KSI: Influencing Sports Media Forever
How do you go from a FIFA YouTuber, to the face of boxing for an entire generation? Those looking for the answer might want to ask KSI – real name Olajide William ‘JJ’ Olatunji – for some tips. With three record breaking boxing fights under his belt, and millions of captivated subscribers on his YouTube channel, KSI has created a new breed of boxer, occupying the broadcaster and promoter personas himself, in addition to his role in the ring.
So, what does this mean for traditional broadcasters, sports media and the brands that get involved? On the panel to discuss whether KSI’s landmark (and internet-breaking) fights had changed the face of sports forever were his manager, Liam Chivers, YouTuber and content creator Callum McGinley, Joshua Barnett from After Party Studios and sports presenter Layla Anna-Lee.
All agreed that this was an inflection point in sports media – as Layla put it, the question is not whether digital is the direction of travel, but rather how fast. Part of the magic in digital, and in particular YouTube, is the freedom to give the audience what they want in real-time whilst also reflecting the atmosphere of the sport itself.
It’s also the ability to generate authentic, supporting content in the lead-up to the event; something Callum was able to coordinate with a simple text message, illustrating the value of the influencer networks themselves, where partnerships are also, often, friendships too. The ability to collaborate and move closely to create auxiliary content also gave Callum and KSI the freedom to hold out for a distribution deal – eventually going on to clinch one with Sony, and become #1 on iTunes. All this before the actual fight itself…
Understandably, the success of the Logan Paul vs. KSI fight – which saw highs of 1.8 million concurrent viewers, and went on to become the 2nd most live-streamed event in YouTube history – has raised pertinent questions for the broadcasters themselves. Whilst the viewership of the fight was not at the upper end of the audience commanded by traditional channels, it’s certainly in their sphere and it’s something they’re having to take seriously. Luckily for them, both Liam and Joshua don’t see any fights between the platforms in their future, even if KSI wants to take on more! In tomorrow’s sports media ecosystem, they see a much more harmonious partnership between platforms like YouTube and traditional broadcasts. Crucially, it’ll be viewing preferences of the sports fans that will bring them together.