Since the start of 2020, TikTok has sponsored several high-profile entertainment events; international occasions watched by millions of people, including Eurovision, the Women’s Six Nations, and the Women’s Euro 2022 Summer Championships. TikTok’s partnership with UEFA continues to bloom, having also sponsored the Men’s Euro 2020 Summer Championships. As of May 2022, TikTok boasts around 1 billion monthly active users and has been downloaded onto 2.6 billion devices worldwide. US-based TikTok users amount to between 80-140 million monthly active users, of which 60% are female, 40% are male, 32.5% are between the ages of 10-19, and another 29.5% are between 20-29. Around 60% of US TikTok users are therefore between the ages of 16-24, making the majority of the platform’s user base very young, relatively speaking. This is a trend that applies across regions too, with estimates placing 43% of active global TikTok users between the ages of 18-24.
Although this is pretty dry information to absorb when describing a platform that homes content as fun and light-hearted as TikTok’s, it helps explain why the platform has sought to sponsor certain events, and more to the point, why certain organisations are especially keen to recruit the power of this new social media giant. A May 2022 article published by Broadcast offers quotes from leading figures at both UEFA and TikTok that outline why these organisations are so keen to work with one another. In UEFA marketing director, Guy-Laurent Epstein’s words, “with the TikTok football community ever-growing with teams, fans, creators and associations, we are looking forward to showcasing this summer’s premier sporting event featuring some of the greatest women’s footballers in the world through unique, creative and engaging content.” Guy-Laurent Epstein’s words touch on several important details about TikTok that make the platform such a valuable organisation to partner with and to be sponsored by. As he explains, TikTok is a space facilitative of communities that grow around user-generated content. Features such as solo or group live streams and video stitching enable creators to capture and publish footage from live events that TikTok’s users can view in near real-time, which helps build feeds featuring content that is relevant to what is going on around the world. Events like the UEFA European Football Championship and the Six Nations are covered by professional media outlets whether on TV or through traditional or digital print but TikTok differentiates itself by enabling individual creators to generate content reflective of their own authentic experiences and interactions with these events.
Moreover, understanding TikTok’s audience composition is particularly relevant to understanding why the platform has chosen to sponsor women’s international sporting events. TikTok’s userbase leans to a predominantly female majority, a group that is also young. This is a group that hasn’t been traditionally associated with following football. Rich Waterworth, a general manager at TikTok, drives home why this is an important detail, explaining his delight at TikTok continuing its partnership with UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, as each organisation seeks to “build on our joint efforts to promote equality and inclusion in football through TikTok’s #SwipeOutHate campaign and UEFA’s #EqualGame. We cannot wait to see our community show their support for the women’s game, as we make this year’s championship even more accessible to our global community.” Similar values also underpin TikTok’s decision to sponsor the Women’s Six Nations, with TikTok itself commenting that “exposure for the women’s game, engagement, participation, and major growth are all ambitions of this partnership.” The fact that TikTok resonates so strongly with a very young, predominantly female demographic, coupled with its “up-and-coming” reputation as a social media platform, are both contributing factors to its appeal among women’s sporting event organisers. For sports like football and rugby where the men’s games have always monopolised public attention, TikTok has been viewed as a potential vehicle of change that can help redress these inequalities. Of course, TikTok also benefits from sponsoring events like these, as through their deals, they are able to secure the creation of content exclusive to their platform – as Broadcast explains, the deal with the “England Lionesses” will procure “behind-the-scenes” clips for the platform, while TikTok also “has a partnership with Burnley FC women” which enables the club to Livestream all its home games on TikTok. For TikTok, these sponsorships with major international events enable the platform to host unique, exclusive coverage unavailable anywhere else. Moreover, TikTok’s features, such as hashtagging, help facilitate the growth of communities around particular events, which enables a dynamic stream of authentic user-generated live coverage too. This contrasts with traditional forms of coverage - the production of which is usually restricted to media companies - which only involves official commentary, punditry, and analysis.
TikTok’s sponsorship of live events has not only involved women’s sporting events. TikTok recently sponsored Eurovision 2022. The competition featured Sam Ryder as the UK’s act, a musician who found his path to success through the platform. For the UK’s Eurovision team, this was a bet that paid off, as the United Kingdom finished second overall, only behind Ukraine. A marked improvement for the UK then, which in 2021 scored an indomitable zero points overall. The fact that Sam Ryder was chosen to represent the UK at Eurovision reveals several key details: it was thought that because Sam Ryder is popular among young people all over Europe, his popularity would aid the United Kingdom’s overall placing in the competition. The experiment obviously yielded positive results, as the UK rose like a phoenix from its ashes by improving on its wooden spoon 2021 performance to finish a noble second in 2022. Sam Ryder’s ascent also highlights the growing role the platform is having in people’s careers and lives. Ryder’s story parallels that of Justin Bieber, who was discovered on YouTube when he was 13 by American record executive Scooter Braun, shortly thereafter signing onto Usher’s label. Similarly, Ryder owes a social media platform to his rapid ascent to international fame, as he has explained that “it just started in my mum’s kitchen” on TikTok and “snowballed from there”. TikTok has evidently had a great impact on Ryder personally, his success and his performance on the night also, therefore, helping the United Kingdom avoid humiliation at 2022’s Eurovision finals. But more than this, TikTok’s sponsorship with the competition highlights how partnering with the platform can yield symbiotic benefits.
Indeed, an article published by NME in April 2022 explains the official intention driving the partnership, stating that “as ‘Official Entertainment Partner’ of Eurovision 2022, TikTok will celebrate the music, the artists, the countries and the history of the event itself, through specially created programming, music playlists and behind-the-scenes content…The TikTok community will also have exclusive access to backstage content from all the participating artist’s first rehearsals.” Much like through TikTok’s sponsorships of major sporting events, its partnership with Eurovision helps the competition by introducing it to millions of young people from all over the world; the UK delivered the largest audience of all markets in 2022 with 8.9 million viewers watching the Grand Final, up 20% on 2021. Meanwhile, the platform saw a total of 189 million video views on the official Eurovision account during the two weeks leading up to the Grand Final and 3.3 million unique viewers watched the Grand Final live on the platform with 5.1 live streams in total. That TikTok receives exclusive content from an already-popular international event helps consolidate the platform as a major source of fresh and relevant content. Through savvy partnerships, this young but rapidly growing, already dominant social media platform is well-positioned to flourish even further.