What 2020 Holds For TikTok In Sports

    • As 2019 gives way to 2020, many sports entities are reflecting on the rapid ascension of social media app TikTok.
    • Front Office Sports spoke with numerous people across the sports industry about their company's TikTok involvement and how it'll grow in 2020.

Daily Newsletter

Sign up and see why influential business executives call it a “morning must-read.”

tiktok-in-sports-roundtable
Photo Credit: Thomas Trutschel-Photothek via Getty Images

A new year means new opportunities. For many in the sports industry, that means doing more with social media platform TikTok.

Thus far, numerous sports properties have found success on TikTok. Leagues ranging from UFC to the WSL have built a strong following. Sports media outlets like Barstool Sports and ESPN have created new avenues to sharing unique content on TikTok. Even team mascots like Benny the Bull and Cosmo the Cougar have established themselves as prominent figures on the app.

With just a few weeks left in 2019, Front Office Sports reached out to a variety of people across the sports industry about two topics: how their team, league or company differentiate their usage of TikTok from other social media platforms, and how they see their TikTok involvement evolving in 2020.

Erika Nardini, Barstool Sports CEO

How do you differentiate Barstool’s TikTok presence from its other social media platforms? 

We only think about the piece of content, the audience, and the platform. When you look at our podcast versus our Instagram and Twitter, all three are different versus the blogs. They have a different mix of brands in them. They have a different mix of personalities. What we will do is find the right voice, the right personality, the right mix, the right frequency and the right content for TikTok.

How do you see Barstool’s relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

One of the things about Barstool is that we have a chance with TikTok to be very early. When we look at Facebook, we were pretty late. We didn’t focus on Facebook and YouTube until I got here. We have the chance to get in on the ground floor and to understand the platform and to adapt and grow as the platform adapts and grows.

Ryan Spoon, ESPN SVP of Social and Digital Content

How do you differentiate ESPN’s TikTok presence from its other social media platforms? 

You will see that a lot of our takes and the content created is with a focus on music and energy and the timing of how that fits with a play or an emotion. I think storytelling is the wrong word, but there is a story kind of arc to even a 15-second video with music as the backdrop in a way that is very different than the content we might create elsewhere.

How do you see ESPN’s relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

This is true of all our partners [like TikTok]: they’re all evolving so quickly and so rapidly that I see the ability for us to create different offerings, changing quarter-by-quarter our learning and our ramping of how to do a better job and how to participate in that community will continue to grow.

Jen Millet, Golden State Warriors Senior Vice President of Marketing

How do you differentiate the Warriors’ TikTok presence from their other social media platforms?

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, which are sort of “sound off,” TikTok welcomes it with the sound-on feature bringing music to the forefront of the experience. As we think about content creation, it’s really about pairing two elements: great content that we have just from our team and our players and our gameday and then pairing that with culturally and socially relevant music is something that we’re leaning into.

How do you see the Warriors’ relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

I love the possibilities around the crossover with music. So how do we work together in bringing basketball and music culture more prominently aligned? That’s something that we’re interested in not just because of our basketball team, but because we’ve just opened [the new Chase Center] where we’re going to be hosting a lot of concerts and we’re looking for things that bring this intersection of culture together, basketball and music. We’d love to work with TikTok to explore that more and how do we bring that to the fans.

Marissa Daly, Los Angeles Rams Vice President and General Manager of Media

How do you differentiate the Rams’ TikTok presence from their other social media platforms? 

To be successful on TikTok, you want to make sure you’re capitalizing on what’s happening there because then that becomes things that people are following. If you’re following a certain hashtag, you want to make sure we’re in there too. Yes, you want to differentiate yourself, but you also want to take advantage of what’s happening on the TikTok platform so people can organically find it.

How do you see the Rams’ relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

We are moving into arguably the nicest stadium on Planet Earth. What we get to program from a content and media standpoint is so exciting – it’s literally what I lay awake all night thinking about. How TikTok plays into that – we want to make sure that fans, young and old, male and female, all want to be a part of what the Rams are going to go through. We have a uniform coming out, we have new apps coming out. We have so many new things that are going to be great opportunities for our fans and ways for them to engage with our brand. And TikTok is an important aspect of that.

Chris Littmann, NASCAR Director of Social Content

How do you differentiate NASCAR’s TikTok presence from its other social media platforms? 

We consider Twitter our pulse of the industry. It’s the platform where we know most of our drivers, teams, and executives up through the league-sanctioning body are active. Instagram is one that we know we skew a little younger and maybe take a different tact as far as being a little less newsy. Facebook is a little bit of an older audience, a little bit more skewed toward longer video. For us, I think it’s more carving out [content on TikTok] that’s different from those others. The content itself can sometimes be the exact same content – it’s just all about how it’s communicated and framed.

