5 min read

Q&A With Twitter Australia Head Of Sports Partnerships, Olly Wilton


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ith the suspension or cancellation of live sports around the world due to COVID-19 in March, sporting organisations and clubs turned to digital, producing more social media content and seeing more engagement than ever before.

Twitter Australia head of sports partnerships, Olly Wilton, spoke to Ministry of Sport about the role of social media in the sports industry, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how platforms can boost the commercial value of sports organisations.

How has Twitter changed its approach to managing its sports partnerships during COVID-19?

We’ve always had a symbiotic relationship with our sports partners. We work as an extension of our partners’ strategy, providing them with a platform that helps them expand reach, open up new monetisation opportunities, and acts as an additional touchpoint to connect them with a highly engaged audience.

This strategy hasn’t changed during COVID. Our partnerships with brands and sporting organisations have actually become even more important during this time as much of live sport was put on pause. Twitter provided a place for these organisations to continue to create connections, spark conversations and bring communities together.

What would you say to sporting organisations who don’t use Twitter to engage with their audience?

Our data shows the deep-rooted emotional affinity that Aussies have with sport and the role that Twitter has come to play in enhancing their love of the game:

  • 39% of fans said they would get a Tweet tattooed on themselves if it meant being able to meet their favourite player
  • 41% would rather get a follow back from their favourite sports star, than a raise at work

So, for sporting organisations not on the platform, they’re missing opportunities to reach and engage with active fans.

Sports fans want to see and hear from their favourite sporting organisations, so it’s definitely worth a try.

In the absence of live sport, a lot of sporting organisations resorted to flashback footage, and found success in doing so, is this something sporting organisations should always be doing, even when live sport completely returns?

With lockdown changing the norms around attending live sport, Twitter became a saviour in filling a huge void, and we’ve seen Aussies flock to the platform to remain connected with the sporting community. Creating nostalgia is a great way for sporting organisations to stay connected with fans…

It will continue to be a powerful tactic for sporting organisations, even as live sports returns. It provides an opportunity for fans to relive old victories or controversies and to learn more about their favourite sports stars and teams’ histories. By leaning into these nostalgic moments, it sparks connections and conversations with other sporting fans.

Why should sporting organisations look to Twitter to boost their commercial value?

Twitter is the home of sports fans and it provides a platform to reach these individuals when they’re in a discovery mindset. It also provides a great way to extend experiences (beyond the field and linear TV), expand audience reach and open up new monetization opportunities.

7’s AFL ‘Armchair Expert’ content series is a prime example of the value Twitter can add to sports partners. Armchair Expert is a live weekly show that’s exclusive to Twitter, showcasing a full wrap up after every Friday night 7AFL game, and was extended to align with NFL games every Monday night too.

The broadcast regularly saw viewers above 50k+ for each episode and was a valuable platform that enables Channel Seven to reach a younger demo — often harder to reach on linear TV. On the commercial side, we’ve seen six sponsors integrate in-program. And in 2019, we finished with a major highlight seeing Armchair Experts simultaneously extend the show to broadcast.

Is the ‘virtual pub experience’ of Twitter during COVID-19 sustainable as fans continue to make their way back into venues?

We continue to see strong growth in the platform as users flock to Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world, participate in the public conversation and be entertained. Last quarter we saw the biggest year-on-year user growth ever, with global conversations around COVID and ongoing product improvements resulting in a 34% increase in mDAU (monetisable daily active users). This has been a consistent trend — we’ve seen double-digit mDAU growth for more than two years, and we are bullish about our growth prospects for the remainder of 2020 and into next year.

When it comes to sports specifically, our recent research shows the critical role Twitter plays in amplifying the sporting experience. In fact, many see it as the ‘new local pub’. During lockdown, Twitter became something of a saviour in filling a huge sporting void. People flocked to the platform to share in the nostalgia of former joys and now, as sport begins to get underway again, Twitter is continuing to create this virtual pub experience for fans to come together.

In fact, half of fans agree it’s more fun being on Twitter during a game, with the wittiest and most passionate like-minded individuals just a tap away. Furthermore, nearly half (43%) also admitted feeling more connected to those they’ve met on Twitter than in real life — powerful evidence that the strength of online social connections has shaken up how we consume sport forever.

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