Goal, part of the FootballCo group, has become the UK’s first sports publisher to use TikTok’s shopping feature. James Lamon, senior vice-president of content and creative, explains how the publisher used a two-hour influencer-led livestream to sell copies of Fifa 22 and the PlayStation 5.
The football publisher, which already boasts 1.8 million fans on TikTok across several accounts, tapped Fifa esports caster and streamer Brandon Smith to showcase his skills at the game – as well as sell it, four PS5 consoles and a bunch of gaming accessories such as charging cables and controllers.
James Lamon, senior vice-president of content and creative at Goal, who was previously at BuzzFeed for seven years and reached head of content Europe, has long pondered the question of publisher revenue diversification. BuzzFeed was famously keen to experiment with new models in branded content and commerce that shoppers and the platforms they use appear to be more tailored for. At Goal, he explains that the role of publishers in social commerce is still being discovered – but in this instance, he’s found a model he’s happy to replicate.
He says: “TikTok provides the seamless checkout experience for their users, retail partner Maplin provides the stock, and we bring a football fan audience, especially in the Fifa gaming space. We have the authenticity to talk to users in an entertainment context on social media in a way that a retailer really can’t.”
He explains that this has formed a triangle between product, platform and publisher. From there he sees it as “great content to our audience with a reward for tuning in”. The ever-rare PS5 should entice a chunk of Goal’s audience into the livestream – if not, a discount on Fifa 22 should. The PS5s will appear for sale every time streamer Smith reaches a milestone in Fifa 22 during the broadcast.
Lamon believes the partnership represents an “interesting value exchange”, but will be watching the results closely to study the feasibility of repeat e-comm efforts. If Goal can’t shift a decent amount of Fifa 22 units (a space it has devoted countless editorial resource to for years), what chance do any other publishers stand? At this stage, it is testing the shopping feature and hasn’t taken on any great liability (like buying tonnes of stock it must sell).
@goalglobal Tune in to Goal’s live stream on Thursday from 1pm UK time for FIFA 22 games, PS5 consoles + much more - featuring @Brandon Smith ♬ original sound - Goal
The publisher started working with TikTok in March 2021 to make some noise around its NXGN 2021 awards. This included creating a custom homepage on the platform, but as Lamon explains, it has been “looking for new ways to partner with TikTok”.
“We’re always looking into new innovations on social media generally and we want to be a first-mover there and leading the conversation for publishers and football media.” It emerged that TikTok already had a Fifa 22 streaming launch planned. This fits perfectly with Goal’s audience, so the publisher came onboard to get the word out.
Lamon thinks we’ll see a lot more of these partnerships. He’s been at the forefront of social commerce for almost as long as it has been around. “It’s an idea that’s been in the consciousness for a long time, be it ‘link in bio’ or influencers doing giveaways. But what we’re seeing happening in the marketplace for the first time, social platforms in the west embracing this and creating actual features that make the process far more seamless and useful for users.”
Goal’s move into social commerce starts in South Korea, when it opened a fashion store within the virtual environment of Fifa 21’s Volta Football mode. It’ll be looking at this TikTok deal with half an eye on selling its own product down the line.
But most importantly for Lamon, Goal’s not doing anything it hasn’t done before. It’s often running Fifa livestreams to its TikTok audiences, be it watchalongs or match coverage. This time, the show is shoppable, with some high-demand items serving to entice more interest.
“This is something we know that our audience really likes. But a good social commerce execution is not merely about hawking a product to the user, it’s about entertaining them. If they buy, great, and if they don’t, they still walk away feeling like they’ve had great content and [an] experience on social.”
Looking ahead, he explains that “there’s not yet a known model for how media publishers can work with influencers in the social commerce space ... but this is an exciting opportunity to try and figure that out”.
Expect investment if this test works out. Below is what the shopfront looks like in the TikTok app.