How do you see NASCAR’s relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

We’re going to be nimble. We’re going to be thoughtful. I’m spending a ton of time [on TikTok] because I’m enjoying trying to get inside the head of the average TikTok user who may know nothing about NASCAR. I want that to be a positive experience for them. We’re just very open to learning at this point, and I don’t think we have this illusion that we have the entire thing figured out.

Jen Kavanagh, Philadelphia Eagles Senior Vice President of Marketing and Media

How do you differentiate the Eagles’ TikTok presence from their other social media platforms? 

It goes back to having a native mindset and asking yourself: what is it that people love about TikTok? What is it that people love about our team and our brand and how can we combine those three things to create really good posts that fans are likely to share on their “For You” page. Where you can find a lot of success? The combination of being native and personalized for the platform and putting forward the things that people love about our team.

How do you see the Eagles’ relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

2020 and beyond represents a period in which we will continue to increase our commitment to entertainment. Our mission truly is to entertain Eagles fans 365 days a year, everywhere they are. As we are creating more streaming content, more podcasting content, bringing more characters and voices into our Eagles world, we can look at TikTok as a means of connecting people to those individuals, new players and rookies via this particular platform.

Ryan Huzjak, Pittsburgh Steelers Vice President of Sales and Marketing

How do you differentiate the Steelers’ TikTok presence from their other social media platforms?

We have folks on our social media team that their jobs are to understand the uniqueness of the platform, understand the activities that occur in those platforms and structure what the Steelers do into those platforms and what plays best. What it is, is trial and error – try some things that seem like they would work and then measure and understand how was the response, why was it responded to and then ultimately do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

How do you see the Steelers’ relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

During the season, we’ll want to be very reactive to moments that occur on the field and often and try to do our best to capture those and deliver those in the platforms. I think once the season is over, we’ll look back and it’s a little bit of reflection and analysis on the numbers and the performance and then they start to build more of a long-term strategy for [TikTok].

Dave Shaw, UFC Senior Vice President of International and Content

How do you differentiate UFC’s TikTok presence from its other social media platforms? 

This is all about our athletes. There’s a kind of fun-loving and lighthearted element to TikTok as well as an irreverence that allows us to showcase our athletes in a way that they don’t typically get shown in. It allows us to be playful with our audience while profiling and showcasing what incredible athletes they are. Also, highlighting the personalities of our athletes is incredibly important to our audience – irrespective of how old you are.

How do you see the UFC’s relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

One of the ways that we can continue to innovate is by working more closely with our athletes. So it’s not only athletes who are on the global channels or the regional channels, but it’s our athletes using TikTok for their own purposes and their brand extensions. There are tons we can do and I think given our global expansion, we’re going to see a lot more opportunity, not only here in the US but outside.

James Heuser, Washington Capitals Senior Director of Digital Media

How do you differentiate the Capitals’ TikTok presence from their other social media platforms? 

We’re aware and believe that the content that goes on TikTok is completely unique to TikTok. Where we might push content from TikTok to other platforms to get more eyeballs on it just because we have so many followers, the hope is to have unique content on that platform that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

How do you see the Capitals’ relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

We’re just not utilizing it as much as we need to. It’s taking the same sort of content we’ve already been using, which is what we think are hysterical little moments with our players. Whether it’s something that happens during a game or outside of the game and pairing that with really great music and putting it up. For a defined “here’s the actual plan of what it is,” it’s still a work in progress for sure.

Tim Greenberg, World Surf League Chief Community Officer

How do you differentiate the WSL’s TikTok presence from its other social media platforms?

In other content platforms, we look at best practices and we want to make sure that we’re creating content that works for the platform. But on TikTok, we’re actually looking at what’s working out there in the community and then creating content to match what’s happening. So in a lot of ways it’s very different than anything we do. We like to include ourselves on conversations that are happening on other platforms – but this is just so easy for us to execute.

How do you see the WSL’s relationship with TikTok evolving in 2020?

As our sport is put on the world stage [at the 2020 Summer Olympics,] it’s going to be really important for us to keep that in mind and have a very focused, deliberate content strategy heading into 2020 that focuses on supporting our athletes. So as the platform does create enhanced tools and more opportunities for us to reach newer audiences, we want to make sure that we’re really focused on what’s going to drive our business and that consumer journey that connects back to the WSL. So while we do program content that is a bit more aspirational and lifestyle, we also want to make sure that we’re profiling our athletes and really giving them the opportunity to shine as they head into 2020.

Some questions and responses have been revised for clarity purposes.