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TikTok: The platform of choice for young football fans

Social media platform TikTok is quickly becoming a primary service for reaching young football fans across the world.

TikTok is used to create a variety of short video clips, with millions of users engaging with content every day.

The company continues to grow at a rapid pace, with over 800 million app downloads in 2020, beating rivals such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in the process.

Football leagues and clubs all over the world have utilised the platform to build their global brands.

Spain’s La Liga has reached 1.9 million followers in a year and a half of activity, with the demographic of this audience notably young.

“Our followers are young people (mostly part of Generation Z) from all over the world, people who want to discover content that they will not find anywhere else,” Alfredo Bermejo, director of digital strategy at La Liga, told the La Liga Newsletter.

“Everything we post is specially designed for this audience with the aim of entertaining them and creating engagement. We want them to know that following La Liga on TikTok is to consume content from the best league in the world.”

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are the two most followed clubs on TikTok and have increased the profile of football on the service, but creating campaigns that global audiences have engaged with has been just as effective.

“We have created two of the biggest and most successful (social media) challenges in the history of TikTok,” Bermejo explained.

“Every week there are new trends that we pay attention to in order to remain an active part of the community.”

A recent initiative encouraged followers of the La Liga TikTok account to replicate the different goal celebrations of players in the competition.

Videos were posted with the hashtag #ViveLaLiga, with Bermejo revealing the campaign earned over 63 million views and trended in 21 countries.

These types of figures offered an added value for La Liga’s global partners, including Puma and Santander.

Soraya Castellanos Hidalgo, partnerships manager of TikTok in Spain, believes initiatives like this showcase where the social media platform thrives.

“Our mission is to inspire and offer our community a space for creative expression and a fun and positive experience with an enormous diversity of content,” she said.

Other La Liga content on their TikTok account is made attractive by a strong use of music, alongside an informal tone for the most part.

Bermejo explained that for the emerging young audience, all the content related to the league’s clubs, from training sessions to the way the players are dressed, is vital to make an impression.

“TikTok has allowed us to get closer to Generation Z and thus understand the tastes and preferences that these fans have today,” he stated.

“This also helps us to analyse what the fan of the future will be like.”

A new fan’s first contact with football “is likely not a 90-minute televised match, but a video with highlights and music on TikTok, or with images of player challenges during training,” Bermejo claimed.

Sevilla FC has used TikTok since June of 2019 and now has over 275,000 followers on the social media site.

The club emphasised that posts on this social network feel genuine and is a major reason why the platform is the global service of choice for a younger demographic.

“The change we’ve noticed is the way that the content published is natural, much more real and less edited, plus it is generated directly on the mobile phone,” explained the club’s social media manager, José Ángel Risco.

“Consumption is a lot quicker as the users want to see something that lasts 15 to 20 seconds maximum,” he added.

“It’s becoming a social network that also feeds other platforms such as Twitter or YouTube, especially with videos that go viral. There are differences in the tone that we don’t have on channels such as Twitter or Facebook.

“Those who follow us on TikTok are a lot younger. We’re trying to connect with users who are interested in sport and in football through a tone that isn’t as focussed on the up-to-the-minute sports news.”

TikTok continues to build on its momentum as a social media phenomenon for young people, with football fans no exception.

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

STATSports leading the way for GPS tracking

Big-name Premier League clubs have chosen to partner up with STATSportswho are industry leaders in providing GPS tracking systems and analysis. 

Up to five of the top six in the league have already made the switch to STATSports, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – while the service is used by the majority of fellow Premier League sides.

These Premier League clubs have worked closely with STATSports as they developed Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live which is the latest software upgrade that the Premier League will be set to receive – featuring marketing-leading analysis platforms and further improvement on athlete monitoring.

STATSports are widely regarded across professional football – in addition to their big-name Premier League clients, they also push further into the English FA and abroad across the world, venturing out to the likes of Paris Saint Germain and Juventus. 

STATSports were involved in the Project Restart by informing the Premier League with a Player Proximity Report, using their data to show which type of sessions would cause players to come to together more often. STATSports offers a quick and time-effective process, with download times four times faster than any platform. It means receiving results from a typical session for a squad of players would take under two minutes. 

For elite clubs, Sonra 3.0 is the ideal go-to solution and it further streamlines and enhances performance with a host of new features that will make a difference. Sonra 3.0 is the brand-new product launch by STATSports and the latest offering for anyone looking to acquire their very own GPS tracking and analysis. 

Among the key inclusions, session planning features have been added to the calendar, allowing club performance departments to map up training cycles for weeks in advance. Video integration in the Video Manager has been developed further while adding a full squad 2D positioning. There is also a Scientific Calculator, allowing practitioners to create bespoke custom metrics based upon their own requirements.

Users are now able to choose between ‘Light’ and Dark’ modes as they can customise their preferred theme when on the app. 

The launch of Sonra 3.0 has coincided with the introduction of a new iPad application called Sonra Live, enabling coaches to monitor training in real-time. 

