The next #SwitchingSaddles? Pitch and Betfair team up again to help Rio Ferdinand launch boxing career

Pitch Marketing Group and gambling site Betfair have teamed up with Rio Ferdinand to help the retired footballer launch a professional boxing career, with the agency saying they hope it will top the success of its forerunner, #SwitchingSaddles.

#DefenderToContender: retired footballer Rio Ferdinand to launch boxing career
#DefenderToContender: retired footballer Rio Ferdinand to launch boxing career

The #DefenderToContender campaign has been created by the same brand/agency duo that helped Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton launch a career in horse racing last year. 

Switching Saddles, which saw Pendleton compete at the Cheltenham Festival, was shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Cannes Lions and the 2016 PRWeek Awards.

Defender to Contender will see the former England and Manchester United player fight in a series of professional bouts, with the ultimate aim of competing for a title belt.

Announcing the move on Twitter, Ferdinand said: "I'm doing this because it's a challenge. Simple as that. I've won titles. And now, I'm aiming for a belt."

Pitch Marketing Group CEO Henry Chappell said: "The Defender to Contender campaign follows on from our award-winning campaign for Betfair to transform Victoria Pendleton from Olympic cyclist to Cheltenham jockey. We are very confident this campaign is going to have an even bigger impact." 

Chappell told PRWeek the agency's remit with Ferdinand would include implementing an integrated year-long marketing campaign in order to maximise interest and engagement in the challenge.

Betfair UK & Ireland brand director, Stephen Mault, said: "With Rio's sporting pedigree, our support network, and a lot of hard work, we're all confident that Rio can compete for a belt."

Team GB coach and ex-professional boxer Richie Woodhall and personal trainer and former rugby union player Mel Deane will train Ferdinand.

Woodhall said: "In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional, given time. He has natural power in his right hand, is extremely fit and is very enthusiastic to learn, which is encouraging."

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