Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxing's pound-for-pound champion and the world's highest-paid athlete, made $14,815 per second during his fight against Marcos Maidana in May. The undefeated welterweight's guaranteed purse of $32 million doesn't even include the tens of millions of dollars he made from the fight's pay-per-view sales.
Clearly, although the sport's popularity may be on the decline, the highest-profile boxing promotions — and no name is bigger than Mayweather's — are hardly strapped for cash.
But that's not the sense you'd get from the marketing team behind Showtime, the network that generates millions for putting on Mayweather's fights.
With Mayweather and Maidana due to meet again in September at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Showtime has started looking for designers to create artwork promoting the rematch. The network's offer? By creating promotional artwork for Showtime, a designer will be entered in a competition to have his or her material purposed by the network and the hotel-casino for commercial use. The winner will also get a free trip to Vegas to watch the fight.
Dan Cassaro was one of the artists hand-picked by Showtime, which emailed him to praise his style and ask him to enter the contest. His response is brilliant.
"It is with great sadness that I must decline your enticing offer to work for you for free," Cassaro replied. "I know that boxing matches in Las Vegas are extremely low-budget affairs, especially ones with Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. … My only hope is that you can scrape up a few dollars from this grassroots event at the MGM Grand to put yourself back in the black. If that happens, you might consider using some of that money to compensate people [for] doing the thing they are professionally trained to do."
Cassaro couldn't be more right.
Working for free may be increasingly the norm for young artists and writers enticed by the nebulous lure of "exposure," but it shouldn't be. And Showtime should know better than to try to pull this trick on someone who is already a reputable graphic designer. (Cassaro's past clients include Nike, MTV and Ford.)
Just last year, an established freelance writer caused a stir by calling out the Atlantic for its "lucrative work-for-free" offer. At least the Atlantic, which apologized, has the desperate financial straits of the journalism industry as an excuse: Showtime earned an estimated $692 million in 2011 and is owned by the massive CBS Corporation conglomerate.
Showtime's contest could have been a fun way to both promote the fight on social media and highlight a wide array of visual art. It still can be. Showtime just has to start showing some appreciation for the actual artists. And no, the chance of a free trip to Vegas doesn't cut it.