Okay, so everyone knows the Big Game in the NFL, Super Bowl LI, was just held on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. But, only hockey fanatics know that the NHL All-Star Game was held back on Sunday, Jan. 29. Meanwhile over in MLB, baseball junkies like me know that pitchers and catchers don’t report for spring training until Sunday, Feb. 12. And hoop fans have to wait until Sunday, Feb. 19, before they can watch the NBA All-Star Game. That makes this a “slow week” in the sports calendar, which is precisely why Sports Illustrated invented the Swimsuit Issue – to bridge the week-long gap between major sporting events.
So, what critical data or trends in the digital video marketing business can I deliver to you, the readers of Tubular Insights, during this bye week? Like many of you, I watched and shared “Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | ‘Born The Hard Way’” several days before the Big Game. But, it’s really too soon to declare which Super Bowl ad was the winner.
The YouGov BrandIndex waits at least 3 days until after the Super Bowl before reporting which Big Game commercials generated the most buzz, word-of-mouth (WOM), or purchase consideration. And Tubular Labs also waits at least 3 days before reporting which Super Bowl ads that were unveiled during the Big Game got the most views or highest engagement rates. So, what should I write about today?
Well, I told my editor in chief, that I’d be willing to spend hours and hours of my valuable time reviewing all of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit properties on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine. (I even double-checked the audience demographics of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit channel on YouTube and was shocked, shocked to find that 89% are male and 76.5% are 18-34 years old. Now, that may be their target audience, but it’s not really ours.) Fortunately, she had a better idea for a story. She asked me to tackle the question, “What will the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB do now Vine is gone?” Good question. And I’ll bet that a lot of video marketers at media companies, brands and agencies, as well as MCNs are asking themselves, “What should we do now that Vine is gone?” (Now, that’s our target audience, which is why she’s the editor in chief.)
What Should Sports Brands Do Now Vine Has Gone?
So, let’s begin at the ending. On Oct. 27, 2016, Team Vine and Twitter shared the news that “in the coming months we’ll be discontinuing the mobile app.” Now, if I were a typical journalist, then I would have spent hours and hours of my valuable time poking around the online newsrooms of four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada looking for an official response. (Hey, this isn’t an alternative fact. According to a recent media survey by Business Wire, 75% of journalists refer to an online newsroom when researching an organization.)
So, I double-checked and here’s what those journalists would have found:
- On Oct. 27, 2016, Kris Koivisto, the managing editor for the Portland Trail Blazers’ award-winning digital content, wrote, “RIP Vine: Our Favorite Vines over the Years.” Koivisto said, “While it’s never been at the top of anyone’s marketing strategy, Vine has carved out a corner of the market that is loyally dedicated to their craft.” He added, “In the sports world, Vine represented a vehicle to seamlessly consume highlights on Twitter.” Then, he embedded a dozen of his favorite Vine memories.
- On Oct. 29, 2016, Nicole Grazioli of sjsharks.com wrote, “#RIPVine – Paying Tribute to the Expiring Art.” Grazioli said, “Sadly, it’s time to say farewell to the art form. From light saber battles with the Oilers to Brent Burns having a live penguin hop up onto his lap, we shared some good times together, Vine.” Then, she took a look back at some of the best Sharks Vines over time.
- On Nov. 21, 2016, Kevin Patra, an Around the NFL writer, called Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins the “Vine King of the East” after one six-second long looping video featured him saying, “You Like that!,” another featured him saying, “Oooooooh-weeeeeee,” and a third featured him asking, “How you like me now!?” The story goes on the quarterback’s uncertain future, not the video platform’s demise.
- On Jan. 17, 2017, the MLB verified account on Twitter tweeted “We’ll never forget #JoeyFlip. #RIPVine https://vine.co/v/eEdvmvFOj5A.”
The net-net: three out of four of the sports writers may have felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. But, after a single post or tweet, they all went right back to work as if nothing very significant had happened. Heck, they still had a job to do and YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other video platforms were still available to promote their respective sports brands. So, why go into mourning for an extended period of time?
Meanwhile, after spending a couple of hours poking around the online newsrooms of the four major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada, I still couldn’t find an official announcement about what the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB plans to do now that Vine is dead. It reminds me of Kenneth Fearing’s poem “Dirge,” which observes sardonically that an “executive type” who’d died would be “Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.”
In other words, if I were a typical journalist, I would have hit a dead end. But, luckily for you, dear readers, I have another authoritative source of critical data and trends in the digital video marketing business: Tubular Labs. Frankly, sports journalists at the Bleacher Report, owned by the Turner Sports unit of Time Warner, or Sports Center, ESPN’s flagship program, would go to heaven without dying if they could get access to this kind of statistical information.
So, I spent another couple of hours poking around the Tubular software, which tracks 2.5 billion (with a “b”) videos across 30+ platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine. And I uncovered a story that hasn’t been reported before: 3 of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada are “voting with their feet” by leaving video platforms they do not like or going to video platforms they believe to be more beneficial.
NBA’s Social Video Strategy
For example, the NBA (US) should have been hit the hardest by the death of Vine. The preeminent men’s professional basketball league in North America had joined the platform during The NBA Finals in 2013. By mid-2016, the NBA had become the first organization to surpass 2 billion loops on Vine. And before Twitter pulled the plug on its mobile app, the NBA had built Vine’s largest community among all sports leagues, teams and players, with more than 1.8 million followers. However, as I reported back in April 2016, the NBA is crushing other sports brands on social video. Yes, it was uploading a lot of videos to Vine, but it was also uploading a lot of videos to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other video platforms, too. So, what did they do following the announcement on Oct. 27, 2016, that Twitter would be discontinuing Vine in the coming months?
