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When it comes to sports, young fans want to create their own videos

Filming sports, bmx. skateboarding
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As more people watch videos on digital platforms, their viewing behaviors are changing.

Whistle Sports believes young viewers ages 25 and under are even more different than previous generations. When it comes to sports content, they don't want to sit back and passively watch: They want to create their own videos.

"Traditional sports media is old guys in a production truck or old guys in suits telling you what to think of sports," said Whistle Sports CEO John West. "This generation is not a one-to-many model. It's a many-to-many model."

Whistle Sports is a media company that specializes in creating sports videos for on and offline. Its minority owners include the MLB, NFL, PGA and Nascar. NBC Sports, Sky Sports and Tegna are investors.

The media company's videos include trick shots and stunts, behind-the-scenes footage and training videos. While it does do traditional sports highlights occasionally, most the content isn't direct footage from a sports league. Instead, videos are about the lifestyle and culture around sports, or even alternative sports like Ultimate Frisbee. Some of the videos are minutes-long packages, but West said the content that engages younger millennials and Gen Z viewers the most tends to be in the seconds long-range.

West said the company also noticed that younger viewers were as interested in watching the videos it created as they were in submitting their own clips inspired by official content. While Whistle Sports has 437 official creators on its roster, it has more than 247 million followers on social media who also submit content.

West said short social media videos are popular because teens and young adults like to be able to so share and comment to be part of the conversation. For example, The "Whistle Worthy" initiative invites fans to submit their own trick shots so they can be featured on the official Whistle Sports social media pages.

This behavior can be beneficial for advertisers who want to reach young people. In addition to having Whistle created content on the marketer's behalf, Whistle's fans create branded videos, creating "ads" that their peers are more likely to watch because they were made by a friend. In essence, Whistle's fans are willingly creating free ads. (Domestic digital advertising revenue surged to a record-breaking $59.6 billion for the 2015 calendar year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)

"Branded content is not viewed as product placement," West said. "Branded content to social natives, if they're cool with it, is entertaining."

Ruffles commissioned Whistle Sports to run a contest called #RufflesAllStarShot, It asked people to submit videos of their impressive basketball baskets for the chance to go to a Dallas Mavericks game with one of Whistle's popular creators, Dude Perfect. Dude Perfect created two videos for its official YouTube channel, and did some social promotion on its channel and the official Whistle Sports channel. There was also a call-to-action video posted on Whistle Sports' social media channels, and two before-the-video ads created for NBA.com.

In total, more than 2,500 videos were created on behalf of the #RufflesAllStarShot campaign. The original two YouTube videos got more than 35 million views, but all the clips together made up 94 million impressions. There were also 1.2 million likes, shares and comments across social media. The content was written about on publications like ESPN, Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.


"Anyone with a smartphone or camera and access to a computer has the power to be a creator of some kind on social media," said Brian Selander, executive vice president and offensive coordinator. "The currency of that creation for many is recognition — having your work seen, shared and valued. Becoming part of a campaign like this is an easier avenue to that for so many people. "

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC Sports and CNBC.