athletes to sponsor, and one has a million Instagram followers while the other doesn’t go on social media, then it’s a no-brainer.”

Sauerland agrees. “Every fighter nowadays should be on social media, and if they’re not, then they’re not doing a good enough job at promoting themselves,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re a club fighter or a superstar.”

“It’ll be an interesting fight,” adds McLaren, “just because they are so different.”