June 15th 2016

Muhammad Ali's Lesser Known Advertising Career.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

Muhammad Ali passed away last Friday at the age of 74. Following his death, numerous tributes appeared. Many newspapers featured the fighter on their front pages along with images of him in fights (like the iconic shot of him standing over a knocked down Sonny Liston) and called him "The Greatest." The outpouring wasn't universally positive, with some still put off, almost 50 years later, by his opposition to the Vietnam War. But no matter the view stories took of him, one aspect of his life received little attention: Ali the ad man.

Around the time he retired from boxing, Ali began appearing in a number of TV spots. In 1981, he appeared in a now classic ad for Bird's Eye Quarter Pounders. Ali taunts the audience, listing off his achievements, and proclaims that he's so great he doesn't know how great he is and isn't afraid of anyone. His mother then gives him his dinner, a giant burger, and tells him to hush and eat his food. A shaken Ali complies while a voiceover tells audiences that "it takes a big mouth to eat a big burger." 

A Pizza Hut ad that came out in the late 90s put him in a less comedic, more inspirational role. A young fighter trains as his coach eggs him on with harsh words. The stream of criticism continues as the man moves around the gym, going to the punching bag before having a practice fight. After a hit to the head, the man throws off his padded helmet and yells at his coach, "What do you know about boxing?" The coach realizes how hard he's pushed his pupil and offers to take them out for pizza. While at the local Pizza Hut, a large pie comes to their tables without them having ordered it. The waitress tells them a man in the corner bought it for them since the coach taught him everything he knows, and then the camera pans to reveal Muhammad Ali eating a slice with his children as he nods and smiles at the pair. The two walk off after their meal with renewed energy and friendship.

Many other ads featured Ali, like WebMD, IBM, and Apple, which grouped the fighter together with other visionaries like Gandhi, Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr. before telling viewers to "think different." Others, like Gatorade, have him in more supporting roles while also incorporating his famous line, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," into their campaigns. Though he may be gone, his image and words are firmly embedded in the public conscious and will continue to influence advertisers for the foreseeable future.

Like Ali, Giovatto Advertising knows how to pitch your products. With over 27 years of automotive advertising, we have the experience to make sure that your ads don't just reach your target audiences, they also motivate them to go out and buy your products. 

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