Muhammad Ali, the Greatest Athlete – Marketer – of all time!

This week the world is mourning the loss of perhaps the most accomplished, well-known, and greatest athlete of all time – Muhammad Ali! Indeed, the American professional boxer is widely regarded as the most significant sporting figure in history.

Ali was my personal inspiration for having the courage to climb into the boxing ring as an amateur boxer myself. What his spirit and his life communicated was that no matter your circumstances, your religion, your race, whether you are big or small, whether people are for you or against you, you can accomplish great things if you never give up, if you have the courage to get back up after being knocked down, if you believe in yourself and what you have to offer. It is impossible to put in words all this man meant to so many in his many roles over the course of his life.

Though he came from humble beginnings, he became a citizen of and ambassador to the entire planet. People who never even saw him box knew who he was. Entertainer Madonna, in my opinion, summed it up when she said, “This man. This King. This Human! Words cannot express. He shook up the world! God Bless him.”

Muhammad Ali had no formal business training and very little education, but he was a natural marketer and promoter. He rejected the stereotype of heavyweight champions before him, who took on the obligatory role of quiet bruts who let their fists, and only their fists, do their talking. Ali, on the other hand, knew that you had to have a strategy and a unique promotional shtick to get people to listen to you, to want to see you perform, to willingly and unabashedly spend their money and time on your product. Today we call that strategy a “Unique Selling Proposition.” Ali was a master of self-promotion, from his picking the round in which he would drop an opponent to his colorful and whimsical poetry that he would compose about himself and his opponents. He once said, “If they don’t know about you, then you’re NOT promoting yourself enough.” Indeed, he was far from a pugilist jester, but a genius of marketing and self-promotion. His pioneering efforts in sports compensation changed not only the sport of boxing, but nearly every sport on earth where athletes finally got a seat at the owner’s table when it came to compensation.

So let us learn from the Master of Disaster, as he referred to himself, and learn how to promote ourselves, our products, and our businesses with humor, candor, lightheartedness and irresistible appeal. Yes, Champ, you were the Greatest, and you sure were Pretty! God Bless and Rest in Peace…. And thank you for your many lessons and for changing the world for all of us!

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Keep fighting the good fight – “GET BACK UP!”