YouTube and sports have a special relationship. The platform is a go-to destination for fans after a big game or to catch any key moments they might have missed - that’s why we call it the “home of the highlights”. It’s become a place for fans to dive headfirst into the world of sports, whether that’s watching compilations of greatest moments, locker room interviews or countdown content.
This year has been a unique time for sports fans. They’ve had to get creative to get their fill of sports content. As fans eagerly await the return of live sports, we’re taking a look at what Canadians have been watching on YouTube the past few months to stay connected to their favourite sports.
Reliving the magic of epic sports moments
One of the ways fans have stayed entertained is reliving iconic sports moments, from archived replays and old game highlights, to tips and tricks and athlete interviews. According to Google Trends, sports searches for “top 20” on YouTube increased by 250% for the month of May 2020, compared to the same period last year.
To keep viewers engaged, we’ve seen creators, sports leagues and broadcasters create new and innovative content to connect with fans. Sportsnet has leaned into virtual gatherings by bringing fans together through live online watch parties. Remember Bautista’s iconic bat flip? Sportsnet used this moment as a way to bring fans together and relive the moment with Bautista himself.
FIFATV is another great example of bringing fans together. They began uploading full-length classic soccer matches with the hashtag #WorldCupAtHome and encouraged viewers to get involved and suggest other classic matches to rewatch.
Getting to know our favourite athletes
Something interesting to come about while live sports have been on pause has been seeing and learning more about our favourite athletes and how they’re quarantining at home. One of my personal favourites is Canada’s own P.K. Subban, who’s been using his YouTube channel to give fans a glimpse into his everyday life.
When we spoke with Subban about his channel he told us, “It's been a great new way to connect with my fans around the globe, especially during this time. With live sports on pause, YouTube has helped me to stay engaged with my online community and share more about my life off the ice - my content may have even inspired some quarantine haircuts!"
Many other athletes have also used this time to connect with fans - check out the channels from Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler and Raptors very own, Serge Ibaka.
Discovering new sports and building communities
If you had told me a year ago that I would be a fan of competitive marble racing, I wouldn’t have believed you. While it’s been around for a while, marble racing has become incredibly popular as a replacement sport with live sports on pause. What makes marble racing videos so exciting is that they emulate a perfect substitute for those missing televised sports by using multiple cameras, tournament brackets and play-by-play commentary at every turn for the marbles. To give you a sense of how popular the sport has become, Jelle’s Marble Runs videos were viewed over 9 million times globally in March 2020.
Another outcome from the pause of live sports has been watching sports enthusiasts build new communities on YouTube to share their love of the game. Beyond the Court is a group of seven long-time friends and basketball fans that missed live sports so much, they created a YouTube channel to connect with other fans and debate important basketball questions like, “Who is your 2020 NBA MVP?”, recapping Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” and even debating Vince Carter’s Legacy with the Raptors among other NBA based topics.
Despite the pause of live sports, there have been many bright moments that have brought fans together. In what feels like the longest “halftime” in sports history, through YouTube we’ve reflected on the iconic sports moments that moved us, caught a glimpse into the lives of our favourite athletes and found a new love for marbles. While it’s been a unique time to be a sports fan, it's inspired a new love for the game that is unmatched.