Know Your Audience: Football Fans

Sara Hamdan, Angela Hundal / May 2019

Football fans are passionate, loyal and knowledgeable as ever. What more can we find out about this niche, yet key audience? Digging a little deeper, our latest research shows that the same goes for brands looking to strike a winning goal when creating successful digital campaigns for major football events like the African Cup. This study exploring the most popular football-related content on YouTube revealed that being a soccer fan goes way beyond the match, with fans’ passion for the beautiful game blending into other areas of their lives, including what they create, consume and engage with on YouTube.

1. Get to Know the Players

Lionel Messi and Neymar taking the top three spots in KSA and the UAE. In this hyper-connected and social-media savvy world, fans aren’t satisfied just watching their favourite football stars though. They also want to get to know them, which is why they love to go behind-the-scenes, seeing what their favourite players are like off pitch, in their locker rooms, while training, with their families, or even with their pets. Music is another way fans show their support, listening to, creating, and singing along with Arabic songs and anthems that celebrate their favourite national and international teams. Singer Fahad Al Kubaisi sang a song to celebrate Saudi club Al-Ittihad, and singer Hussain Al Jassmi performed the well-known Habibi Barceloni. It’s not just professional singers getting in on the action though. Everyday fans also show their support through music.

2. Explore Every Angle of the Game

Even before the game kicks off, people share their thoughts, predictions, and, of course, a little friendly competitive spirit on YouTube, with fan interviews at matches being really popular. Regional fans love to get hands-on during the games, showing their support by doing the Mexican wave, choreographing Tifo displays (where fans hold up individual placards to form large-scale words and images), or singing along to stadium chants and anthems. Post-match reaction videos that capture fans’ emotions at their most intense immediately after victory or defeat are also at the top of the rankings. These authentic moments, where both players and fans let their guard down, allow YouTube audiences to experience the more human side to a game. Once the heat of the moment has passed, the conversation moves away from what happened during the game to why and how. Post-match analyses are up on YouTube within a day or two, and don’t necessarily retire fast. YouTube data reveals that the week following a match is a key time in which to reach fans outside of the game’s 90 minutes, with roughly 70–90% of highlights and analyses taking place in the 5–7 days immediately after a game. Following that week, we still observe a steady stream of views, comments, and shares, even for several months afterwards. Highlights and recap videos are very popular, with fans being able to revisit emotions, replay key moments, and share their favourites.

3. Gather at The Digital Watercooler

Football fans enjoy talking about their passion with others, especially on YouTube. Clip compilations that explore the culture and history of the game are particularly popular. They give fans a chance to learn more about football beyond a single match, team or league. Clip compilations may include reviews of the greatest goals scored, incredible moves or tricks by players, or even inspiring sportsmanship. When it comes to creating content themselves, football fans love to vlog. Fans deep dive into detail on video, sharing their own personal experiences and thoughts on the game, and touching on aspects that fall outside of the confines of the sport and into other areas of society and culture. They may also enjoy a little trivia. As usual, post-match reaction videos are very popular, with soccer fans loving the ability to watch people’s responses, catch incredible match moments, see amazing tricks, and relive game magic.

4. Physically Play the Game

While much of YouTube’s football content covers others playing the game, regional creators get in on the action too, with a big share of viewership going towards highly skilled amateur players. Fans particularly love stunts, tricks, and challenges. Fares Alhumaid, for example, is a football fan and YouTube creator who is incredibly popular thanks to his quick feet. His twinkle toes have earned him a massive following of over 2.4m subscribers. It’s not just super-skilled local amateur footballers that have built a presence on YouTube. Soccer is a big part of many other YouTubers’ lives and, as such, also forms part of their channels – even if they’re not football related. In this case, friendly competition is popular, with the challenge theme repeated across channels. Of course, not everyone has the finesse of a professional player (as is the case with the guys in this funny challenge video), but they’re always fun to watch.

Key Takeaways for Brands

Here are the A,B,C’s applicable for any brand looking to engage with this passionate audience.

A. Be Always on: Speaking of live games, research confirms that the trend around fan behavior not being limited to the small window of time where live matches actually happen is set to continue. After all, today’s consumers expect to be able to access content whenever they want, wherever they want, using whatever device is most appropriate. The fact that YouTube can showcase content that can’t be watched anywhere else – think behind-the-scenes footage, highlights, funny outtakes, coaching techniques, tricks, product demos, reviews and more – at any time of day is a big plus point for advertisers

B. Build Momentum Around the Game: In terms of building momentum around live sports events like the African Cup, data suggests that over half of YouTube’s sports-content viewers watch video-related content before sports events. Interestingly, YouTubers also enjoying watching content simultaneously, with data revealing that just under half of all sports fans watch sports or fitness videos on the online platform while also watching live sports on TV. Over half add that YouTube is one of the first places they visit after major sports events or news.

C. Partner with Creators: With this in mind, there is an opportunity for advertisers to – aside from possibly showcasing games – take advantage of football fans’ broader interest before and after matches, use Google data to understand what’s trending, and create audience-targeted content that they can showcase on their own channels, or in partnership with big-number YouTubers like Sayedi I (over 1.5m subscribers), or even famous players. Cristiano Ronaldo’s channel, for example, has over 1.3m subscribers. Many big-name brands are already taking advantage of YouTube creators’ subscription numbers, featuring creative video content based on search trends. In 2015, Volkswagen invited Saudi Arabian YouTuber Jagabov to play a FIFA video game in one of their showrooms with a Saudi football player. The video has garnered over 3.2m views.

How to ensure your video creative is driving performance