As live sports roar back onto screens, brands capture a social-media lift

By TJ Adeshola, head of U.S. Sports Partnerships at Twitter

Live sports are back and sports fans couldn’t be more excited. 

It’s no surprise that communities across the country are welcoming their teams back with open arms. For many, the return of sports brings a sense of normalcy — 67 percent of U.S. fans see sports as a way to engage in something familiar.

Without the roar of packed arenas or the sound of busy sports bars, however, social media will be the place where sports’ most passionate fans go to get an experience. Whether it’s following trending topics or tweets, following the latest news, enhancing their viewing experience or just staying connected to the game, this shift represents a significant cultural moment: action-starved sports fans are talking about every major sport in a once-in-a-lifetime online frenzy, and it creates a powerful opportunity for brands to join the conversation.

New sports landscape — same passionate fans

With content from every league flooding fans’ feeds, there’s a conversation for every moment. Fans on Twitter are part of the action — and they’re engaging with each other — a lot.

For example: when the NWSL returned to the pitch, tweets shot up 244 percent. And with the return of NASCAR and ‎UFC — both increased 254 percent and 272 percent, respectively.

Even though the ‎NBA season was put on hold, ‎#NBATwitter never stopped the clock. With no live games, the conversation shifted to classic highlights, old rivalries and documentaries like ‎ESPN and ‎Netflix’s ‎The Last Dance. Fans and athletes alike couldn’t get enough of the series, tweeting their reactions and reigniting debates about who’s really the greatest of all time. Twitter was the number-one platform for ‎The Last Dance announcement — 5.9 million daily video views of the preview for the highly anticipated documentary, and 4 million more than the second-place platform.

The ‎NBA isn’t the only league mixing it up. The ‎NFL did something it’s never done before, broadcasting the ‎NFL Draft as an online-only event. Twitter was the number-one platform for ‎NFL Draft content, generating 171 million monthly views for draft-related videos, more than any other leading platform.

Turner Sports also reimagined live events, bringing together sports legends for a totally unique charity golf challenge. Athletes live-tweeted from the golf course and wore microphones throughout the match, creating mayhem on the platform. Conversation on Twitter for the charity match was 12 times larger than the last PGA Tour event before the lockdown in March 2020 as fans raged about every moment, including this mind-blowing shot.

Social platform choices drive brand relevance among brands 

Sports are already one of the biggest opportunities to build cultural relevance — and with its historic relaunch, the opportunity is greater than ever. Brands that are on Twitter are 41 percent more likely to be seen as culturally relevant than those not on Twitter.

So while stadiums might have been quiet on opening day, in 2020, social media certainly wasn’t. For the rest of the season, brands that step up to the plate will stay top-of-mind for fans who aren’t going anywhere, despite the challenges of our times.


1. Tokyo 2020 Twitter Insights study conducted by Sparkler and commissioned by Twitter, Nov. 2019. Global.

2. Twitter Internal Data (Semantic Core). Daily Tweet volume average comparing May 1, 2020 – May 31, 2020 vs. June 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020. US Only. Data retrieved July 8, 2020.

3. Twitter Internal. May 2020 vs. April 2020. Global.

4 The ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study. April 2020. US.

5 Tubular Labs. Daily video views from ‎#TheLastDance content. March 31, 2020. US.

6 Tubular Labs. Video views from NFL Draft content. April 2020. Data retrieved July 7, 2020. US.

7 Twitter Internal. March-May, 2020. Global.

8 Kantar & Twitter cultural relevance research, total population,100 US brands tested, Dec 2019; Maru, Twitter Insiders Event Research, US, Dec 2019

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