First, the NBA dramatically picked up its pace of uploading videos to its social video platforms. But, let me share the critical data from Tubular Labs to demonstrate that this isn’t just an extended sports analogy. During the 365 days before the announcement that Vine was as dead as the Norwegian Blue parrot in Monty Python’s classic sketch, the NBA uploaded 15,800 videos to its Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and other video platforms in the US. That’s an average of 43 videos a day. During the 100 days after the announcement that Vine was pining for the fjords, the NBA has uploaded 10,000 videos. This is an average of 100 videos a day.
Second, the percentage of videos being uploaded to Vine dropped dramatically (from 15.2% before Oct. 27, 2016, to 9.6% after that date), but it didn’t drop to zero as you might have expected. Meanwhile, the percentage uploaded to Facebook dropped from 24.7% to 20.2%, while the percentage uploaded to Instagram also dropped from 17.4% to 14.0%. At the same time, the percentage uploaded to YouTube increased from 19.3% to 20.8%, while the biggest beneficiary of Vine’s demise was “other platforms,” which increased from 23.4% to 35.5%.
Now, one of these other platforms is Twitter, which saw the pace of uploads increase from about 1 video every 4 days in the 365 days before Oct. 27, 2016, to more than 1 video a day in the 100 days after that date. So, you could say one of the replacements coming off the bench to fill Vine’s sneakers is its parent company from San Francisco.
The NFL: Finding Success on Instagram
The NFL has also adopted a hurry-up offense. It uploaded 15,100 videos to its social video platforms during the 365 days before the Vine announcement stunned video marketers. That was an average of 41 videos a day. And during the 100 days after the announcement, the NFL uploaded 6,233 videos. This is an average of 62 videos a day.
As for shifts in where the NFL’s videos were being uploaded, Vine’s percentage dropped from 2.7% to 0.1%, as you would expect. But YouTube also dropped from 40.2% to 29.8%. Facebook decreased from 24.6% to 20.6%. On the other hand, Instagram increased from 4.2% to 9.3%. And once again, the biggest beneficiary was “other platforms,” which jumped from 28.3% to 40.3% of the total.
NHL: Scores High with Facebook Video
In contrast, the NHL hasn’t picked up its pace. It uploaded 7,679 videos to its social video platforms during the 365 days before Vine ceased to be. That was an average of 21 videos a day. And during the 100 days after the announcement, the NHL has uploaded 2,039 videos. This is an average of 20 a day.
However, the NHL has made a line change. The percentage of videos being uploaded to Vine dropped from 3.9% to 0.4%, as you would expect. But YouTube also dropped from 36.2% to 7.3%. Meanwhile, Facebook increased from 21.0% to 26.9% and Instagram increased from 3.9% to 10.5%. And once again, the biggest beneficiary was “other platforms,” which jumped from 35.8% to 54.9% of the total.
MLB: More Opportunities via YouTube
Finally, MLB has spent most of the past 100 days enjoying its off season, so its pattern is very different from the other major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada. The boys of summer at MLB uploaded 73,000 videos to its social video platforms during the 365 days before Vine became bereft of life. That was an average of 200 videos a day. (No, that’s not a hoax, propaganda, or disinformation.)
But, during the 100 days after the announcement, MLB has uploaded 10,100 videos. This is an average of 101 a day. (Yes, that’s more videos a day than the NBA uploads!). And MLB’s lineup hasn’t changed very much. The percentage of videos being uploaded to Vine dropped from 2.2% to 0.5%, as you would expect. However, “other platforms” decreased from 2.1% to 1.8% of the total, unlike the trends in the NBA, NFL, and NHL. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share decreased from 2.2% to 1.9% and Instagram’s share went from 1.2% to 1.1%. On the other hand, YouTube’s share of total uploads increased from 92.3% to 95.0%.
Where Do Sports Brands Go After Vine?
So, before any teens In the Balkans dupe you with fake news about what the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB is doing now Vine is gone, double-check the critical data first. It appears that the NBA and the NFL are uploading significantly more videos now than they were 100 days ago, while the NHL is uploading at the same pace, and MLB has cut back during the off-season – but it is still an uploading at an amazing pace.
It also appears that “other platforms” was the biggest beneficiary for shifts in where the NBA, NFL, and NHL are uploading their videos. But the NBA is also increasing the percentage of videos uploaded to YouTube, while the NFL is increasing the percentage of videos uploaded to Instagram, and the NHL is increasing the percentage of videos to both Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, MLB hasn’t made any significant shifts in the social video platforms that it’s using – but we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the baseball season starts on April 2, 2017.
Those are all very different trends in the digital video marketing business – almost as different as the sports themselves. So, watch them all. Each one can teach us some valuable – but different — lessons.
Based on the critical data and trends mentioned above, let me share this tactical advice: Don’t focus too closely on where each of the four major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada is getting the most views. Even before “loops” became an ex-metric, video marketers knew that different video platforms had different definitions of a “view.” Instead, look at where the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB are uploading their videos. Those efforts have hard costs associated with them. So, shifts from one social video platform to another probably indicate what’s working – and what isn’t. That’s what I meant when I said they’re voting with their feet.
And let me close with this strategic insight: Based on these shifts – which are in different directions – it is worth asking, “How are each of the four major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada measuring the success of their multi-platform video strategy?” Are they using brand lift, engagements, online purchases, “butts in seats,” or some other KPI. That’s what I’d want to know if I was in their sneakers, cleats, skates, or shoes.