How brands are using Twitch for sports marketing

The NBA, DoorDash and American Express used Twitch to connect with Gen Z and Millennials.

How brands are using Twitch for sports marketing

As people searched for ways to stay entertained during quarantine and seek out connection as in-person socializing was put on hold, gaming emerged as a powerhouse.

Enter Twitch, Amazon’s live streaming platform for gamers. Fans flocked to the platform to watch their favorite creators play games and engage with them  and each other  over chat. Users could also support their favorite creators by purchasing a subscription to their channel.

Twitch’s popularity soared in 2020. The platform had 9.9 million active streamers in January 2021, an increase from 3.9 million at the start of 2020. In the same month, viewers watched more than 2 billion hours of content on the platform. On average, 30 million users visit Twitch daily – up from 17.5 million at the beginning of 2020, according to Twitch.

The NBA capitalized on Twitch’s growth with a brand campaign for the 2021 Playoffs, bringing its “That’s Game" campaign, focused on basketball’s cultural impact, to the Twitch community. Twitch partnered with eight creators, including BigCheeseKIT, GoldGlove and TSM_Viss, to share their “Game” stories with fans in sponsored influencer streams. The NBA also gifted fans subscriptions to their favorite creators’ channels.

Twitch fans watched over 17.2 million minutes of content from those streams, totalling more than 4.2 million viewers. Engagement was also high, with more than 66.4 thousand messages sent in Twitch’s chat feature during the streams.

“Sports is a growing part of the service,” Sarah Iooss, head of sales at Twitch, told Campaign US. “It's the same notion of a community coming together to interact and be with each other. Except instead of around a certain game, it's around a sport. As we grow beyond gaming, it's to see that sports has cemented its place on Twitch.”

The NBA is also bringing its brand partners along for the ride, especially those looking to reach Gen Z and millennial audiences on the platform. Seventy-one percent of the Twitch community is between the ages of 16 and 34, according to Twitch.

DoorDash and American Express, NBA’s official marketing partners, tapped into the Twitch community with innovative campaigns around the NBA Playoffs, in partnership with Twitch’s Brand Partnership Studio.

DoorDash sponsored its first-ever live, branded original content series on Twitch called Game Day At Your Door. The series, created with agency of record Wavemaker, featured Twitch creator Dom2K and NBA legend Channing Frye highlighting the best performances of the NBA playoffs.

“Sports are a natural DoorDash occasion that we continue to invest in, and as the Official on-demand delivery platform of the NBA, we strive to create unique, memorable fan experiences,'' Vanessa Carr, DoorDash’s director of partnership marketing, told Campaign US. “With Game Day At Your Door, we combined sports, food and culture to create a first-of-its-kind series that truly resonated with basketball fans and the Twitch community alike.” 

American Express, the official card sponsor of the NBA, rolled out its Triple-Double offer for when a player scored a Triple-Double in a playoff game. The next day, card members could get 32% off at the NBAStore online for 24 hours. To promote the offer, Twitch hosts Devin Williams and Marcelas Howard sounded the Triple-Double Watch Alert alarm, American Express’ customized branded Twitch alert, to inform fans of the benefit. Viewers could also engage in the chat for a chance to win prizes, such as Twitch gift cards.

In total, Twitch viewers watched more than 11 million minutes of content that included the Amex Triple-Double Watch Alert.

“Triple-Doubles have become a big part of the modern NBA game and we are always looking for ways to bring our card members into the action,” Jill Hamilton, vice president global media at American Express, said. “Since Twitch is all about catching the most exciting moments in real-time, we teamed up with them to help our card members feel part of the experience in a way that can only happen on Twitch.”

Although Twitch is known for its video game streams, the platform is growing communities in other areas. Non-gaming content has quadrupled over the last three years with particular growth in music and sports, according to Twitch.

Twitch has hefty competition on the live streaming front (see: YouTube, Instagram and TikTok), but it’s community and monetization tools, including paid subscriptions, the ability for viewers to cheer on creators and direct ad revenue sharing with creators, set it apart. Twitch’s real-time chat feature allows fans to interact and creators to monetize at the same time.

“Twitch is about community above all else,” Iooss said. “Advertising is a creative and emotional field. Twitch creates a great canvas for that, because people play a role in the entertainment. It has some of the hallmarks that television has, because you can expect to see your favorite streamer coming back at the same time on the same days. It creates a meeting point for communities to come together.”

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