The good folks at AK Collective spent part of last year creating marketing materials for the highly-anticipated Canelo vs. Jacobs boxing match in Las Vegas. Photographer Amanda Westcott, who helps lead AK alongside her husband Mark, explains how the team got through a hectic few days to successfully deliver a wide assortment of final images to a very satisfied client.
Last year, we were hired to create key art photography of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs, two world champion middleweight boxers. The assets were for the official poster and all the marketing materials leading up to their fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, broadcasted by the new sports streaming service DAZN (pronounced ‘da- zone,’ like ‘in-the-zone’).
We also captured editorial and behind the scenes imagery for social media, PR, and other uses during filming of a commercial that was being produced the same day. The shoot itself took place in Los Angeles, the last stop of a multi-city press tour promoting the fight.
During the multi-city tour, no stop was longer than 24 hours. We went from New York to Mexico City to Los Angeles. With the time changes and demanding schedules — not to mention the add-ons of fatigue, language barriers, fighters’ entourages, and a BUFFET of personalities — it made for interesting days. But nothing that we haven’t faced before. Challenge accepted!
As for the production itself, our location was inside an actual boxing gym. Cramped is an understatement, and that’s only if one production was happening. With both teams [the video and still photo], things were especially tight. The video team was using the entirety of the gym to shoot the commercial portion due to the multiple setups needed. In our designated area, they were either shooting in it or pre-lighting for the next shot. This led to our main problem: time, or the lack thereof. We only had a short, 20-minute window with each fighter to get the shots we needed, and we only had 30-60 minutes scheduled for setup.
To avoid being stressed and ruin the vibe before we even started shooting, our team improvised and pre-setup all of our equipment right outside the gym, staging until the space was available to us. Good thing it doesn’t rain in LA! (Well, most of the time anyway, as we did get a light drizzle and some scary threatening clouds).
Phew. Crisis adverted. When the allotted space was finally available to us, our well-oiled machine set things up in no time. It actually took longer to manually fan out all the haze that was left over from the commercial.
This was Canelo Alvarez’s second fight since signing with DAZN. The first one was an “easy A,” if you will, just to get back in the swing of things (no pun intended). With more on the line (including a belt to gain), the match against Jacobs was a bigger fight — both for him and the client. It’s all about the bling, baby.
DAZN was fairly new to boxing at the time but making tsunami-sized waves, disrupting the industry left, right, and center, including winning a bidding war with other established networks (Showtime, ESPN, and FOX) by signing Canelo for $365 million dollars (for 11 fights in five years) after HBO boxing closed up shop. This contract makes him the second highest paid athlete in history.
So, these images had a lot riding on them, as they were used to promote the fight but also advertise in many outlets to gain new DAZN subscribers.
The task and the atmosphere can be quite daunting, as you feel the weight and magnitude of the shoot. Our most valuable skill is the ability to not only shoot fast, but also to do so well. Having worked in world championship boxing since 2012, our experience definitely helps (and some would say it’s necessary). From directing, to knowing the boxing language and understanding the stakes, to simply being able to navigate the different characters and dynamics in this crazy world of combat sports, it’s all vital for a successful project.
For example, in this particular shoot, Canelo was the “A side” (the current champ). As such, he had more to shoot with the commercial and therefore had a tighter schedule than Jacobs. But we had to make sure we captured the same number of assets for both the fighters. This entailed prepping for a tighter session with Canelo, featuring his huge entourage crowding myself and our team, while a lot more suggestions came from the other creatives and clients involved at the agency.
The fight being eight weeks away, we had a quick turnaround time for some of the assets, as we had to deliver a few selected shots for the official poster like yesterday, basically. Not a problem, as our workflow is prepped to handle such requests. The editorial/behind-the-scenes shots had more breathing room, which was nice to allow some experimentation on the final post-production looks. The shoot itself worked out seamlessly.
We successfully captured all that was needed within the time frame provided while keeping the talent happy when we sent them back to their millions of obligations. Most importantly, the client was happy when they saw the images we captured.
The images ended up being used for merchandise, billboards, full page ads in newspapers, magazines, and posters.
Some crazy numbers on the fight itself:
This fight had 1.2 million viewers vs. 600,000 for the first Canelo fight.
DAZN made $50 million in revenue — on top of the $48 million purse set aside for Canelo and Jacobs.
See more of AK Collective’s work at thisisakc.com.