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Mariya Lyanguzova, Content Licensing Manager

3rd September 2018

Football fandom in the era of online

Football Fandom Mariya Lyanguzova Content Licensing Manager

After another rollercoaster weekend of Premier League with the eyes of football fans from all over the world peeled to screens, it is interesting to explore what screens the modern football fan is consuming content on, and how brands can get in on the action and leverage those new trends.

World Cup 2018 brought some incredible insights about the evolving relationship between football fans and Football content. The flagship event in football showed a growing trend of fans engaging with their favourite game online. According to a report by Tubular Labs, since the last World Cup, football content’s strong growth on YouTube has continued, and despite no major tournament in 2017, views still grew from 2016 in the same time period. (Source: Tubular Intelligence, ‘Football & World Cup Insights 2018’). In addition, Facebook and Instagram have now become big video players and also grew year on year in 2017 - Facebook now boasts over 400 million football fans as users, and Instagram is following suit with 140 million. With football content racking up 3 billion monthly views on YouTube alone, it is clear that fans are increasingly turning to online platforms for wider-ranging content. These evolving fan habits have tangible implications for brands, who are now able to engage with fans directly and at scale.

Case in point, our Brave Bison licensing team recently worked with Sky Sports on sourcing and clearing User Generated Content for their ‘Take Your Seat’ campaign. The online promos covered 12 teams, with each promo focusing on a specific team and featuring some epic fan reactions and celebrations. All reactions were sourced from organic UGC content available online across a multitude of platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. By featuring engaging, authentic and emotive reactions of real life fans, Sky Sports invited audiences to ‘take [their] seat’ and share their own reactions. This positioned Sky as a brand that is genuinely interested in fans’ personal experiences and in starting an ever-growing conversations with them rather than relying just on their passive viewership.

This comes at a time when modern football fans are continuously moving away from traditional media that encourage passive lean-back consumption in favour of active participation via creating and distributing content themselves. As such, Sky Sports has taken steps to establish itself not only as the ultimate storyteller in sport, but also as a hub for personalised content for fans, created by fans and chosen by fans.

The relevance and timing of the campaign is further supported by the fact that Fan Reactions were identified as one of the top performing content type areas during World Cup 2018 (Source: Tubular Insights, ‘World Cup 2018 Wrap Up”). What is more, a study by comScore recently revealed that brand engagement rises by 28% when audiences are exposed to a mixture of professional marketing content and User Generated Content, while a study by the University of Southern California found that video ads that feature UGC are 31% more likely to be described by audiences as ‘unique’ and 28% more likely to be described as ‘memorable’. This comes to show that with the average person being exposed to over 10,000 brand messages a day, it is as important as ever for advertisers to strike an emotional chord and create relatable and engaging ads - and UGC has undoubtedly proven to be one of the best tools to achieve this.

But it’s not just organic UGC which is king in the era of online content - digital-first sports creators such as our Slash Football are now paving the way for the ever so valuable conversation between fans and brands. The impressive growth of Slash Football since its launch in 2013 testifies to the value of the online football audience. Gaining over 3.6 million subscribers and followers and racking up over 10 million views a month across multiple platforms, the channel has quickly become the one-stop-shop destination for online football fans who are hungry not just for the live on-field moments but for a great range of supplemental content. With new formats like “Fresh Cut Grass’, Slash can reflect the type of passionate humour-filled debate modern fans are having with their mates, resulting in content that resonates with audiences - an ability that has already been leveraged by brands such as Papa John’s, Football Manager, Puma and Marriott through their successful campaigns with Slash.

And before you settle in for the return of international football this week, for the first time post the World Cup; here is a final thought: for the football fans of today, football fandom is a multidimensional multiscreen affair - from the thrill of being at the stadium, to watching the live game from the comfort of their own homes, to getting in on the action themselves with grassroots football teams, to consuming, curating and distributing online content created by themselves or their fellow-fans. The brands that manage to harness the power of those multifaceted football communities by opening a two-way conversation with them will be the ones that benefit most in this complex ever-evolving landscape.