From likes to legacy: How Jake Paul is rebranding himself

Entrepreneurs

The 26-year-old YouTuber-turned-boxer has his sights set on becoming a boxing world champion, and building a billion-dollar business while he’s at it. 

“Boxing will humble you really quickly. There’s no cutting corners.”

To many, Jake Paul’s parlay from YouTuber to boxer seems erratic. Going from one of the most highly sought after professions to being punched in the face for a living seems like the result of a lost bet. For Paul, it’s all part of the plan. 

Five years ago, Jake and his brother Logan were some of YouTube’s most hated content creators. Lawsuits, controversies, chaotic antics and their over-the-top online personas all combined to make the duo the internet’s punching bags. 

Then, in August 2017, the UK’s biggest YouTuber brothers, JJ and Deji Olatunji, challenged the Paul brothers to a boxing match. 

With a combined audience in the tens of millions, a bout between the UK and the US’s most prominent YouTuber brothers was bound to generate significant attention. Even still, the event managed to exceed all expectations. 

“The press conferences were getting more views than the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor press conferences,” Paul told Forbes Australia

The content creator feud garnered an estimated 1.3 million pay-per-view buys worldwide, becoming the largest non-professional amateur boxing match of all time and creating the blueprint for the influencer boxing scene that exists today. 

“At that point, I was like, okay this is crazy,” Paul remarked. “The event just generated $10 million.”  

Though for Paul, the bout offered him something far more valuable than money; it gave him a second wind. 

“I definitely played into this character during the YouTube stuff. I got lost, in a sense,” Paul told Forbes Australia. “I think the biggest thing [about boxing] was giving me the time and space, away from the cameras, where I’m in a training camp for two to three months. I didn’t need to film content, and I got to mature and figure out who I was as a person.”

At the time, YouTube’s Adpocalypse had just begun, and video demonetisation was becoming widespread. Topics deemed “not-advertiser friendly” would immediately be removed from the platform’s monetisation scheme, to the chagrin of creators who were making their livelihood through ad revenue from the platform. 

“I saw how [YouTube] was treating their creators. You’re making less money, the CPM’s are lower than ever. You can’t swear, you can’t make a funny joke, you can’t talk about politics, you can’t talk about anything.” Paul explained. “So, I was like, I’m done with this. It’s not fun anymore. I can’t be who I am, I can’t make the content I want to make.”

With YouTube revenue becoming increasingly unreliable, and having just witnessed the enormous success of the creator event he’d been a part of, the pivot to becoming a full-time boxer suddenly wasn’t so outlandish. 

“I was in this kind of gray area for like six, seven, eight months. Eventually, I went down the boxing route.”

Five years later, Paul has continued to stay on that route, defeating MMA greats Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley and Anderson Silva. 

Though Paul isn’t divorced from YouTube entirely, instead, he leverages his massive audience to drive up the viewership of his fights.

Now, more than ever, content is the most important thing in the world.”

– Jake Paul

“Everything these days is marketing. And it goes back to 2018, when we’re saying content is king, content is king. Now, more than ever, content is the most important thing in the world.”

Where a typical fighter could pay up to a quarter of their fight night purse to their promoter, Paul’s expansive online reach and firm grasp of content creation allows him to act as his own promoter, enabling him to keep the lion’s share of his boxing earnings.

It’s thanks to this business model that Paul earned his position as the third-highest paid boxer last year, and it’s also why he was able to net USD $30M from his fight with UK boxer Tommy Fury in February, despite losing in a split decision. 

Now, with a net worth “above nine figures”, according to Paul, the 26-year-old Ohioan estimates that YouTube contributes “not even close to ten percent” of his income.

In addition to his boxing income, Paul has lucrative brand deals, a sports betting and sports-media company, a capital firm, a promotional company and an equity deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

“I couldn’t do it without my team,” Paul explains, when speaking about balancing being a full-time boxer with maintaining his business ventures. “Over the years, I’ve hired and partnered with some amazing people who work really, really hard and are really, really smart. And when it’s time for me to lock myself into training camp, they allow me to do what I do best.”

I just love this game of life.”

– Jake Paul

For many, simply stepping into a boxing ring would be stressful enough, let alone running multiple businesses on the side. For Paul, however, staying busy is what keeps him sane.

“I just love this game of life. It keeps me sane, strategising, using my creativity and working to build something,” he explained. “My goal is to challenge myself and see if I have what it takes to build a billion dollar company.”

Though the entertainment and business mogul isn’t just focused on growing his empire, he’s also working to teach other fighters how they can take advantage of social media to increase their bottom lines.

“I’m looking to make other fighters realise their own power. They are the content. They’re the ones getting into the ring,” Paul explained. “They should not be owned, for three, four, sometimes five or ten-fight deals. They should be their own promoter.”

One of the fighters Paul has sought to shine a spotlight on is Amanda Serrano, the undisputed featherweight world champion of women’s boxing. 

After bringing Serrano under the wing of his promotional company Most Valuable Promotions, and putting her on two of his undercards, Paul was able to secure Serrano a seven-figure payday, one of the highest purses in the history of women’s boxing. 

“Seeing how [Amanda’s] life changed and the gratitude she had, that to me is probably one of the greatest accomplishments in my life. This woman who deserved millions of dollars, but was getting paid $5,000, finally got what she deserved.”

Paul’s growing success in the ring, coupled with his efforts to push for better compensation for other fighters, is causing the previous animosity that followed his career to fade.

“It’s pretty interesting. I’ve definitely started to see a change in how people react to me. When I see fans in person, everyone’s nice and supportive. Whereas sometimes before, I’d get some nice people and some haters. I guess more people are starting to understand that side of me where I turn it on for the cameras and the entertainment value.”

 “There’s still millions and millions of Jake Paul haters out there, no doubt. But I definitely think the tides are turning.”

Though Paul pays very little attention to the outside noise; good or bad. Instead, he’s working towards becoming a boxing world champion.

“My goal is to just inspire any kid out there that they could, in a period of six or seven years, go from not even knowing how to throw a punch to being the best in the world through hard work,” Paul explains. 

“I believe I could be the first Joe Schmoe Disney actor, with everyone in the world against him, who says he wants to be a world champion and does it. That would have an insane ripple effect.”

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