The 2017 Uefa Champions League final is set to be a massive social media experience. New and quickly evolving live video formats add layers of fan interaction and instant communication that just weren’t possible in the past.
Last year’s final was referred to by TV network BT Sport as the “most social broadcast ever”. The game was live streamed on YouTube as well as covered in a Snapchat Live Story, featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. Facebook ran a live series of interactive interviews, and Twitter shared a range of real-time action clips and exclusive footage with fans.
This helped make the Champions League a hit with social media users and the event currently has a total of 75 million followers on official accounts across platforms. This figure is led by Facebook, where the number of fans hit a staggering 57 million around the time of last year’s final, a 20% increase on 2015. Other statistics show that there were 8.4 million tweets about 2016’s Champions League final and 17,000 selfies submitted for a PepsiCo Snapchat Lens promotion during the game.
Expect these figures to be eclipsed this time around due to the continued boom in social live video. Some 81% of social audiences viewed more live content in 2016 than they did in 2015. Facebook live videos are watched for three times longer than regular videos, and Snapchat's Rio Olympics 2016 coverage attracted almost 50 million viewers in the first week alone.
Social live streaming breaks down barriers and makes the concept of a “local sports market” obsolete – fans can now enjoy games and tournaments regardless of where they live. And savvy brands are quick to leverage the opportunities presented by the growth in real-time video consumption. We’ve already seen brands like Sun Bet and Paddy Power create funny, viral social videos in the later stages of the Champions League tournament, building brand awareness and increased ad recall during a key period for their businesses.
Social live video has brought an increased level of conversation and user engagement across social platforms. In the light of this, brands are wise to activate across channels, go where the fans go, react in real-time but plan ahead, and take a long-term approach.
Savvy advertisers remember that all fans won’t have an opportunity to watch the actual game, and make sure to seize the chance to offer exclusive content and competitions catering to these audiences. Facebook is where the Champions League has its strongest organic following, enabling brands to piggyback off the conversations that are already happening on the platform.
For example, advertisers can use teaser ads to create excitement in the lead up to the game, then retarget top performing audience segments with exclusive content as the event unfolds.
For some brands, it makes sense to run live streamed football-related activity organically (no paid promotion) and instead use their ad budgets to push out content before and after the game. One of the downsides of live social video is the cost, and by focusing spend on the build-up and follow-up to the Champions League final brands can drive down overall spend.
Ultimately, live sports content and related advertising will perform the best on social media in cases where users can obtain exclusive content for free (directly from the pages of Uefa or the Premier League) when they would have otherwise had to pay for it (via traditional TV broadcasters).
If advertisers can find a way to tie their campaigns to these exclusive free-of-charge live streams, they are more likely to engage customers and capitalise on the boom in social live video that is transforming viewer participation with the Champions League final and other premiere sports events.
Rob Kabrovski is vice president of accounts at Adaptly