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What marketers need to know about sport subcultures on social media


By Kenneth Hein, US Editor

August 5, 2020 | 5 min read

Redditors are infamous for their unfiltered opinions, passion, and inappropriateness — just like sports fans. However, within this loud conversation, you can hear what vocal consumers are talking about. Using this as a leading market indicator, here’s what marketers should be thinking about when it comes to sports and beyond.

Unleash the Kraken

The Kraken unleashed on social media.

Baseball teams are playing in empty stadiums with piped-in crowd noise, there’s the NBA bubble and a new NFL player opting out of the season seemingly every day. This is no sports fans’ idea of perfection. To fill the void, sports lovers are increasingly looking to social media for more entertainment and more connectedness with one another. This is one of the biggest takeaways from Reddit data ending 28 July.

“Celebrating sports on social media has become a subculture unto itself especially now that fans can’t go to stadiums,” says Reddit head of partner insights and research, Dan Gould.

Throughout the pandemic, sports have been a fixture. Early on, fans celebrated their favorite moments as a form of nostalgia and comfort, says Gould. “A whole new kind of sports love grew up overnight. They shared positive memories together.”

Then there is hating the Houston Astros, which has become a sport unto itself. Fans have delighted in creating memes that roast them for having been caught cheating. “The drama brought people together in an interesting way,” says Gould.

Now, despite the strange, micro-season at hand, the r/baseball community saw a +276% increase in views. One top post included a snapshot of fans in boats enjoying a game at San Francisco’s McCovey Cove. Since humans are banned from stadium stands (although cardboard cutouts are welcome), baseball by boat is the ultimate form of tailgating.

“In previous years social media was a nice add on, watching the second screen as the game happened,” says Gould. “Now there is so much happening all of the time on social.”

This is true with football and basketball as well. Football training camp is gearing up. As a result, r/nfl had a 62% increase in views this week. This included a post about how Drew Brees is cutting down his habit of licking his hands before he receives every snap. And, the abbreviated NBA season spurred a 31% increase in views to r/nba this week. There was a good deal of positivity surrounding the Brooklyn Nets; Kyrie Irving’s generous charity work.

But the most attention was garnered upon the combination of two passions: hockey and design. r/designporn had seen a +605% spike on 23 July thanks to the reveal of the new logo for the Seattle Kraken, the newest team in the National Hockey League.

“There was a big crossover moment that brought design and sports fans together,” says Reddit’s head of brand strategy, Will Cady. “When two communities on Reddit meet like this, they create new pockets of culture with a combined DNA - this week we saw it with design and sport. For brands, there is an opportunity to leverage these moments and reach a large group of people with shared and varied interests across more than one category.”

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