YouTuber Deestroying and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will present during YouTube's Brandcast in May 2023.
YouTube has been betting big on the NFL to grow its subscriber base, and content creators have been crucial in that effort.
After YouTube committed $2 billion a year to secure the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, YouTube TV grew from 5 million subscribers in 2022 to more than 8 million this year. Enlisting some of YouTube's top creators to promote NFL Sunday Ticket increased engagement among tens of millions of users, the league said.
“We can bring together people's favorite creators with much of what you traditionally associate with TV around professional sports and the NFL,” said Christian Oestlien, vice president of product management at YouTube TV. “By bringing these two worlds together, we can truly open up the NFL to a whole new generation of fans.”
A subscription to YouTube TV costs $73 per month, with an additional annual fee of $349 for access to NFL Sunday Ticket.
YouTube TV tapped top YouTube stars, including lifestyle creators, vloggers and sports creators, to attract new audiences to the NFL. The creators attended NFL games during the first season of the partnership, sharing content and working with advertisers to increase engagement.
The NFL, in turn, launched several shows on YouTube, such as “Creator of the Week,” to help promote creators on the sidelines. Those YouTube shorts featured creators such as Sean Evans – host of the chicken wing-centric interview show Hot Ones – and Ninja, a professional Battle Royale player and streamer.
The parties call the approach a 'helmets off strategy', with the aim of increasing the breadth of content surrounding the football season.
“It's another way for us to expand our messaging and, even more, the lifestyle around football,” said Ian Trombetta, senior vice president of social media, influencer and content marketing at the NFL. “There are so many new fans coming in, not just in the US, but worldwide.”
YouTube accounted for 8.5% of total TV viewing time in December, surpassing other major streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, according to Nielsen.
While YouTube's total viewership fell last year, Tom Rogers, media expert and executive chairman of Oorbit, the gaming content sharing platform, noted that a significant portion of live TV streaming growth last quarter, according to Nielsen. attributed to YouTube TV. Rogers emphasized that the advantage during that period was offering Sunday Ticket.
“NFL Sunday Ticket gives us a great way to work with a very good partner with very valuable content and see how it works,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of YouTube parent Alphabet, said Thursday during an interview with CNBC's “Squawk Box .” “It's been great so far, but we will deliver a disciplined ROI [return on investment] frame.”
Attracting new, younger fans
One of the biggest NFL creator collaborations was with Donald De La Haye, known online as Deestroying, a sports creator with more than 12 million followers across platforms. De La Haye was recently signed to the United Football League to play for the San Antonio Brahmas.
“It brings a new audience to the game that I love so much,” said De La Haye. “It just helps build that audience and make everyone a fan of the game.”
Lifestyle creator Pierson Wodzynski — who has 24 million followers across platforms but hasn't previously delved into sports-related content — found her place in YouTube's NFL strategy by documenting her journey, using every mode of transportation to achieve a San Francisco 49ers game to come. The video was viewed 1.4 million times.
De La Haye, Wodzynski and Evans will appear in a YouTube TV ad that will air during the Super Bowl.
Screenshot of the Super Bowl ad on YouTube TV featuring Donald De La Haye, Pierson Wodzynski and Sean Evans
The creator partnerships have been helpful in attracting a younger demographic.
“I don't think the NFL could have created the ratings increase this season without a younger audience showing up,” Rogers said. “We know it's very difficult to reach a younger audience through TV marketing because they watch relatively less, so I suspect the league's use of influencers was very important for the ratings.”
They've also increased NFL content from off the field.
Influencers like Alix Earle and Kristin Juszczyk, both in romantic relationships with NFL players, went viral this season by sharing glimpses of their game day experiences. Juszczyk also gained recognition for her creation of custom-made game outfits, which turned heads when worn by pop icon Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes, wife of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Swift had her own impact on social media this season, after reports of her relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went viral online.
Travis Kelce and his brother Jason, a center for the Philadelphia Eagles, have their own podcast called New Heights. It is hosted on YouTube and has been viewed more than 670 million times.
YouTube's global head of brand marketing, Angela Courtin, said the strategy with content creators this season was to invite a wide range of audiences into every aspect of the NFL experience.
“I have to say that these creators are equal if not better than any other channel I would use in my immediate plan,” Courtin said. “They exceeded our ROI benchmarks so much that we will boost them next season.”