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Why We’ve Expanded Our Sports Data Set and What it Means for Brands

One of the most powerful parts of our data set is the ability it gives brands of all kinds to build any audience and profile it against up to 25,000 data points. This covers everything from social media and device usage to marketing touchpoints and brand relationships.

For analysis of this kind, harmonized survey data at scale is the only way forward.

There are no inferences, no modeling, no gaps; what you get is a 360-view of the attitudes, behaviors and perspectives of real-life consumers, as reported by them.

As we continue to innovate, expanding this data set further is a top priority, enabling brands to dig even deeper into their target audiences.

Our latest wave of research marks one of the biggest ever increases to our taxonomy. This means key segments and categories have been expanded – from personal interests and products purchased to travel behaviors and sports. We’ve also introduced new mobile-first, dynamic question formats that allow us to cover more options than ever before.

New Insight into the Global Sports Fan

Our data now covers 30 different sports and 115 named sports leagues and events, with consistent data available across 40+ markets.

Deep-diving into individual sports or leagues is of course extremely revealing in itself. For example, 98% of Premier League fans may have a smartphone, but only 2 in 3 list it as their most important device.

Over 1 in 2 also own at least three other connected devices, emphasizing the multi-device and multi-screen nature of this audience.

That makes it understandable that over 50% of Premier League fans report using social media as they watch television.

Yet while YouTube and Facebook top the table as expected, they’re competing against a huge number of rivals – a sizable 38% of Premier League fans say used more than 10 different social media / messaging services last month.

Number of Social Platforms Visited Last Month Premier League fans (%)
0 1
1-2 5
3-4 13
5-6 28
7-8 28
9-10 20
11+ 38

Key Sporting Behaviors to Know

The wider sporting behaviors of Premier League fans unveil some interesting findings too.

Only 1 in 2 fans actually play soccer themselves, compared to 9 in 10 who regularly watch it on broadcast TV, and nearly 3 in 4 who watch it online.

The term armchair enthusiast is most definitely appropriate here, although significant numbers of Premier League fans are taking part in swimming (46%), badminton (39%) and cycling (37%).

What’s really key in our latest release is that you can undertake this type of analysis across 115 sets of fans – from Giro d’Italia to the PGA Tour to Wimbledon. And you can start to build a rich understand of how sports interweave with each other.

6 in 10 soccer fans are also following basketball, for example, while 2 in 3 follow the Summer Olympics and 1 in 3 follow F1 and the Tour de France.

An impressive 60% of Premier League fans in fact follow more than 10 other events/tournaments. They have a strong affinity with other soccer leagues and competitions as you would expect, but their interests stretch far beyond this.


Top 10 Other Sports Followed by Premier League Fans Premier League fans (%)
Basketball 60
Swimming 48
Tennis 46
Cycling 44
Motor sports 41
Athletics 35
Boxing 34
Badminton 33
Volleyball 31
Martial arts 30

We’re excited to release it to our clients and look forward to introducing many more updates like these in the coming months.To really understand consumers and their motivations, it’s hard to see how other types of data can compete – especially when you’re looking for a consistent global view.

How Device Usage Changed in 2018 and What it Means for 2019

How many devices do you own? A smartphone, laptop, smart TV, tablet, game console?

Do you find yourself using some of them less than you did in the past?

You wouldn’t be the only one.

With the advanced technology, accessibility and comfort that smartphones offer, our need to use other devices is diminishing.

In 2018, personal computers, tablets and game consoles were the devices most affected by these everyday shifts in online behavior. And consoles are having a major impact on the wider gaming industry and habits as well.

Slow changes in ownership hide big changes in usage.

To understand trends and device popularity, the tech industry often tends to focus on sales figures, shipments or other metrics that indicate ownership. However, this doesn’t take into account the important shifts in device usage that come to light when we dive more deeply into opinion and behavioral data.

A consumer owning a PC doesn’t immediately mean they’ll find it useful compared to their other devices.

48% of digital consumers say having the latest technological products is very important to them.

Tech giants like Apple take advantage of this by introducing new devices and new models of existing devices on a yearly basis, keeping the hardware front of mind.

Multi-device ownership is a challenge to ad targeting not only because people can own several devices, but also because they don’t necessarily use them for the same activities. People also own devices (e.g. a home PC) for years, silently letting go of them while remaining owners in the statistics.

