Several years ago we published a piece discussing how brands and teams can utilize Snapchat, the rising social platform at the time, to increase fan engagement. Fast forward to 2021 and there’s another platform taking the world by storm, which raises the question: what is the value of TikTok for leagues, teams, and brands? Before we answer that, let’s start with some background on the app.
What is TikTok?
TikTok was originally launched as Music.ly in 2014. The original app allowed users to lip-synch along to their favorite songs. In 2017, Music.ly was bought by ByteDance, a Chinese company who transformed the singing app into TikTok. Since then, the social media app has become a powerhouse and incubator of top pop culture trends.
In terms of demographics, 41 percent of users are between the age of 16 and 24. 44 percent of users are female, as well. As of Feb. 7, 2021, the platform is the most-downloaded free app in Apple’s App Store, directly ahead of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, and Snapchat. To illustrate the rise of TikTok since the start of 2016, particularly in comparison to the decreased popularity of Snapchat, see below.
TikTok is enticing for sports leagues, teams, and brands because the demographics are favorable for engaging and cultivating the next generation of fans. Additionally, the 60-second time limit for videos forces content creators to be smart and efficient, similarly to Vine (RIP).
Perhaps most importantly, there’s now a huge audience on the app. The NFL partnered with TikTok during Super Bowl LV for a #TikTokTailgate concert featuring Miley Cyrus, Joan Jett, and other artists. The live stream via the app had over 1.9 million viewers and content featuring the #TikTokTailgate hashtag has had almost 295 million views to date.
Which sports leagues and teams are on TikTok?
There are plenty of teams outside the U.S. with a hefty presence on TikTok. Teams like Liverpool (the first PL team on TikTok), Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and more have used the platform to engage with their global audience. For the purposes of this section, let’s focus on six professional leagues in North America:
- NBA: by our count, 28 of 30 NBA teams have TikTok accounts. The Golden State Warriors have the most followers (2.6 million). Those numbers pale in comparison to the official league account which has 12.3 million followers
- NFL: the official league account has 6 million followers, while 30 of 32 teams have a presence. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs lead the way on the platform with 1.7 million followers
- MLB: 26 of 30 teams have accounts. MLB teams have a smaller footprint on the platform – the Chicago Cubs are the only team with over 300,000 followers. The league account has over 2.1 million followers
- NHL: team accounts average 66,000 followers, while the league account has garnered 1.2 million. 28 of 31 teams are currently on TikTok with the Detroit Red Wings leading the way in follower count with nearly 221,000
- MLS: LA Galaxy leads the way in follower count among the 17 MLS teams who are currently on TikTok with roughly 149,000. The league account has over 206,000 followers
- NWSL: 8 of 10 teams have accounts that average 5,200 followers, while there is no official league account
If you’re keeping tabs, one key takeaway from this is league accounts have more followers than team accounts, which shouldn’t be too surprising. League accounts serve as aggregators of content from around each league, providing a holistic view of happenings on the gridiron, court, ice, etc.
See below for more, including how team and league accounts compare.
TikTok enters world of sports sponsorships
To further drive awareness, TikTok recently hitched its brand to the Portland Timbers (MLS) and Portland Thorns (NWSL). The social platform will be the sleeve sponsor partner of both teams and will certainly catch the eye of those familiar and unfamiliar with the app.
The help celebrate the partnership, the Timbers released a video on TikTok featuring an artist’s rendering of the new jersey ahead of the 2021 season.
What makes TikTok different from other social platforms?
TikTok provides sports teams one benefit over other social media platforms – the ability to be authentically funny. As a result, the creativity of teams and players shines through more genuinely than it does on other platforms. Popular videos on the app are largely in response to a viral trend. They’re brief and they don’t always require a high production quality.
One simple example is the Clemson football team’s TikTok which features star quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s reaction to a viral video of a young girl who looks identical to him. The simplicity, brevity, and the user base’s tolerance for low-effort content helped a 10-second video garner nearly three million views and 388,000 likes. Had this been done on other platforms, it might have required a longer, more sanitized, and produced piece, hurting its performance.Cody Kuiper, GESM
TikTok is a great platform for brands because of the relatively level playing field to achieve viral status. Unlike Instagram or YouTube, even accounts with small followings can get millions of views because the algorithm rewards good content. The platform’s big win has been how quickly it evolves to suit the needs of brands and advertisers. Other platforms struggle with this evolution.Scott Hutchison, GESM
How can a brand use a TikTok trend to reach soccer fans?
The key is integrating trends into your content as they’re emerging. Utilizing #soccer may seem like a great idea. However, it will be hard to break through with a hashtag that has over 14.3 billion plays in its lifetime. One integration that took advantage of emerging trends was Dortmund’s use of “Wipe It Down” to unveil their new jersey.
Their content piece unveiling new signing Thomas Meuneir also links directly to his Wikipedia page. A very simple yet powerful integration to help educate potential new fans on your team, organization, or brand. –Dillon
What do TikTok creators think of the platform?
Ian Greene, a creator we’ve highlighted, offered great insight into his TikTok strategy. The platform’s ability to generate incredible growth overnight is a huge motivation. Why? It’s always rewarding to see other users enjoy your content.
He started posted in March 2020 and posted nearly every single day for the next few months. As a result, Ian gained 10,000+ followers a month and in less than a year he’s amassed 150,000+ followers and 4.6 million likes. A consistent posting cadence was key to Ian’s platform growth.
Something else that deserves recognition is how simple the platform makes the editing process for creators like Ian. Something as simple as the “Add on Text” feature makes content much easier to digest in tutorials, training drills, etc. Also, being able to select a trending song helps expedite the process, allowing users to feed directly into what’s popular.