This Summer belongs to soccer fans all over the world. Two of the biggest continental, national team soccer tournaments are being played almost simultaneously and fans are going crazy for both Euro 2016 and Copa America Centenario.
A soccer game is 90 minutes long, but the spectrum of emotions that you’ll experience during that time is second to none. From outmost sadness to extreme joy, the emotions around soccer are always present, and new media outlets such as KICK (formerly KICK TV) and Copa90 are pioneering the virialization of the soccer fan archetypes through the coverage of the two most important tournaments on-and-off the fields.
Back at the start of 2015, KICKTV was bought by Big Balls Media, the parent company of Copa90 to create YouTube’s largest football network. Tom Thirlwall, CEO of Copa90, sums up why they decided to purchase KICKTV. In short, because of the North American soccer fan.
“This acquisition rapidly escalates our plan and gives us an entrance to the North American market with a brilliant team and operation ready to go in New York. We cannot wait to tell more of the amazing football stories that are emerging as a new fan culture develops in the world’s biggest sports market.”
“The deal places Copa90, KICKTV and The Copa Network at the heart of the US game ahead of 2016, when the football world’s attention centers on the US for the centenary of the Copa America tournament.” It’s safe to say that both KICK and Copa90 have excelled in covering both tournaments so far this summer.
While broadcasters fight for the rights to present the match action, KICK is showing the United States how soccer is lived around the world through the eyes of American fans. Face it, global is cool and it’s aiding KICK in their quest to become the “new” voice of soccer in America. Soccer has been more than a sport since, well, forever, which is why we’re seeing these more expansive soccer content offerings thrive.
Here’s a look at just how KICK and Copa90 are taking over the soccer world by putting fans first when creating engaging content.
Documentary-Style Storytelling Appeals to Fans
The KICK and ESPN FC partnership is giving the fans a cultural documentary series called 10,000 Miles to Paris, where Prez, the North American winner of Copa90’s “In Search Of” contest, and his crew will travel through 10 different countries uncovering the local cultural differences of soccer fandom before arriving to Paris for the Euro 2016 final.
Such partnerships are a clever way to cover major tournaments, because it focuses on genuine fan stories and show what it’s like to be a fan somewhere else instead of trying to compete in the realm of commercial and broadcasting platforms. Being on the ESPNFC platform, when ESPN is the television rights holder of Euro 2016, allows both KICK and ESPN new routes of storytelling (It’s the second time in a few months that KICK has partnered with a US rights holder to create content specifically for them. Toward the end of the 2015-16 EPL Season, KICK worked directly with NBC Sports to create videos for the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton that examine the derby through eyes of the fans).
Ahead of Euro 2016, Copa90 and Turkish Airlines sent host Eli Mengem on a trip across 10 different countries in 10 days to showcase just what Euro 2016 means to the fans of some of the countries participating in it. With the Euros expanding from 16 teams to 24 for this edition, there was no shortage of stories to be told from fans of both traditional powerhouses and up-and-coming nations.
As Eli states in his Twitter bio “football is an anthropologist’s dream” and the “Meet Europe’s Best” series encapsulates that. Spending just 24 hours in a country might not seem like a lot of time to learn about the people or what football means to a country, but this series showcases just how strong of a bond national teams have with their people.
Brand Partnerships Function as a Win-Win
Speaking of brand partnerships, companies across the US and the globe are recognizing the volume of brand partnerships and the void there is between media and fans. Partnering with outlets that base their content on fans, allow for brands to connect emotionally with their consumers. Most importantly, by sticking to fan-centric storytelling projects, they are genuinely becoming fans of the sport, thus interacting better and less intrusively with their target audiences.
Partnerships like these are great for the sport and for corporate investment, working hand-in-hand to satisfy the thirst for soccer non-traditional content that fans crave. KICK and Copa90 then become strong content production allies and brands develop consumer relationships with scale and substance. It’s a win-win situation.
Take a look at KICK’s work with Continental Tires or Copa90’s efforts for Coca-Cola. You’ll see that there doesn’t need to be a one-size-fits-all production strategy as long as the sport is at the heart of the execution.
Social Media Gives Fans Behind-The-Scenes Access
Beyond the documentary-style storytelling and videos, is social media. With a combined social media audience (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube) at over 5.5 million followers, KICK and Copa90 are a dominant force in the social soccer world.
Beyond the “traditional” social media platforms, both have turned to Snapchat to further amplify the message of the fans through user generated content. Combined with snaps from their presenters at games from all around the globe, both KICK and Copa90 fully make you feel like you’re at the match.
— KICK (@KICK) June 4, 2016
Selecting fans to do a snapchat takeover and document their game experiences through their own point of view they are appealing to the very core of soccer as a sport. What allowed soccer to become so widespread around the world was the low barrier of entry to playing it. A kickable object, not necessarily always round, is all anybody needs to start playing. The same happens with social media. It has democratized the way fans express themselves and has pushed forward cultural expressions in arts, for example, which allows for astronomical numbers in terms of fan engagement.
For Euro 2016, Copa90 is also one of the first publishers to delve into the world of Facebook chatbots. Ahead of the tournament (or at any point during), fans could opt-in to receive messages from Copa90. These include game previews, city/stadium guides, and following the matches, goal highlights and match recaps. With the emergence of peer-to-peer messaging (via Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger), it’s a natural fit for Copa90 to connect with fans. It’s not invasive and fans have the ability to unsubscribe at any time.
Without official rights to broadcast the actual goals during Euro 2016, Copa90 have still managed to capture every single goal and share with their followers. How? With gorgeous animations like the one below. We’ve talked about the connection between football and art on the blog before, and this is another example that showcases the “beautiful” part of the beautiful game.
— Copa90 (@Copa90) June 28, 2016
I Believe that They Will Win
People are always inclined to share things they love and soccer is no exception. Fans continue to turn to social media and other mediums to amplify their points of view towards the sport, the clubs, their national teams, and their experiences as fans. This allows for more stories to be uncovered, which is what people want to consume more of besides being able to watch the games. Slowly this engagement is helping to develop a soccer subculture in the United States.
Pockets of soccer fans are forming in all corners of the country and they are interacting more and more with the world. The low frequency of major international events where the national teams compete allows for these events to reach even higher levels of engagement. It also allows for more unity of the different pockets, which in turn becomes a big push for the growth of the sport that spills beyond the major tournaments.
KICK and Copa90 are taking these feelings and turning them into images, and those into stories. It connects the fans with the emotions before, during and after the games and turns them into powerful connections that unite communities It’s helping shape a soccer culture in the United States as the domestic league continues to grow, the national team attracts more people to their following, and television viewing for foreign leagues accelerates.
Images from KICK and Copa90 social media channels