Boxing champ Laila Ali on athletes partnering with pet product brands

“Not all partnerships are good partnerships,” Muhammad Ali’s daughter said. “When people keep that in mind, they do what comes to them most naturally and that's a good fit for them.”

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Laila Ali and her dogs, Malibu and Buddy
Laila Ali and her dogs, Malibu and Buddy
Image courtesy of Golin

Four-time, undefeated boxing champion, Laila Ali, partnered with Purina subsidiary EverRoot to promote a line of soft chew dog supplements. When Laila followed in her father Muhammad Ali’s shuffle steps as a boxer, she learned the value of physical fitness, and her dogs were her training partners, often accompanying her on daily runs. That commitment to peak form earned her the WBC, WIBA, IWBF and IBA female super middleweight titles, along with the IWBF light heavyweight title. After she hung up her gloves, Ali applied what she learned in the ring about dedication and hard work as she moved into television and other ventures.

Ali still has canine training partners. Her family includes two dogs. Buddy, a 140-pound Cane Corso, takes orders from her 25-pound alpha dog, Malibu the French Bulldog. At 10-years old, Buddy has reached an advanced age for a massive mastiff, so Ali pays special attention to his health.

Ali shared some of what she’s learned as a champion, celebrity and dog owner with Petfood Industry.

  1. How can athletes and celebrities use their power as influencers to promote pet health and products that support pet wellness?

People trust you more, some more so than others. I personally only promote brands or products and form partnerships with others that have something that I can stand behind and that aligns with my overall values. I am into health and wellness. I have ever since my boxing days and now beyond. I'm retired from boxing. I’m now 45 years old. I’m not in my 20s anymore, so my wellness routine has changed. Over the years I've come to understand the importance of a wellness routine also for dogs because my dog was by my side when I was running four miles and training for championship fights and all of that. My dog's routine needed to change along with mine. So, this was a perfect partnership for me, because I love the Everoot brand and I love the product that they've created for dogs. It's something I can truly stand behind and feel good about sharing with others.

    2. How can a pet food or supplement company encourage pet owners to maintain their pets’ health while keeping up their own health?

The imagery is really important and the story behind the products. I'm going to share my true-life story. When I'm running or when I'm exercising, a lot of the time my dog's with me. I want the best for myself, especially as I get more knowledgeable about my own health and wellness, I want to do the same for my dogs because they're part of the family and I want them to live their best lives. So just sharing that story with others creates the imagery behind it. A lot of times we see ads and we see commercials in which we see people being active with their dogs. We all know what we're supposed to be doing a lot of time when it comes to health and wellness, but we just don't. We don't always do it because life happens. Life gets in the way. Having those constant reminders to help keep us humans on track is important. Doing it with your dogs makes it even easier.

    3. What are some of the activities you like to do with your dogs?

It changes usually during the time of year because I live here in Georgia, and it gets cold or it's too hot outside and humid, so my dogs can be affected by that, especially the breeds that I have. I like to run. I like to play with the dogs. I have a pretty big backyard, so just going out in the backyard throwing the ball, chasing, swimming, even traveling with the dogs. They love that. Traveling keeps them active because they're very inquisitive, going on road trips and hikes. Going to the dog park. They just want to be with you. So that's the main thing I focus on is trying to keep them with me as much as possible.

    4. How have you incorporated what you've learned training yourself as an athlete into how you take care of your dogs?

Most of what I've learned from boxing, I can apply to so many different areas of my life. What I learned, and most athletes will say this, is that you get wiser as you get older. Rest is very important as is training hard. Having those recovery days. I learned that with my dogs as well. When I was younger and training, I would run so many miles. I ran at high elevations when I lived in Las Vegas and just push, push, push and not give myself enough rest. I remember going to the boxing gym and training six days a week and only having one day off. Think about getting up and running and going to the gym and sparring with someone beating up on you every day, doing weight training four times a week, and then just taking one day off. That's not enough time. Now if I could do it all over again, I would probably train hard four days a week and then maybe do some stretching and I would still have been in great shape. The same thing with my dog. I listen to him. I watch him. I see how he's feeling. I don't just force it. Not saying that we have to go for a run, or we have to go for a quick walk. That's something that I learned from boxing that I can apply to the dogs.

    5. What interested you in becoming involved in the pet industry?

I was interested in working with EverRoot, not necessarily the pet food industry. This specific brand resonated with me. I liked the brand. I love their products for dogs. I've been able to see that they liked it as well. This is important to me because it doesn't matter how great the ingredients are, which I do love: it is non-GMO and it has pure ingredients and it's very well thought out. There's a full line that can be personalized for each dog. I love all that but if my dog didn't like it, then I'm not going to be able to promote it. EverRoot checked off all the boxes and I'm excited about sharing the product with the rest of the world.

    6. Was there anything else you'd like to add about how an athlete and a celebrity can collaborate with a pet product company?

It's essential to stay authentic. In the past other athletes have asked me, Leila, how did you go from boxing to doing all these other things? Or sometimes people will forget that I was a boxer because I do so many other things now. What I have done is stay authentic and stay true to the things that resonate with me. Not all money is good money. Not all partnerships are good partnerships. When people keep that in mind, they do what comes to them most naturally and that's a good fit for them. Overall, the brand would be happier, and you'll be happier with the outcome of the partnership.

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