Sonra Live’s real-time data has been independently validated to form a perfect correlation with downloaded data, making this the most accurate live-monitoring solution of its kind. Coaches can then make instant, informed and impactful decisions for anything they intended to achieve. 

Sonra Live features team-level reporting, detailed individual-player dashboards, drill cutting for precise session analysis, post-session reporting via PDF/CSV and synchronisation to desktop applications for further analysis. 

STATSports’ on-board metric processing means there will be no data drop-out and they are the only provider in the industry to give 100% identical live and post-session download data quality.  

With flawless results, this puts the power in the end users’ hands to make immediate decisions with confidence no matter what they want to do. Coaches can set multiple thresholds for individual players or full squads, while multiple coaches can each monitor their own iPads simultaneously. 

“This is an exciting day for STATSports and the many teams we work with. This is another major advancement in the level in which coaches and managers can monitor their players,” STATSports co-founder, Sean O’Connor said. 

“Technology is now truly integrated into the game and we have played our part in that. We have worked closely with those teams during lockdown and also used the time to finalise the development of our new Sonra platform – we’re confident that our clients will further benefit from working with us through the introduction of this.” 

The creation of both Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live reaffirms STATSports’ commitment to being the industry leader in GPS tracking and innovations for this space, supplying this resource to world-renowned clubs. 

“We have really enjoyed developing this new software platform. Time is a key commodity for clubs,” STATSports co-founder, Alan Clarke said. 

“The quicker they can make decisions with reliable and accurate feedback, the greater the edge they have on their competition.  

“We will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and ensure athletes can do the same on the training pitch and the competitive environment.” 

For more information on STATSports, you can find it here.

AFC outlines commitment to expand ‘fan-first’ strategy

The AFC further outlined its commitment to confirm football as the continent’s number one sport, through an expanded ‘fan-first’ digital strategy.

The AFC Media and Communications Committee recently held their second meeting for the term of 2019-2023, with engagement figures of the AFC’s digital platforms in 2020 surpassing those of the previous year.

Chairperson of the committee, Ganbaatar Amgalanbaatar, said: “As you know, COVID-19 has disrupted our competitions and fixtures, but I am pleased to note that it has not affected our ability to engage with Asia’s passionate fans.

“We should be proud that the engagement numbers in 2020 has surpassed 2019, which was an AFC Asian Cup year. We have seen a 202% increase on our English sites and 876% on the Arabic website. We have also seen 91% of our traffic coming via mobile devices and a really impressive 30% of female engagement.

“This is the result of the ‘fan-first’ digital strategy that was approved by this Committee at our first meeting and congratulations to you all. We must continue to ensure that we deliver the best outcome for our Member Associations, the AFC as well as to our fans and importantly, potential commercial partners.”

To build on the momentum and reach of its fan-first approach, the committee approved the AFC’s social media strategy for 2021-2024.

The strategy looks to engage Asia’s passionate fans through quality content on appropriate platforms, with the aim of benefitting AFC and its Member Associations.

The committee also agreed on the creation of the Editorial Board for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China, with members from both the AFC and the Local Organising Committee.

The members in the Editorial Board will play a significant role in delivering an integrated digital fan engagement strategy, for the upcoming tournament.

Virtual Bundesliga partners with major esports company

The DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga has partnered with ESL, the world’s largest esport company to operate the media production for the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL).

The partnership starts with immediate effect and sees ESL obtain the media rights for the VBL.

ESL will produce the coverage for VBL Club Championship matches. The coverage will be livestreamed on VBL social media channels – and includes a virtual studio, and a presenter.

The VBL is an esports competition which started in 2012 and sees Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 teams compete against each other. The Bundesliga was the first professional football league to launch an official esports football competition.

The DFL said it wants to “meet the growing interest in eSport even more comprehensively”. ESL has  been given the chance to license the media rights to other distribution partners, while the 26 clubs competing in the VBL will also be able to broadcast their matches via their own channels.

“The Virtual Bundesliga is already the most authentic representation of a football league in EA Sports FIFA. We want to continue establishing it as a digital competition,” EVP Digital Innovations at the DFL, Andreas Heyden said.

“To that end, we have secured a partner in ESL that has already proven its ability to successfully grow eSport competitions and communities worldwide – including in the area of football simulations. We would like to make the VBL even more alive and exciting, and ESL has the necessary experience and passion to do just that.”

The DFL believes that this partnership will develop and professionalise the Virtual Bundesliga.

“eFootball has been an integral part of the Esport community and of ESL for many years now,” Co-CEO of ESL, Ralf Reichert said.

“Together with the DFL, the most important sports league in Germany, we want to develop the VBL further to make it a renowned sports league and take it to the next level. That way, we can authentically transfer the emotions and values of football to the digital world and make the Virtual Bundesliga accessible to all, whether as a fan or an athlete.”

The 2020-21 season of the VBL Club Championship starts on November 10.

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