George Foreman: Boxing Champ, Marketing Champ

On Tuesday, George Foreman, professional boxer, ordained minister, and entrepreneur, turned 68 years old. Born in 1949 in Texas, Foreman had a troubled childhood until he found his calling – boxing. By 1968, he joined the US Olympic boxing team and captured the gold medal at the 1968 US Olympics in Mexico City.

Shortly after, Foreman went pro and took the heavyweight title from “Smoking” Joe Frazier in 1973. Foreman’s reign ended when he lost to Muhammad Ali in the legendary match “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. Twenty years later at the age of 45, Foreman shocked audiences by recapturing part of his title from 27-year-old Michael Moorer. Foreman retired for good in 1997 at the age of 48 with a final record of 76 wins, 5 losses, and 68 knockouts.

But despite his illustrious and impressive boxing career, ask the average person walking down the street about George Forman, more likely than not, you’ll get the answer “the grill guy?” Foreman had said that his comeback was possible because he changed his diet to a healthy one.

His transformation made him the perfect pitchman for a new indoor grill by Salto, Inc. The Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine became an instant hit. Initially promoted with a set of informercials featuring Foreman, his affable personality sparkled – gone was the menacing boxer who faced Muhammad Ali in 1974, in his place, a cuddly father of 10 who encouraged everyone to eat healthy, lean meats.

Foreman helped sell more than 100 million units of the grill in less than 15 years – reportedly making him over $200 million in the endorsement deal.

The grill was so popular it spawned other celebrity-endorsed grills, including fellow boxer Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Grill and the Carl Lewis Health Grill. But none of the competitors came close to selling the amount that Foreman’s grill did, nor did any of them make their way into the pop culture the way Foreman did.


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