Impact Studio Drop #2: Sport's New Commentators

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Welcome to Impact Studio Drop #02, your bi-weekly deep dive into the new, interesting and occasionally unexpected ways to do cool stuff with creators.

Last week, Super Bowl hype has taken over the internet. But with the Olympics, Paralympics, Euros, T20 World Cups and more inbound it’s just one in a series of massive sporting events on the horizon for 2024. 

This drop explores how the democratisation of influence and the fragmentation of attention has revolutionised the ways in which people interact with sport. Today, there are countless ways for brands to engage with sport beyond traditional sponsorship, and the evolution of what it means to play, watch and cover these events is paving the way for innovative brand collaborations.

The democratisation of influence and the rise of new narrators in sport

In 2013, flagship football highlights show Match Of The Day, was drawing in over 6 million viewers every Saturday night - more than 10% of the UK population - yet by 2023, that number had dropped to 2 million. Does this mean that UK interest in football has dropped by two thirds? 

Of course, we know that this isn’t the case. MOTD is a single, yet representative example of a shift in the sporting narrative far broader than football. While traditional media outlets like MOTD seemed to decline across the ten year period, interest in sport has not diminished. Instead, influence has democratised, spread across thousands of outlets and channels as attention became increasingly fragmented among diverse voices, giving rise to a wave of next generation narrators. Now, anyone with a compelling voice and engaging content can participate.

The immediacy and interactivity of platforms like Instagram, TikTok and X allow both creators and audiences to share real-time reactions, insights, and behind-the-scenes glimpses during sporting events. This creates a dynamic and engaging narrative that complements the live experience, pulling audiences deeper into the story unfolding on and off the field.

Creators are increasingly playing a greater role in defining how sports stories are told and consumed and offer brands an authentic way into the conversation and access to events that have been previously gate kept behind seven figure sponsorship deals. With the Olympics, Paralympics, Euros, T20 World Cups and more on the horizon, now is the perfect time to explore how these diverse sports narrators can become advocates for your brand. Whether they’re wearing your products, eating your products or using your products to create and capture content, there’s a ton of ways brands can use creators as a gateway into the sporting narrative.

The role of creators goes further than simple commentary and live interaction. You only have to look to the Sidemen to see how they are becoming hugely influential voices in driving sport participation and audience action. Their popularity and vigour for rousing crowds and drumming up excitement and conversation around sport cannot be understated. The 2023 Sidemen Charity Football Match was the groups most successful to date, with over 67,000 attendees, 2.6m peak concurrent viewers and over £2.4m raised for charity. 

But it’s not just sport centric megastars like the Sidemen that generate interest and hype around sport. We are increasingly seeing impactful collaborations happening at the intersection of sports and other verticals. Finding the (often unexpected) places where sport overlaps with other aspects of culture and community affords massive opportunity for brands to deliver value in authentic and surprising ways. 

Last year, we helped Google to create Pixel FC, a group of football focussed, female creators who are leading voices in the women’s game. Self-taught commentators, athletes and fans, these women, armed with just their Google Pixels, gave their audiences a behind the scenes insight into the Women’s World Cup and women’s football matches across the UK. While sport creators may not be a first thought for a tech brand, we leveraged their voices and audiences to find a credible way to implant the brand into the narrative. Not just using the product, but positioning Google Pixel as a brand committed to giving greater exposure to the women's game. 

Brands now have a wealth of ways in which to implant themselves into sport and the narrative surrounding matches, tournaments, events and even athletes themselves. Sponsorship of events and coverage barely skims the surface of fans' interaction with the sports they know and love. Uncovering communities across social who are actively engaged and hungry to see, learn and interact more with sport are always keen to see brands play an innovative, exciting and unexpected role in the space. And creators give brands a way in. An authentic and native-to-platform means of communicating with a sports audience at key moments in the sporting calendar.