There are more people who own a smartphone, a PC and a laptop than people who own smartphones alone.

Even taking device cross-ownership into consideration, the smartphone is increasingly rendering digital behaviors on larger screen devices obsolete.

Actual PC usage is slipping and use cases are narrowing for the non-phone devices, especially when we consider users who own one of each device.

The fall of tablets.

The tablet is probably the main device that failed to live up to tech companies’ expectations, as it was originally expected to replace home computers and laptops. However, prominent forecasts that offices and households would give up other devices have proved to be misleading, according to both industry figures and our findings.

Just 7% of tablet owners describe their tablet as the most important way they access the internet.

Tablet devices are still widely used to stream media services, though not as often as home computers and laptops. 37% of online users who own both a PC or laptop and a tablet say they watch TV on their tablet, compared to 55% who use their PC/laptop.

Tablets remain more popular with older audiences.

More than 1 in 3 respondents aged 45-64 say they use a tablet to access the web, compared to just 1 in 4 of 16-24 year olds.

The former age group is also the only one showing an increase in tablet usage since the last quarter of 2015. The continuing appeal of this device with older audiences is likely due to its larger screen compared to the smartphone, as well as its ability to serve as a reader, a TV, a computer, and a connection to the Internet.

The current state of PCs and laptops.

Personal computers and laptops had the sharpest downward trend in ownership, internet usage and importance over the past three years. The majority of online activities that were typical for the PC in the past have now been replaced or supplemented by the smartphone.

56% of those who own both a home computer and a smartphone prefer the computer to play games, while 71% use their smartphone.

This wasn’t the case in 2015 as smartphone technology wasn’t advanced enough to incorporate complex game graphics and functions.

As gaming devices, PCs/laptops were only three percentage points behind smartphones in 2015. As of 2018, the gap is 15%.

2018 is the first year where we’ve seen people actually abandon the PC for specific activities, with these devices drastically falling behind smartphones and tablets for online behaviors of those who own all three devices.

Just a year ago, the dynamic was different, and computers were still prevalent for activities such as using Wikipedia, emails or search.

Regional differences matter in PC and laptop usage.

Europe has remained the only region where PCs and laptops are as prominent as smartphones to access the internet.

This is largely due to France and Germany, which show an 11 and 9 percentage point difference in favor of computers, respectively. By contrast, smartphones are prevailing over PCs in Asia, with Vietnam and China leading the charts.

Games consoles are the most affected by changing behaviors.

The games console market is in a steady decline, with only 1 in 5 owning a game console in 2018 compared to 1 in 3 in 2015. This can be attributed to mobile gaming, which is cheaper and more accessible nowadays.

Smartphones’ ability to put forward free-to-play services designed to distract users from high game prices has impacted the popularity of consoles. They also offer abundant distribution opportunities through app stores, reviews, and share buttons.

22% of the internet population used a console to play games in 2018 – 65% chose their smartphone.

Even when multi-ownership is taken into account, games consoles are less popular than smartphones today.

69% of online consumers who own both devices play games on consoles compared to 74% who use mobile devices. Just two years ago 80% of users preferred games consoles over mobiles.

The tipping point of consoles vs. smartphones for gaming took place in Q1 2017, when the former started gaining momentum at the expense of the latter. This was also marked by Microsoft’s gaming revenue declining by 5% in the first quarter of 2017, which the company attributed to lower revenue from consoles.

Games like PUBG and Plants vs. Zombies, that offer interactive gaming experiences with other players, were previously available only on PC and consoles. The mobile, however, has disturbed this trend, subsequently leading to users letting go of traditional devices.

Moreover, the growth in mobile gaming is coming from people who engage with games more casually, as a way of passing time, rather than serious gamers. 31% say they play games on another device while watching TV.

The tech industry might see less innovation now considering the level of capability that devices have reached.

This was demonstrated in the recent development of virtual and augmented reality incorporated in mobile games like Pokémon Go, which in turn illustrated the long way that VR and AR gadgets need to go before they can take up the space that consoles and tablets are leaving behind.

