Since the early stages of 2019, sports media company after sports media company flocked to TikTok as the next social media app to tap into. But while some sports properties have been using TikTok for as many as three years, NBC Sports is barely a week into its own launch on the ByteDance-owned platform.
The reason for the long launch is that NBC Sports never tries to create another social media account without having already done its homework, according to coordinator of social consumer engagement Kylie Callura.
“Whenever we launch a new platform or even just a new brand account on a platform that we already use, we want to make sure that we are completely and 100% ready to launch on that app in the most effective way possible,” she said. “We didn’t want to look back on the launch of a brand new app [like TikTok], especially one that has so much potential for an audience that is so much younger… and be like, ‘oh man, I wish we could have done that a little bit better.’”
NBC Sports’ introduction to TikTok was initially centered around the expected biggest sporting event of the year: the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Once it became clear that it would be postponed – ultimately to July 2021 – the social media app began brainstorming other ways the sports media company could benefit by being on the platform.
Even if NBC Sports was not one of the first sports companies to join TikTok, Jenna McNaney, growth strategist for sports and gaming partnerships at TikTok, says that right now has been as great of a time as ever to activate on the platform.
“We’ve seen a big influx of teams, leagues and sports publishers turning to the platform to remain connected to fans during this time, as TikTok has proven to be a resource to authentically connect with various communities that brands won’t necessarily find on other platforms,” McNaney said. “There is a huge appetite for sports content on the platform, and we’ve seen sports as a whole garner a ton of traction since the start of the sports hiatus.”
With deep relationships with long-standing sports properties like Sunday Night Football and the Olympics, Callura saw TikTok as one way for those established, more traditional brands to get younger, thanks to the fact that 60% of TikTok’s audience is under the age of 24, she said.
Given its Olympics ties, NBC Sports is aiming to use Olympic athletes to promote their sports and the biennial event on TikTok. For “Go Skateboarding Day” on June 21 – which, coincidentally, fell on Father’s Day – the media company used Heimana Reynolds, a Team USA skateboarder and Tokyo Games hopeful, to show TikTok users how to perform a kickflip.
TikTok will have a renewed focus for NBC Sports as it preps for 2021 as well as the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
“That’s exciting for us because we are introducing a new athlete to a really young audience with a sport that maybe they’re not super familiar with,” Callura said.
Callura is also keen on growing NBC Sports’ TikTok profile with the help of the app’s sports influencers. It already boasts a relationship with Alex Presley, a retired MLB player who, after wrapping up his eight-year career, has found his second career on the app. His “Quarantine Olympics” challenges have helped him grow to more than 1.4 million and 38.2 million followers and likes, respectively.
“We have stuff in the works with him as well,” Callura said. “We’re excited about not only promoting him but having him help us reach a younger audience on an app that already knows him.”
In the meantime, NBC Sports has already incorporated its SNF coverage into its TikTok presence. Its first-ever video of Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram during a press conference is its most-engaged-with post on the platform, drawing nearly 238,000 views and more than 61,300 likes. Callura is also excited to create posts centered around interviews featuring NBC Sports on-air talents like Mike Tirico and Michele Tafoya as sports brands learn to adhere to TikTok’s recent music regulations that limit pop-culture sounds and instead encourage original music.
“NBC Sports is uniquely positioned on TikTok, as are many other sports teams, due to their access to their own unique sound library such as broadcast audio,” McNaney said. “We’ve seen original audio perform extremely well on the platform, and it’s a great way to inspire users to create content with your own sound clip.”
But even as live sports like the Premier League and PGA Tour appear on the network, Callura says that live content is not the end-all, be-all for it on TikTok. Videos that are recorded live or in the moment can resurface onto people’s “For You” pages many days later, which allows the company to be varied with its content. This has encouraged NBC Sports to be as experimental with its content as it can – which McNaney thinks has paid off so far.
“NBC Sports has been publishing a diverse set of content that has been comedic, heartwarming, and educational,” McNaney said. “They’re also showcasing their brand’s personality by engaging with fans in the comment section, which is another great way to show the community you’re listening.”
As of right now, Callura and NBC Sports are still looking to steadily increase its TikTok following before experimenting with other features like live streaming and monetization. That way, they can understand who they are reaching on the app, which will help them improve their approach.
“The biggest motto that we have is – you can’t understand a platform as a producer if you don’t understand the platform as a consumer,” Callura said. “We are right now focused on using [TikTok] as consumers outside of the NBC Sports space and also the sports space. We want everyone on our team scrolling through TikTok, finding different areas of the app that they’re interested in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sports-related content because the more that we are on the app as consumers, and we find things that we like on there, the more that we can make our page fit the app.”