In 2014, 3.2 billion people, or nearly half the population of the planet, reportedly tuned in to watch the World Cup on TV, with as many as one billion watching the Germany vs Argentina final. Even ‘back in those days’, a cool 280 million people also watched online or on a mobile, which according to a FIFA press release showed ‘more fans [were] embracing new technology for sports content’.Four years on and these technologies aren’t so shiny and new anymore, and whilst TV is still the main way people consume sport (19.6 million in the UK watched the World Cup quarter-final on TV) the action is very much on mobile. Social media is much busier during sporting matches, with 67% saying they’re likely to use Twitter to ‘enhance their viewing experience’. In fact, Twitter loves sport so much it invested in a livestream last year; hosting over 800 hours of sport in just a matter of months, driving an audience of over 45 million fans. The proliferation of digital channels has not only allowed people to watch sport from anywhere at any time, but it’s also granted fans incredible ‘backstage passes’ to a universe of new experiences. No longer limited to passively consuming games on TV, fans now have more videos, match highlights, insider insights, stats and opinions than ever before at their fingertips. This shift has created fertile ground for brands to join in the conversation, with sport no longer solely the domain of big businesses with millions to fork out on kit sponsorship or brand advertising on the pitch. The theory goes that today’s consumers are less reliant on single sources and prefer to research facts on their own. Many are turning to other sources of information – in particular, well-known influencers – to gain that insider knowledge and access. Consumers want to get into the minds of their heroes, and so brands that can provide this access will reap rewards.   You only need to look at the glowing success of channels like COPA90 (which has 1.5m followers) 90Min and Ball Street to see how hungry people are for diverse points of view from passionate and knowledgeable people. By providing ‘behind the scenes’ content that fans can’t access on mainstream TV or from the regular pundits, these channels are drawing incredibly engaged audiences, and provide brands with an opportunity to become involved in the conversation in a more natural way.   Sponsors that can provide access through exclusive interviews, branded film or footage, for example, will be adding to the creation of this highly sought-after content that people watch and share. And working with online influencers is a great way to drive action, not just awareness, with more than 40% of people saying they’ve purchased an item online after seeing an influencer using it on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.And don’t forget the opportunity for sharing. Take last year’s charity boxing match between YouTubers KSI and Joe Weller for example. One million viewers tuned into YouTube’s livestream, but it also had over 300 million extended reach views. Influencers involved were sharing the content themselves and then fans were sharing, sharing and sharing again. This is for two only recently known YouTubers boxing each other…. and it was bigger than Mayweather vs McGregor; a fight that boxing billed as one of the biggest matches of all time!The way we consume sport is changing – you only have to look at big industry moves like Amazon’s bid for the Premier League and rumoured recent move for La Liga streaming rights to see where the action is. Digital channels have democratised sporting events, providing consumers with more information than ever and enabling brands that don’t necessarily have huge budgets to become involved. What consumers want is access, and one of the best ways for brands to open doors to that access is by working with trusted influencers. But always remember consumer attention is always earned, never given.
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