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Manchester United players put Snapchat on the news agenda – can it now become a dominant platform for brands and reportage?

Once again, the disruption of sports media is paving the way to the changing face of cultural communications.

Last night, some West Ham United fans got overexcited and ended up throwing bottles at the Manchester United team bus as it arrived at Upton Park. Idiotic and predictable, but not a huge news story. However, what got captured and broadcast inside will become Snapchat folklore, and perhaps inadvertently become its best ’advert’ to date.

The United players jokingly cowered in the aisles between the seats, took to their phones and started documenting the moment. Jesse Lingard, who himself is just 23, caught the most hilarious of stories and broadcast it around the world through his Snapchat account. It was of the players larking about, with fake quivering lips and pretending to scream, showing they are a properly playful team. This was the world of media-trained footballers with the handbrake off. You got to see multimillionaire superstars mucking about as a group on camera, playacting and showing off their personalities which remain hidden in most press conferences.

The Snapchat piece lasts under a minute, yet it is such high comedy derived from such a surprising moment that it will live long in the memory. A version which made it to Twitter moments afterwards had already been re-tweeted and favourited several thousand times just minutes following the upload.

This potent combination of celebrity and news story has given Snapchat its moment in the sun for live reportage. Just as Twitter’s prominence for documenting events as they unfurled came to the fore during the London riots in the UK, now this little stolen sporting nugget of chaos will be a marker moving forward.

Snapchat’s growth has been rapid and well documented. The most vital reason for it has been an ability and reputation to be anchored in authenticity. What started with schoolchildren believing it to be the perfect antidote to other overly stage managed platforms is now reaching the masses and an older generation too. Brands have sniffed their opportunity and looked to capitalise on this. What begun as experiment in urgency, with disappearing offers and teased trailers for new films, is now about how to convey true legitimacy with an audience.

This audience driven moment which is bringing so much welcome disruption to sports like football is therefore a canary in the coal mine to other verticals too. Savvy brands will be looking to have entire stories taken over and handed across to people with personality as shown with the United players last night. Likewise, it is hard to beat the sheer visceral excitement of swiftly put together ‘live’ video which Snapchat is bringing to the party. The world then tunes in and we all reflect the happenings in more traditional media the day after.

James Kirkham is head of Copa90 and chief strategy officer for Bigballs Media Europe. He tweets @spoonybear

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James Kirkham

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