Football media company Copa90’s World Cup Snapchat Discover channel drew 31 million unique viewers over 45 days, with nearly 40 percent of viewers swiping up on content to view more.
Copa90’s team of six Snapchat staffers flew to Moscow to start publishing a week and a half before the start of the World Cup. The content consisted of short memes, filmed skits, fan scenes and longer documentaries, a combination of reactive and pre-planned content banked in the months before the World Cup, and was published in the morning U.K. time in English, French and Arabic.
“Ideas happen 24/7. Being isolated from the rest of the office with our own lanes to run in meant we had own own domain to go crazy in,” said Tom Brandhorst, editorial director.
Because games were scheduled into the evenings, the team brainstormed ideas throughout the day, while drawing on support from a London-based team working on more non-reactive content, like game previews.
Copa90’s top-performing episode was its portrayal of female football fans on traditional TV coverage, fetching 6.2 million views on the first snap, which featured a stock image of a female football fan with the headline “Conventionally attractive football fans in your area want to chat.” According to Brandhorst, this attracted new audiences and hooked people in before subverting the tone and dissecting the inaccuracies in how female football fans are portrayed. For Copa90, 40 percent of its audience on Snapchat during the World Cup were female.
A 15-minute documentary looking at whether the World Cup masks another side to Russia didn’t drive as many views. The team was wary of publishing an ironic thumbnail criticizing Russia, which could have discouraged viewers from watching the whole thing, said Brandhorst.
The number of subscribers steadily increased throughout the tournament to 450,000. Encouraging people to return to the platform regularly, rather than passively scroll through content during dead time, is key for Copa90 and Snapchat.
World Cup content on Snapchat will always have a captive audience, and the way Snapchat organizes the feed will favor this relevance. In 2016, BuzzFeed ran NBCUniversal’s Snapchat content during the Rio Olympics and had 36 million uniques across Discover and Stories. In the U.K., The Telegraph said this month it is getting 1 million daily viewers on Snapchat.
“There is a homogeneity to some of the content on Discover,” said James Kirkham, head of Copa90. “We wanted to provide the depth of documentaries and madcap irreverent content that lasts seconds. It feels unique; we were able to respond to different behaviors.”
Visa sponsored the series, sold by Snapchat on a revenue-shares basis with Copa90. According to Kirkham, this has been significantly profitable.
Although Visa and Copa90 could be the exception to the rule, said Mark Holden, global strategy director at agency Starcom. Monetizing Snapchat Discover for publishers faces scale and demand issues in the U.K. While the platform continues to sign up more Discover publisher partners, advertisers view the platform as younger and narrower than Facebook, with more restrictive pricing for bespoke assets.
“Early experiences may have shaped its perception,” said Holden, who estimates that Snapchat appears on about 25 percent of the agency’s briefing plan for clients, last year it was roughly double this. CPMs for Discover have remained relatively high, between £10 ($13.12) and £15 ($19.68), and while the platform has made cheaper inventory available, publishers have to cover the costs for creating bespoke content while sharing revenue with the platform. A social-first media company like Copa90 has had the experience to hone efficiencies and reduce the costs of creating content.
“Copa90 has done a smart job with agencies positioning itself as a modern platform for football fans, explaining how the experience is changing for younger people,” said Holden.
Copa90 published content across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during the World Cup, reaching 650 million views, according to the media company. TV ratings reached record highs. Whether social drives tune-in is still an unanswered question, but without its own rights, Copa90 has always positioned itself as offering coverage of everything off the pitch.