Why influencer football teams will change the face of football entertainment

This is a guest post by Jamie Searle, Director of Enterprise Partnerships at Brave Bison

A new economy is emerging in football, capitalising on the huge volume of football online video consumed by millennial males. To give this some context, there were over six billion views of football video in 2016 according to a Tubular Labs study. From a commercial perspective, Manchester City and other Premier League clubs have recently announced they are using their social reach in online video as a new, untapped proposition to negotiate higher value deals from brands and sponsors, for example in City’s Etihad Branded Video content series.

Data around football fans on social video platforms affords some fascinating insights to brands and advertisers. Football fans in the UK are predominantly male and between the ages of 18 and 24, and football is one of the most engaged categories on YouTube. The amount of video consumed is growing incredibly fast, doubling between 2015 and 2016.

Perhaps surprisingly, the vast majority of online video consumed is alternative, fan based content and often driven by social influencers such as Calfreezy and the Sidemen, rather than match highlights. This includes highly relatable content such as fan punditry, goal challenges and soccer skills’ demos. In fact, only 13% of football video content consumed on YouTube is match highlights. The skills and glamour of the global players and brands clearly have their place – but it’s only part of the story.

Brave Bison saw an opportunity to meet the demand of this football obsessed audience by creating quality, original content specifically tailored to them and has subsequently attracted 3.6 million fans in just one year to its Slash Football channel. Slash Football follows the Sunday League adventures of Eltham SF FC in its flagship show Parklife and according to Denis Crushell, VP of EMEA for Tubular Labs, “Eltham SF FC videos in the last ninety days have an average view per video of 228,000. The average engagement is 180% stronger than the average engagement of all media content on YouTube, with a total of 180,000 engagements and 5.4 million views.”

We have also developed an 11-a-side team of football obsessed, superstar YouTube influencers in partnership with Calfreezy, who alone has a social reach of 5.6 million. Called Rebel FC, the team attracted the interest of Manchester United icon Rio Ferdinand who offered to manage them in their first competitive match. Rebel FC content did over 400k organic views within a week of upload, with an engagement rate of 3.9%. Rio Ferdinand certainly “gets it”, understanding the social influencer football and has said, “The way football is being viewed is not just through linear TV, it’s being viewed digitally and Rebel FC are at the forefront.”

This model is further proven with YouTube influencer team ‘Hashtag United’. They generated 3 million views on a broadcast quality game filmed at Wembley, with EE as sponsors and Top Eleven as kit sponsor, while Sidemen FC have just played to a capacity crowd at The Valley (Charlton AFC) against YouTube Allstars.

Data from Tubular Labs also reveals that UK football fans consume huge volumes of comedy, music and gaming videos. This has directly informed our programming and audience growth strategy as we seek to make content that truly resonates with this target audience and results in high engagement. It has also been tapped into very effectively by Adidas on their fantastic ‘First Never Follows’ branded video with Paul Pogba and Stormzy. For a record label, tapping into football fans online represents a huge opportunity to reach and break new artists amongst highly engaged music consumers. Some of the highest audience crossover is with artists such as Stormzy, JME and Ed Sheeran, and even up-and-comers such as Jhus are very popular.

We believe that the fascinating world of influencer football will play an important part of the future of football entertainment and the industry as a whole. For brands and advertisers the key message is that they do not have to rely on expensive advertising spend around professional sports rights on TV. Brands can access the very same highly engaged millennial male audience online, by integrating with quality content that represents the perfect antidote to increasingly unrelatable top tier football.

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