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How Copa90 built an irrepressible brand on Snapchat - sometimes from bed, with a hangover

Paul Pogba mobile takeover

Copa90 is a fresh, football-focused publisher that started life on YouTube in 2012 before cropping up on Snapchat via publisher partner Bleacher Report's Discovery channel. Since then it has won over an audience so young, digital and engaged, that traditional TV providers can only look on in envy.

Such is the nature of the publisher's ascent into the media landscape that Tim Coleman, deputy editor of Copa90 and Tom Brandhorst, the brand’s creative strategist found themselves in front of a crowd of marketers and media types, discussing 'How to Create a Show in 2017' at The Drum's Future of Marketing event.

The content created by Copa90 spans football and culture, memes and video games. It is delivered in consumable, and mostly funny, snippets and packaged in absurd graphics and intriguing headlines. It is effective, the pair claimed that Copa90 fans view an average of 47 minutes of its content per week across all platforms,thisretention equals the length of an episode of Game of Thrones, give or take a scene or two.

Via the 'Saturdays are Lit' show, exclusive to Snapchat Discovery, the team appear to have cracked the millennial audience, the young uns that are increasingly the holy grail of marketing activity. On this, Brandhorst said: “It is really hard to predict young peoples’ behaviour sometimes, we do know they use Snapchat, they may not be going downstairs to watch TV anymore like we certainly did but they will go onto their phone and check Snapchat, we know this is a guaranteed place to connect with them."

Snapchat Discover has "become this weird homogenised space," pitched in Coleman, claiming the content is too diverse and there are too many traditional media players on Snapchat. Theyhad this really big opportunity to provide content this is meaningful with a young audience and the people they invited to join ruined it a bit," he added.

Partnered with Bleacher report, the boys were inspired by Sky Sports Soccer AM which brought an “irreverence and funny side to football,” said Brandhorst who counted among his inspirations “take the piss” comedies like Nathan Barely, Garth Marengi’s Darkplace, Banzai, Ali G, the Day Today and Brasseye.

It’s all about banter, the witty banter, and Saturdays are Lit is seemingly speaking the right language to connect with audiences, the pair proudly boasted that they’ve doubled the Soccer AM’s 330,000 peak viewers, with around just under a two million global audience.

An agile company, with limited audience, the Copa90 team look to create content that viewers wouldn’t necessary expect, but would keep them interested. They’ve been looking at the way to maximise exposure and impact despite their perceived limitations of the Snapchat Discovery platform.

One blindspot in particular was consumer feedback, unlike YouTube and social networks, there was no way for viewers and fans to directly communicate how they felt about each show. They could see flip rates, and they could learn where viewers tune out, but they hadn't necessarily learned what made viewers tune in. They instead had to access other platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to see what people were saying about them.

One early indication of success was the placement of Brandhorst’s actual mobile phone number in the show, a point of contact that many fans made use of to bombard him with a barrage of queries and feedback providing an actual physical indication of audience beyond the distant metrics.

They experimented and learned to school the system, each week looking to innovate the show. Interactivity came into play, content panels vary from compelling mock takeovers of Paul Pogba’s mobile phone, to transfer rumour generators, a crazy slot machine mashing cultural icons and footballers together at the end creating a screenshot monstrosity that can be shared with friends.

The pair admit they are a part of the future of TV, but not the full story. They’ve generated success creating 80-second videos for young people, the metrics do not lie, but one must wonder if they will mature with their audiences as the years go on. There may be a convergence point where they one day see themselves on linear TV creating exclusive modular content tailored to platform. Content is not a one size fits all deal at the end of the day.

Encouraging for the pair is their claim that traditional sports shows have started adopting their tone of voice, their authenticity and their models. They’ve created “a mental club or cult people want to be part of,” whether Copa90 will be assimilated by, replace or continue to operate independently of these traditional players remains to be seen.

Maybe the future of TV is about subverting the traditional structures of video content and empowering individuals to express themselves. We're at a stage where a “hungover man from his bed can now create content for millions of people” as Coleman so elegantly put it. The future is here.