Facebook brings together the world’s largest community of sports fans, which includes 650 million people who are connected to at least one sports Page. Facebook Live is a powerful way sports publishers can connect with this global audience, as it gives fans unprecedented access to the action, taking them on the field and in the locker room, and inviting them to interact directly with their favorite players, coaches and media personalities.
Leagues, teams, athletes and sports media are experimenting with a wide variety of Facebook Live formats.
1. BEHIND THE SCENES
Sports publishers use Facebook Live to give fans a front-row seat to the action.
- When the Cavaliers captured Cleveland’s first professional sports title in 52 years, only a select few could physically be in the champagne-soaked locker room. The team used Facebook Live to help Cavalier faithful virtually take part in the celebration.
- FC Barcelona went live immediately after it clinched La Liga title, bringing fans onto the pitch as the club sang its victory chant.
- The NFL‘s annual Pro Bowl celebrates the league’s best players. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry brought fans onto the field for player introductions.
- Leagues use Facebook Live to take fans behind the scenes for pregame warmups. This past postseason, the NBA went live to stream Stephen Curry‘s must-see warmup routine, while Major League Baseball has been going live for batting practice during the playoffs this fall.
- Publishers employ Facebook Live to deliver behind-the-scenes second screen programming. FOX Sports went live from the broadcast booth during this season’s Ohio State-Oklahoma football game, while FOX Soccer went live for second screen analysis during the penalty kicks that decided the 2016 Copa América Centenario champion. Meanwhile, WWE wrestler Cesaro provided ringside analysis and entertainment during a recent Monday Night Raw.
- Facebook Live is a way for athletes to share personal moments with their fans. Brazilian Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa went live for a Crazy Kart race between his young son, Felipinho, and Australian F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo. The video gave Massa’s fans an intimate and entertaining look at his life off the track.
People comment ten times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos. Athletes and sports journalists are taking advantage of this interactive format by engaging in first-person Q&As with their fans.
- Before his final race at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Michael Phelps used Facebook Live to answer questions from fans and confirm his retirement from competitive swimming.
- Members of the Mexico national football team went live prior to the 2016 Copa América Centenario to chat directly with fans and provide a unique look at how the squad was preparing for the tournament.
- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has a regular Live series, “Fan Mail Fly-By,” in which he opens and reads fan mail live on Facebook.
- Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt recently did a Q&A from Facebook New York, where he revealed his dreams of playing football for Manchester United, why comedian Kevin Hart has become his new inspiration, and how he was so star struck by Beyoncé that he was only able to say a few words.
- Sports journalists are turning to Facebook Live to have a two-way conversation with their audiences. For example, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith went live when news broke that Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, delivering an impassioned take on the NBA star’s decision and interacting directly with fans.
3. LIVE SHOWS
Teams and sports media go live to broadcast full-length shows on Facebook. Doing so enables sports publishers to deliver interactive programming to an engaged audience.
- Bleacher Report broadcasts live fantasy football shows such as “Waiver Wire Weekly” and “Sunday Fantasy Live.” Viewers can engage with Bleacher Report’s fantasy football expert to get their line-up questions answered on air.
- FOX Sports produces live football shows that not only incorporate expert opinions, but also stimulate fan interaction through polls and debate questions in the comments section.
- Real Madrid broadcast its Champions League Final preview, getting fans ready for what would be the club’s record 11th title in the storied competition.
- The Golden State Warriors produced “Warriors Live,” an hour-long show from the team’s media day. The program featured interviews with players, as well as preseason analysis.
4. PRESS CONFERENCES
Facebook is where the largest real-time social media audience comes together to talk about sports’ biggest moments. While many of these moments happen live on the field, the conversation on Facebook often continues after the clock runs out. To extend this dialogue with fans, leagues and teams broadcast press conferences via Facebook Live.
- The Denver Broncos used Facebook Live to broadcast Peyton Manning’s retirement press conference in March, giving fans the opportunity to hear from, and comment on, the quarterback’s emotional goodbye to football.
- Major League Baseball is utilizing Facebook Live for press conferences this postseason, allowing fans to tune in as managers and players break down the action before and after the game.
- Some teams employ Facebook Live to present a unique spin on the traditional press conference. For example, Manchester United hosted a fun and informal Q&A with Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard to help introduce the club’s new away kit.
5. LIVE GAMES
Sports publishers are experimenting with Facebook Live to deliver full games. This enables publishers to not only produce interactive and social broadcasts, but also extend the reach of their content.
- Wayne Rooney’s Testimonial Match between English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Everton was shown live on Facebook. Those who tuned in were able to chat virtually with other fans, send well wishes to Rooney, and learn how to donate to his foundation.
- In the build-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, nine USA Basketball men’s and women’s exhibition games were broadcast via Facebook Live, giving fans around the world the opportunity to watch the game’s brightest stars prepare for the Games.
- This fall, Bleacher Report is showing high school football games exclusively via Facebook Live. Tailored to a millennial audience, the Bleacher Report productions feature such elements as audience interaction with broadcasters, fan polling, unique camera angles, sports performance metrics, and the integration of Instagram Stories.
- The World Surf League frequently broadcasts its competitions via Facebook Live, allowing fans to watch the sport’s top surfers tackle the world’s best waves.
FACEBOOK LIVE TIPS FOR SPORTS PUBLISHERS
- Schedule your live video: Verified Pages can now schedule live videos that are published via the Facebook Live API. Doing so gives your fans a heads-up on your upcoming video, helping to build anticipation and an audience before the broadcast begins.
- Embed your live video: As soon as a broadcast is scheduled or begins, publishers can embed it on their own websites to help amplify its reach.
- Try going live at regular times: Publishers who go live at a regular time have the opportunity to create “appointment viewing,” which can increase repeat tune-in because people know when and where to expect your content.
- Video-only mode: One of the reasons people love watching live videos on Facebook is the interactivity, as people comment and use reactions to engage with broadcasters and other viewers. However, we know that viewers watching live sports sometimes want to watch the game without seeing comments or reactions. You can remind people that they have the option of activating a “video-only mode” by swiping right on the screen. To restore the interactive components, they can simply swipe left.
Share your video: To help your live video reach more fans, leverage your ecosystem. Ask all parties involved with your video, such as leagues, teams, athletes, sports media and branded content partners, to share the post on their own Pages.