It was during the Euro 2012 Championships that Nick Speakman launched @BBCSporf, a Twitter parody page which saw the funny side of sport.
However, at that time, we doubt even he had thoughts of cultivating one of the biggest youth sports media publishers in the world.
But hey, social media – much like sport – is a springboard for individuals to dream big and achieve truly amazing feats – that is of course unless your dream is Arsenal winning a Champions League trophy in the next five years.
October 2016 saw the official launch of SPORF, a highly engaged and reactive sports entertainment community, which now counts over 15 million fans worldwide across a host of social platforms.
But SPORF isn’t your average media brand. Far from. A team of six sports fanatics, the guys have successfully become one of the most recognised names in the business – they have their own football team (SPORF FC) and a cult following of sports megastars.
And while Nick has been at the helm, he hasn’t been alone in his journey.
SPORF’s success is also the result of the creative and commercial direction of Marcello Fabiano (head of sport), Will Brazier (creative manager), and a crack team of talented content creators who have taken the Twitter page and transformed it into a respected sports publisher.
The key to SPORF’s success?
A passion for all sports (not just football) has been the difference for SPORF. They are quite literally everywhere, with eyes on everything from Icelandic handball to Indian kabaddi via rugby league.
But an obsession with sport aside, SPORF have made a name for themselves on the back of a continual stream of engaging, well-timed and creative content.
Their viral stunts have led to epic exposure and partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports brands, personalities and rights holders, including Puma, the Bundesliga, UFC and Juan Mata.
SPORF’s proudest moment? There have been many, but one stunt sticks out in particular for Nick Speakman.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival at Manchester United sent shockwaves through the football world and the wider sports community.
To capitalise on the occasion, the SPORF team created the now iconic ‘Manchester, Welcome to Zlatan’ viral billboard – they did so in 20 minutes. Social media, eh?
“We knew he [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] was signing for Man United that day, so we wanted to show how we can bridge the gap between traditional and social to make people around the world react,” says Nick.
“The billboard’s mystery, location [above the Manchester City club store] and the tone of voice gave it enough power that is was covered by ESPN FC, Eurosport, BBC Sport, and even Zlatan himself was impressed.”
Taking sport online
Where SPORF have succeeded is by bringing the magic, intrigue and passion of sport into an online realm that combines TV with experiential social media to bring fans closer, 24/7.
“There’s so much noise out there in the sports world on social, especially in football. Our cut through is from sharing the stories sports fans want to engage with, not just watch, says Marcello.
“To engage, you have to make fans feel, even if it means pushing a few boundaries. It’s this major key that social gives us which some brands can’t grasp, and where traditional media falls short.”
SPORF in numbers
If Leicester City’s odds-defying season proved anything it’s that you can achieve anything with the right team, and N’Golo Kante.
- 6 SPORF team members (growing rapidly!)
- 15 million worldwide fans, including international sports/entertainment stars like Paul Pogba, Robert Lewandowski, Stormzy, Olly Murs, and Usain Bolt.
- 130+ million monthly video views.
- 25+ million monthly engagements.
- 2x more shareable Facebook content then some of the competitors.
SPORF’s eye for engaging sports content is evident in every one of their viral stunts and videos.
Funnily enough, one of the brand’s biggest viral hitters should feature a UFC icon in Conor McGregor. The now infamous incident shows McGregor losing his cool and throwing bottles of water at the Diaz brothers at a press conference.
The video generated over 13 million views, one million engagements and a reach of 40 million people, highlighting the scope of SPORF’s burgeoning following.
The future of SPORF
Of course, what makes SPORF different to others in the space is that they don’t have to rely on traffic from their social channels to a website to be able to monetise.
Rather, their social-first approach has allowed the guys to produce platform-specific content that is highly engaging and encourages brand interaction and involvement.
“We [SPORF] want to be the most agile and engaged sports entertainment publisher – with the ability to deliver everything from live sporting events to funny and relatable memes, and everything in between,” says Marcello.
Video and LIVE form the backbone of SPORF’s content strategy and new emerging technologies allow them to test how and when this content is to be delivered to their fans.
Their power is also in the 15 million fans who can one day become the next faces or content creators for the brand – that’s right, the door is always open for Sunday league memes and fan content.
“Faced social brands in the space have far greater engagement and interaction with their fans,” explains Will.
“This is something we’ve identified as being a key area to invest in going forward by creating our own organic stars whilst working alongside established talent.”
The future of sports media has arrived.
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