Insights Sports franchises and their evolving social media strategy

Sports franchises are fast-becoming media brands in their own right. Modus operandi: espouse and promote the brand to as many people, in as many ways, across as many platforms and within as many territories as possible. Social media is one of the key drivers of this.

As a result of Facebook’s decision earlier this year to stop paying football clubs to host their non-premium live streams (after deciding that it was not cost-effective, given the viewing figures), these clubs are now forced to reassess, at least in part, their social media strategy.

Some clubs may invest more heavily in creating content in-house to be made exclusively available within its own channels/apps. Manchester United, in particular, has had huge success with this approach through MUTV.

Many more will surely increase their investment in platforms such as YouTube, which successfully partnered with BT to host last year’s Champions League Final (to permit some content free-to air and probably in an attempt to boost BT’s record-low Champions League viewership figures). The use of what was once just a video-sharing platform, is predicted to be a key player in next year’s Premier League rights auction. YouTube also talks the talk; views on football-related content on YouTube grew 36 percent year over year between the beginning of January 2016 and the end of May 2017, compared to growth of just 19 percent on Facebook in the same period, according to Tubular Insights.

Franchises that embrace divergence across platforms and intimately track consumer trends are the ones that are going to be better equipped to deliver the right content, on the right platform, to the right members of its audience. This leads to more engaged viewers, whom, in turn, are more likely to communicate within and across platforms (organically extending the reach of the franchise’s brand). This, as a result of the more targeted and engaged audience, allows the franchise to better leverage the advertising and sponsorship revenues from such content.

That being said, sponsors and partners want the biggest numbers. Therein lies the rub: whilst franchises struggle to monetise the Facebook engagement beyond pure reach, we suspect that much of the franchises’ content will continue to be pushed through Facebook, as ultimately Facebook still offers the biggest numbers.

That then begs the question: why would Facebook pay millions to franchises to show its live content when the publishers who occupy its platform will foot the bill on its behalf?