More than half of the 10 million people who use Snapchat daily in the UK watched the Live Stories it produced in partnership with the BBC for the Rio Olympics, statistics seen by The Drum reveal.
Given the content’s focus on the experiences around the sports rather than the actual sports themselves, the success offers a glimpse into how people want to consume such content on the mobile messaging app. This is especially true of younger audiences, of which four fifths of Snapchat’s user base in the UK are aged between 13 and 34.
Despite arguably being Snapchat’s most important product, Live Stories is yet to set the sports world alight in the same way is has for music, fashion and other live events.
However, for the Olympics it would appear fans took to the mix of big competition moments, wins, crowd reactions and athletes speaking directly into camera posts that were curated by Snapchat.
That Snapchatters could contribute their own unique points of view to the same Story also seemed to drive views, as did moments like Team GB gymnasts Louis Smith and Max Whitlock talking directly into the camera to update fans and canoeists Deborah Kerr and Emily Lewis singing and joking together behind the scenes.
Geofilters and Lenses that turned users into athletes like an equestrian or table tennis player were also created alongside Bitmojis, Stickers and Medal Count Geofilters which totalled up the gold, silver and bronze medals in different countries.
All these points of view went into one UK Live Story each day of the event, with the Snaps taken by users in the crowd, athletes and those BBC teams on the ground.
“Snapchat is where the audience is right now and the viewing numbers show the relevance of the social network, especially compared to time spent viewing TV,” explained André Wieneke, account manager at sports marketing agency We Play.
“That being said, with the ongoing innovations across all platforms, there is a back and forth in the daily battle for people’s attention. This is why Instagram had a big dig at Snapchat, with the introduction of Instagram Stories while Facebook is still the biggest player in the game.”
The appetite for Live Stories in the UK builds on global figures Snapchat released last month that revealed almost 50 million people had watched the Games on it in the first week alone, as broadcasters including the BBC and NBC used the app to help maximise reach of their own content.
Chris Hurst, BBC Sport’s digital development editor, said: “By partnering with social networks, we are able to reach and engage young people that may not otherwise come to BBC Sport, and encourage them to experience our comprehensive live and catch up experiences back on the BBC. We believe that this strategy helped contribute to delivering record digital audience numbers during the Olympic Games when 68.3 million unique UK browsers came to BBC Sport Online.”
Such has been the success of these partnerships with the likes of Snapchat that NBCUniversal boss Steve Burke blamed them for its own poor ratings around exclusive coverage. Viewership numbers for the Opening Ceremony in the US were down 35 per cent from London 2012, marking the lowest total since Athens in 2014. It’s emblematic of the shifting media consumption habits, which Burke, in fairness, had been braced for, and paves the way for Snapchat to make a bigger play for the market, especially given its deals with Wimbledon, the NFL and UFC.
“Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Periscope are all trying to fight for eyeballs and sport is one of the key ways they are doing this, said Mike Litman, chief executive of short form video analytics firm Burst Insights.
Much of the marketing spotlight this year has focused on the Snapchat versus Facebook battle for video. And the Olympics was no different, though rather than compete outright for the same type of content, the tug of war seemed to play out between the more informal posts on Snapchat and the less personal but serious news and interviews on Facebook.
“Snapchat was in some corners blamed for the lower TV ratings in this year’s Olympics than four years ago but in reality it was the presentation of the games that tried to turn it in to a time delayed advertiser wrapped event rather than just delivering the main events, live and in real time for people to enjoy in the moment," added Litman.
"That's why I think Twitter, Snapchat and others did so well because people want to know about an event right when it's happening and not necessarily hours later. The social platforms all excel at being real time and in the moment whereas it feels like the TV broadcasters haven't quite got the hang of that just yet. Should this trend continue Snapchat can capitalise on being the rich media entertainment and information hub for sport and I’m sure they will be looking to tie up partnerships with the sports clubs in the UK and beyond to provide exclusive content around games and major events in 2017 and beyond.”