All things considered, 2018 is saying goodbye to tablets, predominantly for younger users, as well as PCs and laptops for those outside of Europe. With games consoles in a decline, there’s an opportunity for smartphones and VR devices to thrive in the gaming realm.

AR vs VR: The Challenges and Opportunities in 2019

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools are now relatively easy to access. But are consumers aware they’re using VR when they load a 360° video on Facebook or YouTube, and are Snapchatters aware that AR technology is powering their Lens filters?

Whether they’re uploading photos or viewing videos on their favorite social media platforms, playing gaming apps, or making use of 360-degree photo capturing on their smartphones, consumers have the chance to enhance these experiences thanks to large ongoing cross-industry investments into AR and VR.

But with much of the noise surrounding these technologies stemming from corporate press releases, it’s been difficult to gauge the current state of the AR or VR industries.

Understanding the impact of corporate messaging surrounding AR and VR on consumer awareness, and how expectations are evolving, will give a much more holistic view of the current landscape.

AR has an awareness issue.

AR and VR content can come in many forms, and this could be a cause for confusion. There’s still not much clarity over whether consumers are aware these tools are available to them, or if they realize they’re engaging with AR or VR when they use them.

In a recent research study we conducted in the UK and U.S., we found that over 90% of consumers in these markets are aware of VR, with around 65% saying they’re aware of AR.

But whereas VR can boast impressive awareness levels across age and gender breaks, for AR it’s a different story.

Awareness of AR hovers between the 70-75% mark among the 16-44 age group, but drops dramatically among 45-54s (56%) and 55-64s (44%). By gender, males (71%) display a notably higher level of awareness of AR compared to women (59%).

These awareness level figures stand in sharp contrast to the rate of consumers who are actually engaging with AR and VR on a monthly basis in the UK and U.S.

From this perspective, we can see that awareness levels completely overshadow engagement, although the two metrics do follow similar age and gender-based patterns. For both technologies, engagement is mainly clustered around the 16-34 age group, and to a lesser extent the 35-44 age group, with figures tailing off significantly thereafter.

VR has a content challenge.

Those who have used a VR headset in the past month were most likely to own the device (43%), although 31% said that they used a VR headset belonging to a friend and around 24% said that they accessed the device at an event or in-store.

But when we rebase this among all internet users in the UK and U.S., access to VR headsets is primarily the result of using a friend’s device, not via personal ownership.

Whether they’ve used a friend’s device or owned it, the majority (42%) of those who have used a VR headset in the past month described it as being in the mid-range VR market, which includes devices such as the Google Daydream or the Samsung Gear VR headsets.

That said, an impressive 1 in 3 described the device as falling within the “high-end” market, including high-ticket devices such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR.

Above all, hardware costs are cited as the most important issue consumers think VR tech is facing right now, and users of the high-end VR devices (54%) were more likely to say this compared to the budget (48%) or mid-range (50%) device users.

For the market to grow, and for VR to prove its value to consumers, price-points need to adjust to consumer budgets to lower the entry barriers for the high-end devices.

It’s these high-end devices which are having the most success in convincing users of the merits of VR.

Our data shows users of the mid-range and particularly budget headsets are more likely to find issue with user interface features, and question the viability of VR.

For example, the rate of those who say that “motion sickness when using VR” is a main issue decreases directly in line with rising price-points of the headsets. The same is true in the rate of those who say that VR still “feels gimmicky” or that they “don’t currently see a use-case for it yet”.

Behind high hardware costs, users of VR were most likely to say that there’s currently not enough content on offer in the VR market. Frustrations with a lack of content on offer are equally as prevalent across the budget, mid-range and high-end device users.

Although price-points emerge as the main issue for consumers, the content challenge also threatens to undermine the momentum in the growth of the VR market, and it’s a challenge which has been discussed for some time.

VR’s presence in the gaming industry demonstrates the issue at hand. Although E3 2018 witnessed a handful of new VR gaming title announcements, the major event turned out to be light on information concerning developments of the tech.

Many existing blockbuster VR games on offer weren’t originally designed with VR in mind, having been retrospectively adapted for VR at a later stage, which can affect the overall experience negatively.

VR is an entertainment platform first, learning platform second.

It’s not difficult to see why the gaming industry serves as such an important benchmark for the VR industry – its users overwhelmingly believe VR has the most potential in the gaming sector, with almost two-thirds saying this.

