How fandom’s evolution on YouTube is reshaping marketing

How fandom’s evolution on YouTube is reshaping marketing

With the NFL season behind us and the NBA season heating up, I’ve been thinking a lot about sports fandom and its evolution. The rise of streaming and creator content means fans can engage with sports in many more dimensions — in deeper ways and from different angles and voices. In particular, fans come to YouTube en masse to access worlds of sports content, including content from their favorite creators that they can’t find anywhere else.

The sports leagues themselves are taking notice. Case in point: the NFL. To meet the next generation of NFL fans where they are, the league partnered with some of Gen Z’s favorite YouTube creators at the Super Bowl, like FaZe Rug, who got access to wide receiver DK Metcalf for a This or That game, and Hayley Kalil, who posted fit checks with her dad straight from the Super Bowl field. Beyond the creator partnerships, the league showed up on YouTube with a real-time, multiformat strategy, posting reaction videos, candid moments from the field, and much more, generating tens of millions of views on the platform and reaching a younger audience.

If you look to other sports, videos related to professional basketball content on YouTube have averaged over 150 million views a day over the last six months.1 People come to watch analysis and commentary on the games, hear directly from players who have started their own channels, and get a hit of nostalgia from classic moments. Live streams are particularly popular, with creators like CazéTV hitting 6 million peak concurrent views during the FIFA World Cup. The Paris Olympics are still a few months away, but fans and creators across the world are already participating in the hype. In just the first two months of 2024, there are hundreds of millions of views on YouTube of videos related to the Olympics. The official Olympics channel on YouTube has also joined in on the fun with videos highlighting past Olympic Games, stars to watch out for in #Paris2024, and best-of moments for some of the most iconic athletes.

Sports fandom — and the opportunities for advertisers — is only getting more expansive and more exciting. Here’s a look at what fans love on YouTube, how creators are innovating to connect, and how marketers can reach these critical audiences.

From recipes to reactions, creators drive worlds of sports-adjacent content

The surround sound of sports content is rich with opportunities for marketers across any vertical and category. That’s because sports content is so much more than highlights. YouTube creators are really next-generation studios who keep their fingers on the pulse of what people care about. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Some of us prep for game day by dusting off the air fryer. Actually, millions of us do. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, there were over 900 million views for recipe-related videos in the United States.2

Others want to get closer to the action from unique angles they would never get in a traditional broadcast. The Scotts, a couple with 3.6 million subscribers on YouTube, bring their fans along for the experience with Get Ready with Me Shorts. One of my favorites is watching creator Mark Rober show up at the game with a reversible Chiefs/49ers jersey to make sure he was having fun at every touchdown and making plenty of friends on either side.

The most-watched Super Bowl ads are a window into what resonates with fans

Even though sports fandom is shifting quickly, one thing hasn’t changed: Ads are still a quintessential part of marquee sports moments. Super Bowl LVIII ads and teasers posted on YouTube have more than 1 billion views (and counting).3 And, when brands post their ads on YouTube, fans don’t just watch; they spread the word about their favorites. 2024 Super Bowl ads have had millions of shares so far.

Creating ads for a particular moment may be a Super Bowl-specific phenomenon, but there’s a lot for marketers to learn by looking at what rises to the top. The top-three most-watched spots on YouTube on game day showed that, when brands feature well-loved faces and get humor right, it’s a winning combination. From Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” reunion for to a star-studded audition for T-Mobile to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s world-famous accent as a State Farm agent, familiar faces and strong punchlines resonated with fans.

Pop culture also gets viewers talking. Uber Eats grabbed audience attention by getting the Beckhams to re-create the most viral moment from their recent documentary as a teaser for their ad. Cetaphil turned to the Swift Effect for inspiration for its #GameTimeGlow spot.

More ways to watch means more ways to turn sports fans into your fans

The ways fans consume sports has expanded along with sports as a genre. Short-form video has exploded on YouTube, with fan reactions and memes shaping and reflecting culture as it happens. Long-form video like the Kelce brothers’ podcast, “New Heights,” is one of many podcasts on YouTube capturing viewers and listeners by the millions.

For brands, more variety means more opportunities to tell your story across all the ways fans are watching today. Some of the most popular ads this year included teasersextended cutsShortscreator partnerships, and more. We’ve seen brands encourage viewers to rewatch ads multiple times by challenging them to find hidden QR codes or even enter a national sweepstakes to kick off the tax season.

This explosion and fragmentation of video types and formats can feel overwhelming without the right insights, tools, and technology. The same Google AI solutions that help each fan find more content to love power ad solutions that help you reach people in those moments. That includes a spark of inspiration for your next campaign, finding the right audiences for your campaign, and scaling your creative across formats.

From the excitement of the Super Bowl to the global spectacle of the upcoming Olympics, sports have a special way of bringing us together. On YouTube, the momentum never stops — and I can’t wait to see how brands will keep evolving their marketing to meet every moment.

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