New Facebook video features are driving big engagement for sports leagues and their teams.
When Facebook pivoted their focus to video, few industries were better suited than sports. Sports have a natural advantage—games, interviews, and locker room celebrations all are often video already.
We’re two and a half months into 2016. So what video trends are the major sports franchises seeing the most success with?
Facebook Live Gets Fans Talking
Want comments? Take sports content live. Live video sees soaring amounts of comments, as it creates a limited-time experience for fans to connect with one another and their favorite team.
Major League Soccer, MLS, is still relatively young and figuring out their content game. New York City FC is all about livestreams. They claimed the five most-commented videos for MLS so far this year, with content as simple as warm-up videos.
The global soccer teams are also embracing live video. The 5th through 8th most-commented videos of the year thus far are live streams. Liverpool FC led the charge with a video of the Reds getting ready for a match. The video drove over 773,000 views, 38,000 reactions, 2,500 shares and 6,700 comments.
Meanwhile, NBA used Facebook Live during the All-Star game this year, with a special Facebook Live booth to connect the global audience to Q&As, updates, and behind-the-scenes content during the weekend. Facebook 360 was also used in tangent to give fans an immersive experience of the Facebook Live interviews.
A live stream becomes an event that fans can tune in and participate in, just as much as going to a game. There’s a sense of urgency to catch the event, and a sense of community as they see their fellow fans engaging in real-time.
Virtual Reality Takes Everyone Courtside
Over in soccer, Liverpool FC had the second top-shared, and most-commented video so far this year.
With over 8 million views, Liverpool’s first 360 video also scored 150,000 reactions, 96,000 shares, and 45,000 comments. Virtual reality brings fans right up to their favorite players, instead of separated behind a TV screen.
The NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA all also are experimenting with virtual reality. Last year, NHL used GoPro to bring first-view experiences to fans. This year, they’re exploring the variety of content they can show, with a 360 view from a Zamboni.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at this year’s SXSW conference that, “For 99% plus percentage of our fans will never be in an arena or in the United States. So how can we replicate that experience?”
“…Now VR comes along and everyone in the world can have the same angle that the referee does.”
Other Platforms are Making Facebook Share the Spotlight
Snapchat has crept up behind Facebook for video content. While Snapchat stories and filters have been around already for sports matches, a new deal with MLB is expected to bring fans ‘unprecedented access’ to players and teams.
This Red Sox video is currently the third most-engaging Facebook video of the year for the league, showing off players using Snapchat filters.
Baseball players will now be allowed and encouraged to use Snapchat from the dugout, and the platform will continue coverage of opening day, the World Series, All-Star games, and regular season games, making Snapchat the place for baseball.
Yahoo has also inked a deal to livestream select NHL games, and last year live-streamed a NFL game, along with coverage of MLB and PGA tour. Facebook’s taken notice and is currently in negotiations to live broadcast NFL Thursdays next season..
Old Standards Stay Strong
Even with the success of the Facebook video trends, there are some content tatics that continue to see big engagement. In 2016 so far, some of the top videos for soccer, NHL, NBA, and NFL, were all linked to celebrities.
This Manchester United video that featured Deadpool had over 12.6 million views. The crossover video drove 316,000 reactions, 144,000 shares, and 25,000 comments.
Teams get a boost from famous endorsements. It’s validating to see that your favorite team is also beloved by your favorite musician, actor, or comic-book superhero, in the case of Manchester United.
Meanwhile for NBA, highlight reels and Steph Curry overshadow the new trends. #StephGonnaSteph, indeed.
Team heroes like Stephen Curry continue to be the big stars across all leagues, and combining them with the new video trends could see powerful momentum on social. A VR video of Alex Rodriguez or Tom Brady would thrill fans of those popular teams.
MLB’s second most-commented video this year so far was of Vin Scully, beloved announcer of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 66 years, announcing live that the LA City Council voted to name a street after him.
As video becomes more and more central to users’ social media experiences, sports leagues are all-in on embracing it.
“We want to be at the forefront of technology,” says Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, “We want people to think NBA and use technology to experiment.”
On social media, sports content is a never-ending conversation, and the sports teams are evolving their tactics to stay relevant, trying new platforms and trends. Brands are the new publishers, and sports teams are taking the helm from ESPN and other media channels to bring content straight to their fans.
As 2016 continues to unfold, we’ll be watching where sports and social media video takes us.