Beyond gaming: How sports brands are marketing on Twitch

October 26, 2021 | By: Matt Miller, Sr. Copywriter

Gaming is at the heart of Twitch. And while it may be best known for watching streamers survive an alien attack or fend off a fearsome monster, the interactive livestreaming service has increasingly become a destination for other genres of content as well.

“Our non-gaming content has quadrupled over the past three years, and now we’re home to all types of content for all types of viewers,” said Twitch’s Head of Sales Sarah Iooss at the top of her keynote at Amazon Ads’ unBoxed conference.1 “And the reason why is that streamers are bringing their whole selves to Twitch, streaming more than just gameplay – they’re streaming the other interests and things that make them special, too.”

Whether it’s cooking or exercise or art or music, Twitch is attracting creators and audiences who share a broad spectrum of passions. Among those chefs and musicians are professional athletes as well. The Twitch sports category features content from organizations like the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.

“One of the genres that’s particularly exciting and has a passionate fan base on Twitch is sports,” Iooss said. “In fact, sports are continuously growing on Twitch, as athletes and leagues use Twitch to engage with fans and offer more interactive viewing experiences.”

The NBA's slam dunk with basketball fans

At unBoxed, National Basketball Association CMO Kate Jhaveri joined Iooss to discuss how streaming content and sports can bring audiences together. The streaming landscape is constantly evolving, and in 2020, more than one-third of consumers spent at least 5 hours streaming media daily, with younger adult viewers streaming much more than the average.2 As consumers enjoy content across a breadth of services, Iooss noted that marketers should consider shifting strategies to account for this new landscape.

The NBA has noticed this shift as well.

“We’ve adjusted our tactics to reach this new generation of fans with varied viewing habits. Our approach is to meet the younger adult generation where they are, creating personal experiences and to be authentic,” Jhaveri said. Part of this strategy involves “expanding our digital and social offerings to create a more customizable and personal second-screen experience for fans no matter where they are,” Jhaveri said.

To reach this generation of sports fans, part of the NBA’s strategy involves meeting audiences on Twitch in ways that resonate with younger adult viewers. Jhaveri explained how, in order to reach new audiences and engage existing fans in Brazil, the NBA worked with streaming influencer Gaules to be Twitch’s exclusive streaming partner for their games. “We realized that fans want to watch basketball on their terms,” Jhaveri said.

Meanwhile, in the US, the NBA brought its “That’s Game” campaign to Twitch.

“We leveraged popular streamers and basketball superstars to create custom content that resonates with new and existing fans,” Jhaveri said.

Launched ahead of the 2021 NBA playoffs, the campaign focused on the cultural impact of the sport. The NBA partnered with eight Twitch creators who shared their own stories and what the game meant to them through sponsored influencer custom streams.

“It really did bring the spirit of the NBA to life, and it told our story in a way that resonated with the Twitch community--straight from their favorite streamers,” Jhaveri said. “And because it’s Twitch, we had to bring out the goods and reward viewers in the form of subs (subscriptions) all throughout the stream, and they absolutely loved it.”

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1 Twitch Internal Data
2 Nielsen, Total Audience Report, Q2’20