Users of high-end devices had the highest hopes (73%) for VR’s potential in the gaming market, most likely due to the majority of consumer-facing demos of these devices showcasing immersive gaming experiences.

Although it’s a significant step down, more than 40% of VR users do believe it has the strongest potential in enhancing sports viewing experiences.

We’ve touched on VR’s potential in creating a more immersive experience in the non-traditional sports sector, but we’ve also seen some important developments among traditional sports leagues in the VR space.

Having spearheaded its way into the esports scene, the NBA has also embraced tech-driven solutions for its conventional matches, committing to broadcasting every game in VR this season.

From the consumer’s perspective, VR may be primarily for gaming, but for brands it can be an important marketing tool.

The problem is, as demonstrated in our engagement figures, adoption isn’t yet big enough to justify the costs in creating a VR ad.

Almost a quarter of VR users believe it has the strongest potential to improve marketing and advertising experiences.

But while this falls well below the other options in our chart, it still indicates that brands will have an important opportunity to connect with consumers on a deeper level using this technology.

AR: the opportunity for brands and marketers.

Compared to VR, expectations on AR’s potential covered a broader array of industries.

Again, gaming emerged as the top industry, but its lead is much narrower compared that seen with VR.

Behind gaming and film and TV content, AR users believed this technology had the most potential in the social media industry. This will certainly be good news for Facebook, which has developed its AR Studio tools, and Snapchat, which has recently allowed advertisers to programmatically purchase AR-powered creative tools via its ad platform.

Of course, this ties heavily into the potential of AR in advertising.

Social media companies, above all, generate revenue by delivering ads, and their investments in AR are a way of improving these ad experiences.

More than a third of AR users believe that its potential lies in the marketing and advertising industry. This is a figure which will likely grow as AR-enabled advertising is tied with other technologies, such as location-based tools, and becomes increasingly accessible on social media platforms.

AR users also recognize its capabilities in improving the retail experience.

More than 30% said that it has the strongest potential in enhancing shopping activities like researching products.

Our global research consistently shows the modern consumer will make the effort to inform themselves on what they’re buying before they commit to a purchase by using an increasing array of channels to guide their purchases.

For example, almost 80% of global internet users say that the internet is the first point of call when they need information, but around 63% believe that there’s too much choice online.

Not only might consumers be overwhelmed by choice, but the divide between online purchasing and actually seeing and testing products remains a major issue, especially in “high-touch” categories. This is an issue which has contributed to the increasing costs to retailers dealing with rising consumer returns, as well as to the continuing showrooming trend.

AR emerges as a way of bridging that gap, and plenty of retailers, including Amazon, have been quick to develop their own AR solutions to help consumers virtually test out products from the comfort of their home.

Which will go mainstream first?

With both technologies vying to transform the same industries, this raises the question of which will make the biggest impact first.

We asked those who were aware of both AR and VR which they think has the highest likelihood of going mainstream first.

The majority (53%) believed that VR had the strongest chance of hitting the mainstream first, with 34% choosing AR.

That said, our data shows that post-engagement with VR and AR can yield entirely different results.

Among those who have used AR and VR in the past month, they were more likely to believe in the potential of AR (50%) compared to VR (47%).

For brands weighing up their entry into either technology, this has been a key question. It’s divided the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook, and stirred up a great deal of conversation.

In both cases, consumer understanding of these technologies still firmly roots them in the gaming industry for now.

But to cross that threshold, they need to build out their presence in other high-exposure consumer categories.

Our data shows AR currently has the highest likelihood of demonstrating its value beyond gaming, as consumers tend to see its potential across a much broader array of industries.

A lot of AR’s potential lies in improving experiences when users are out and about shopping, taking photos to share on social media, or even just navigating their everyday lives.

Put simply, AR has a more immediate opportunity to prove to consumers that it can play an important role in their everyday lives.

Overcoming that challenge has helped spur growth in the voice assistant market, for example.

The popularity and virality of Pokemon Go and Snapchat overlays have clearly demonstrated that once consumers are aware of AR tools, they’re quick to make use of them. Redirecting that enthusiasm into more practical solutions could be an important growth initiative in the near future for AR.

