Over the past 15 years, a plethora of grassroots sports streaming platforms have been launched to cater to amateur and local sporting fans. To begin, these platforms were run by enthusiasts and focused on weekend leagues, university team competitions and local schools matches. They were perceived as a novelty, with footage often captured using basic hand-held cameras and other low-cost equipment.
Nowadays, it is no longer unusual to see grassroots and amateur sport streamed online. In fact, people have come to expect that live stream services will be offered as standard at major schools’ leagues, university competitions and amateur championships. The platforms themselves have grown into fully developed businesses, with dedicated teams of camera operators, reporters, and live commentators providing a professional and engaging experience for their viewers.
A Growing Opportunity
The growth in streaming and on-demand platforms has been made possible by developments in streaming technology, 5G adoption and digital edge services that lower latency and reduce lag. And the streaming of local events is only going to become more common. The market for global video streaming was valued at USD 59.14 billion in 2021 and is expected to continue growing at an annual rate of 21.3% from 2022 to 2030 as the adoption of new technology and innovations like blockchain and AI are used to improve video quality.
In the United States, live and on-demand streaming platform Runnerspace.com, which covers athletics, road races, and cross-country events, now receives 26 million unique visitors and 335 million page views per year. Its equivalent in the UK, Vinco Sport, is also going through a period of prodigious growth, culminating in the platform’s launch of Vinco plus in April 2022 to provide premium content and more diverse coverage offerings.
This phenomenon is not limited to the world of running either; pretty much every sport has its own platform or streaming support service. Some examples used in the UK include grassroots-football.uk, Filmmymatch.com, which originally focused on rugby but now features an expanded offering, and DIY streaming support services like FrogBox, which enables cricket clubs to stream their matches on YouTube.
This increase in video streaming coincides with the trend away from more traditional media, like television, and towards formats that allow for more niche and localised content that viewers feel personally connected to. Initially, this demand fuelled the influencer bubble. However, brands and viewers alike have become disenchanted with the saturated and often insincere influencer market. They are looking for content that is significant to them, and what could be more meaningful than tuning in to watch your family, friends, and favourite local athletes compete in sport?
Early beneficiaries of the streaming boom are the sports brands that were already supporting local grassroots events as part of their community engagement policies. When these events began to be live-streamed, these sponsors automatically benefitted, with the likes of Saucony—which supports the British Milers Club athletics events—finding their logo broadcast on the Vinco live stream and appearing organically all over Instagram in athletes’ photos.
Not only is this a relatively low-cost way to boost brand exposure, but it also has a positive impact for communities. Corporate sponsored events help support youth and community grassroots sport, promote people’s overall health and wellbeing, and contribute towards developing the next generation of sporting talent.
With thousands of events to choose from, the potential for other brands to form fruitful partnerships with grassroots teams and event organisers is limitless. Gone are the days when sports partnerships should be limited to high-level events that are broadcast on TV. When planning sponsorship and community engagement initiatives, companies should also consider the huge and largely untapped potential of live-streamed grassroots sport.