In the world of sports, the game may stop when the clock runs out, but the fandom doesn’t.
As live events are delayed and seasons are shortened, fans are turning to YouTube to get their sports fix: streaming highlights, nostalgic games, and content from their fave athletes. With 79% of viewers saying the platform has sports content that can’t be found anywhere else,1 it’s become increasingly indispensable. In fact, Aussies aged 18 to 64 say YouTube is the No. 1 video content provider they would miss the most if it were no longer available.2
And with the likes of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 running for the first time without IRL spectators, fans are continuing to tune in online to watch live and catch in-depth, behind-the-scenes content they love, on screens big and small. The watch time of YouTube sports videos on TV screens has increased more than 65% YOY globally, and that doesn’t include live content.3
Aussies in particular like to swap their phones for the big screen when watching sports, with more than 8 million people streaming YouTube on their TVs in March 2021.4 Sports brands can win big by meeting consumers in these captivated moments with personal, relevant content.
Here are a few lessons local brands have learned by using YouTube to take sports content to the next level for fans, with winning results.
Giving fans a memorable viewing experience leads to better engagement
Sports leagues today use YouTube to give their fans and viewers more than just a single broadcast. By giving fans more access to conversations with athletes, outtakes, behind-the-scenes content they can’t find anywhere else, and authentic moments with players, sports leagues can inspire deeper, more meaningful engagement and connection.
To navigate the choppy waters of viewer engagement, when the America’s Cup was hosted in New Zealand, the team used YouTube to make the sailing event accessible not only to local fans, but anyone in the world with an internet connection. Live streaming of its 2021 event provided sailing fans with highlights and extra content beyond coverage on TV networks.
America’s Cup was able to broadcast its full event on YouTube in 236 countries, with 52 hours of live broadcast, interviews, and captivating real-life moments. And the organisation took home gold with this strategy. Compared to the 2017 America’s Cup, its total audience grew 3.2X, to 941 million viewers.5
"Streaming on YouTube and embedding those feeds onto americascup.com helped the competition become the most-watched America's Cup ever,” said Ryan Pellett, head of social media and content at America’s Cup. “Our global online viewing matched the audience from our biggest national broadcasters."
Using YouTube to showcase the art and skill of ballet
Fans of all sports and athletic artforms like dance crave access to behind-the-scenes content — and The Australian Ballet’s fan base is no exception. To make ballet more accessible, The Australian Ballet uses YouTube to bring a larger audience closer to the people behind the work, including dancers and choreographers.
The Australian Ballet recognised that YouTube gave it access to a larger, global audience curious about ballet and arts culture. "We’ve noticed that some of our videos were gaining views in the millions, above our expectations. We could see that YouTube would be a great platform to connect with new people interested in the athleticism and skill of the artform, as well our existing passionate ballet audience,” said Mark Keevers-Hall, head of digital.
Through video, The Australian Ballet allows fans to learn more about the artform with its performers and coaches with a variety of content including rehearsals and breakdowns of complex ballet styles. YouTube lends itself well to the authentic, behind-the-scenes content The Australian Ballet creates and posts. By publishing longer-form videos and more conversational content, this iconic organisation allows audiences to learn and engage with more complicated, in-depth topics.
The Australian Ballet has more than doubled its subscribers in the past two years and plan to build on its channel strategy – increasing its upload frequency and bringing its audience into the conversation through comments and live chat on live streams. "Our audience of ballet fans love to learn and explore our content to deepen their knowledge of the artform. We’ve seen our audience and engagement on YouTube grow through balancing educational and behind-the-scenes content with highly produced videos that are works of art in their own right," said Keevers-Hall.
How YouTube helps the National Rugby League (NRL) connect with fans
In its quest to be the best sports entertainment product — not to mention the top sport in Australia — the NRL turned to YouTube to help its passionate fans access rugby, whenever and wherever they want to watch.
“YouTube enables us to drive outcomes for the sport as a business by growing fan engagement with the sport while also reaching and connecting with more people across the community,” said Greta Gotterson, NRL’s general manager of digital. “From our perspective, the platform has been mainstream for some time now.”
YouTube has helped the NRL score in two areas: it allows them to connect with younger audiences, who are important for the NRL’s long-term business growth, and it enables the organisation to reach and engage with more people across the community.
By focusing on passion for the sport — whether that’s interest in player-led content or match highlights — the NRL can connect with its fans and give them access to the game they love, anytime and anywhere.
And as a result, watch time of NRL YouTube content on TV screens has grown over 70% YOY in Australia as of March 2021.6
Whatever restrictions sports leagues and brands may face, fans will continue using YouTube to get their fix. Viewers seek out media that provides extra access to their favourite teams and athletes, and watch it anywhere, at any time. Brands are winning big in this critical moment by reaching fans wherever they are. By giving them the sports content they crave and can’t get anywhere else, they’re letting consumers go deeper with YouTube — and driving results and increasing engagement along the way.