Football’s accelerating popularity in the US has laid the foundation for media outlets to snatch the throne as the cultural voice of the sport. KICK believes its partnership with ESPN FC and the unique approach it’s taking to covering Euro 2016 is a model that will allow it to succeed where so many others have failed.
The Copa 90-owned broadcasting platform has partnered with sports veteran ESPN for a 10 episode series that looks at Euro 2016 through a lens it believes will resonate with American audiences, helping to overcome the vast cultural and geographic differences that have kept young Americans away from football.
Titled ‘10,000 Miles to Paris: Living a Football Fan’s Dream’, the series is airing throughout the tournament and attempts to engage with US millennials via its American host, Prez, as he travels through Europe experiencing the diverse array of cultures that define the competition. The show will take in 10 European cities including Dublin, Paris and Barcelona over 35 days.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 11, 2016
Why does KICK believe this endeavour will pay off and help win over American audiences, who evidently feel far removed from not just the European competition but the sport itself?
“The US voice and lens is what's going to create the relevancy and advocacy of an American fan,” said Ross Whittow-Williams, chief content officer at Bigballs Media, owner of Copa 90 and KICK.
For so long US audiences have felt a dissonance towards football and this feeling has been proliferated by the presence of British commentators such as Ian Darke, who has become one of the most prominent voices for the sport in the US.
“This approach doesn’t ring true for US audiences,” maintained Whittow-Williams. “We need to let this have its American voice and Prez and the guys will give it that American flame and help make it feel like American backpackers going round Europe.
“You can't create a football fan by sitting them in front of a TV and telling them to watch it. It’s everything outside the 90 minutes that makes the 90 minutes matter more and that’s the space where we live.
“We realised very quickly that the whole thing hinges on experience. The millennial consumers of our content want to see what it's like in the different cities and share those moments with the people who it means so much to so we’re trying to give them that experience vicariously.”
The proliferation of the internet and changing nature of sports broadcasting will play a huge part in helping the sport grow in the US. It also opens up more opportunities for KICK which, as a football media platform, can approach it in a very versatile way.
This has happened previously. At a friendly between the USA and Brazil in Wembley a couple of years ago, the broadcast rights were given to Copa 90, which subsequently streamed it live on YouTube to great success.
“We're not just a brand or platform, we're an influencer,” added Whittow-Williams.
He believes that KICK’s model can also allow it to capitalise on opportunities that broadcasters may pass up. For instance it might choose to look at telling stories around the early stages of the US Open Cup between two teams with small but passionate fan bases.
Whittow-Williams points out that broadcasters are unlikely to show such games because their models are not designed to generate the audience big enough to make it valuable for them. KICK on the other hand has the ability to create buzz around such games and allows it to then offer something to fans that is both engaging and completely unique.
By focusing on the cultural elements outside the matches themselves, KICK is free from the broadcast restrictions that media outlets suffer from, and can dedicate its efforts to crafting a more emotionally engaging experience, which will ultimately generate new support for football in the US.
The changing nature of broadcast rights and shift to digital platforms is offering up more football than ever before. Hwever such moves are frivolous if there is no appetite for the sport, which is why KICK’s efforts to supply the ingredients are proving so popular.
For more Euro 2016 related media and marketing stories visit The Drum's Euro 2016 hub here.