YouTube and Sports Partnerships

Johnny Keogh, Strategic Partner Manager for Sports, YouTube


YouTube has forever changed the way the world watches its favourite video content – and that has reorganised the sports media ecosystem from top to bottom.


Delivering a presentation on day one of ISC 2024, YouTube strategic partner manager for sports Johnny Keogh explained how the Google-owned platform’s multiple routes to audiences helped deliver the most-watched NFL Super Bowl of all time in February. He showed how Formula 1 was using YouTube multi-language tools to serve different parts of its global audience with the same piece of video. And he explained how the explosive growth of YouTube Shorts – which is now registering 70 billion views per day from 2 billion monthly logged-in users – is changing the game in content discovery.


YouTube, he said, is a “multi-format, multi-device” platform that is now offering sports brands “multiple revenue streams”, including pay-per-view and premium subscriptions.  While the vertical-video Shorts format offers authenticity and intimacy to mobile users, TV-based viewership of YouTube is also growing rapidly.


Those trends are also driving each other. 60% of logged-in users watch both short and long-form content every week – underscoring the need for sports brands to develop holistic strategies on YouTube distribution.


The company is trying to ease the task of taking fans through that content funnel from short-form discovery to long-form commitment. Technical developments include ‘Shorts-linking’, which allows publishers to embed links to longer-form videos to help new fans on their journey.


‘Live redirect’ allows publishers to link from one live stream to another, including third-party and paid streams. DAZN, for example, has used this function to take viewers of live boxing weigh-ins to sign up for the related pay-per-view bouts.


Paid content is becoming a bigger part of the YouTube universe. Alongside its ad-free Premium subscription tier, the company now offers the YouTube Premium platform – an on-site environment for users to discover and watch OTT products like Paramount+ and NFL Game Pass in selected markets.


Nevertheless, sports bodies must also be aware of changes in viewer behaviour driven by digital consumption – particularly among younger audiences. 46% of Gen Z users surveyed by YouTube said they had been introduced to a new sport by an independent content creator; Manchester United fan vlogger Mark Goldbridge drew a total of 300,000 viewers to his live watchalong of the Super Bowl this year.


Johnny Keogh challenged his audience to think about what their creator strategy might look like, pointing to creator collaborations by the likes of Sky Sports as examples of the playful potential of the space.


But he also reminded them of the importance of getting the basics right – like getting highlights videos out as soon as possible, and crafting engaging thumbnail images and copy – to realise YouTube’s true potential. With YouTube analytics helping sports bodies understand where their fanbase is, when they are watching, and what else they are watching, the possibilities for driving growth on and off the platform are considerable.