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Lessons in reaching a Gen Z sports audience with Snapchat’s Anmol Malhotra

Snap Inc's head of sports partnerships Anmol Malhotra tells the SportsPro Podcast how it is combining storytelling and innovative tech to deliver sport to Snapchat’s audience, and vice versa.

20 January 2021 Eoin Connolly
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A few years ago, when Snapchat was making its opening moves in sports content, it decided that it “didn’t want to be the platform where we were the tenth place you were watching the same exact NBA highlight or Premier League goal”.

Instead – according to Anmol Malhotra, head of sports partnership at Snapchat owner Snap Inc – it tried to tell a different set of stories in a way that would appeal to its unique audience.

Snapchat has younger users than other social media platforms. The company’s latest revenue reports, issued in October 2020, state that it has 249 million active daily users worldwide and the majority are aged between 13 and 24.

86 per cent of daily Snapchat users don’t use Twitter

Content partnerships are helping Snapchat develop that audience through its ‘Discover’ service, where it works with many of the leading brands in sport and the biggest publishers in media. It estimates that 40 per cent of the US Gen Z population watched its sports content last September. Those partnerships, built on sponsorship slots and revenue-sharing of ad sales, also grow Snap’s revenues – which leapt 52 per cent to US$679 million for Q3 of 2020

Snapchat also leans into its strengths in other areas. Snap bills itself as a camera company. It believes its proprietary tech – much of it centred on its augmented reality ‘Lenses’ – is fundamental to its offer to audiences and partners alike. Put simply, it makes the platform a creative and fun place to be. But there is a learning curve associated with the Snapchat platform, its vertical video style, and the implications of its closed-loop messaging set-up.

Malhotra lays out Snapchat’s sports strategy and further explains its positioning in the latest SportsPro Podcast, which is published twice weekly and available wherever you prefer to listen. Here are a few teasers.

The Covid-19 crisis moved Snapchat back to its core purpose

“During those first couple of months of the pandemic, we saw communication with friends across Snapchat increase by 30 per cent – so people just Snapping each other more and texting on our messaging platform more. Time spent playing with our camera platform, Lenses, was up 25 per cent during those first couple of months of the pandemic.

“Over 60 per cent of our users create Snaps every day with our camera, which is really important to us. I think a lot of other platforms are mostly consumption platforms – you kind of scroll on a feed – whereas for us, you open to the camera and you’re incentivised to create something to send to your friends. So we saw some pretty tremendous trends from a pure communications standpoint and it’s sort of unsurprising, because people are at home, trying to stay connected with their loved ones, and they’re using platforms like Snap in a big way.”

“If you want to reach young people, you need to be on Snap”

“One of the things that I think is a common misconception is that everybody’s on the same platforms. We hear this all the time. ‘We’re already on another platform, we don’t need to be on Snap.’ Or vice versa.

“We’ve found through, now, third party studies, that that’s not true. The unduplicated reach across our platforms is massive. One study that we did with App Annie late last year was looking at that exactly: how many people are using Snap versus other platforms? And one thing that jumped out to us for Twitter, for example, was that something along the lines of 86 per cent of Snapchatters that use Snapchat daily don’t use Twitter daily.”

Surprising partnerships can be the most effective

“With Augusta National in the US, who host the Masters, we did a really fun AR experience. You could find any Masters logo – on a hat, on a cup, on a shirt. You could take your Snapchat camera out, scan that logo, and be taken into an exclusive AR experience where you’re driving down Magnolia Lane.

“Now, I think most people probably wouldn’t expect that Snapchat and Augusta National have a partnership but for us, it’s almost the perfect kind of marriage. They bring years of this tradition of excellence, doing this over a long period of time and understanding how they focus on covering the sport. We bring the new age, digital and tech way to reach new fans and reach new demographics. So we’re trying to find partners like that – partners that are willing to innovate with us and are open to experimenting across our platform.”

Retaining a young audience is a constant challenge

“It's a blessing and a curse having a young user base because they’re highly engaged but they’re also very fickle, right? Their time, their attention spans are a lot smaller, and they can jump across many of the different apps across their phones. So we want to make sure that we continue to develop those compelling stories, which is super important.

“And then, again, continuing to innovate. I think our biggest strength will continue to be how we adapt, how we evolve, how we keep bringing new features and tools to our user base for them to keep coming back.”

Anmol Malhotra will be appearing at the SportsPro Insider Series virtual event, Engaging Gen Z, on Wednesday 20th January. Registration is free at www.sportsproinsiderseries.com and sessions can be watched live and on-demand.

The SportsPro Podcast is published twice weekly on all leading podcast platforms, featuring influential voices on some of the biggest topics and ideas in the industry. All episodes are available here. To get in touch, email podcast@sportspromedia.com

Snap Inc head of sports partnerships Anmol Malhotra tells the SportsPro Podcast how it is combining storytelling and innovative tech to deliver sport to Snapchat’s audience, and vice versa.

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