What Retail Brands Should Know About the Fashion Consumer in 2019

In the fashion industry, it’s all about being ‘on trend’. But what that means is changing.

Today’s fashion consumers are finding, sharing, buying and researching brands in completely new ways.

Our research identifies 13% of internet users as fashionistas, meaning they have a strong interest in fashion, have purchased clothes in the last month and like to keep up with the latest fashions.

For retail brands targeting this complex group, reaching them means developing a deep understanding of everything from what they do, to how and why they do it. Here’s what our latest research says.

Fashion lovers are keen to be brand advocates.

Proof points:

  • 85% say expressing themselves is an important reason to use the internet.
  • They’re 1.4 times more likely to want to stand out in a crowd.

As a group, fashionistas are image-focused.

They’re outspoken and keen to express themselves and their views. Since they’re also not afraid of standing out in a crowd, they’re perfect recruits for brands looking to onboard brand advocates.

So what would entice this group to shout about a brand on their ever-important social media feeds?

Above all else, fashionistas can be encouraged to advocate a brand simply out of love for the brand, and feeling like they’re a part of its journey.

Offer them transparency into your story and build personal relationships based on insider knowledge and exclusive access, and you should have eager, switched-on brand advocates.

Target female fashionistas – but don’t forget their male counterparts.

Proof point:

  • 67% of fashionistas are female, 33% are male.

When you hear the phrases “fashionista” or “fashion fan”, male consumers may not instantly come to mind. But it would be a huge mistake to leave this audience behind.

Our data shows that a whole third of fashionistas are, in fact, male.

This means any brand looking to squeeze the most out of this audience would do well to include male consumers in their product range, advertising and relationship-building.

Broadcast TV is a crucial channel for brand discovery.

Proof point:

The fashion industry has been accused of being late to adopt new technology and invest in online efforts.

Our research shows that TV ads, seen as a traditional marketing channel, actually score highest among fashion lovers, with half saying it’s their main source for discovering new brands, products or services.

In the same vein, 43% rely on word-of-mouth recommendations, meaning brands would do well to invest in their reputation and fan-building.

However, these “offline” brand discovery channels are closely followed by search engines, online ads and brand websites, underlining the importance of having a wholesome presence to be seen where fashion consumers are.

They love to communicate with brands via social media.

Proof points:

  • Fashionistas are 79% more likely to share a brand’s post on social media.
  • 1 in 5 upload photos/videos to brands’ social pages.

It comes as no surprise that fashion lovers are keen social media users – they spend an average of 3 hours per day on social networks.

But they don’t just spend this time mindlessly scrolling through their feeds; in fact, this audience is highly active on social.

Being 79% more likely to share a brand’s social media posts presents a key opportunity.

By creating optimized content and having a well-developed presence on the platforms that matter, such as fashionistas’ favorites YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and top-indexing Snapchat, brands can encourage engagement from this group.

But that’s not all; 1 in 5 fashionistas also upload their own photos and/or videos to their favorite brands’ social network.

This means not only can brands with a strong, consumer-centric social presence benefit from this audience’s eagerness for engagement, but also encourage user-generated content that will enrich their feeds.

Social commerce is on the rise.

Proof points:

  • Fashionistas are 49% more likely to use social media to research or discover products to buy.
  • They’re nearly twice as likely to follow brands they’re thinking of buying from.
  • 16-34 fashionistas are 1.7 times more likely to be driven to purchase by ‘buy’ buttons on social.

Social commerce has struggled to take hold in the West, while enjoying rapid success in Asia in particular. But fashionistas are primed and ready to join the social commerce movement.

The insights speak for themselves. Social ‘buy’ buttons, famously difficult to nail down successfully, are attractive to this audience, who are also twice as likely to follow brands on social ahead of buying one of their products.

Being 49% more likely to use social for product discovery and research before making a purchase also presents an opportunity for brands to commercialize their social networks more than they may have done before – and to start experimenting with that ‘buy’ button.

Fashionistas primarily use mobile devices for online commerce.

Proof points:

  • Last month, 73% bought a product via mobile – 23% more than via PC/laptop.
  • 1 in 4 sold a product via mobile, making them 25% more likely to do so.
  • They’re 49% more likely to have used a mobile payment service, at 53%.

For this crowd, their mobile device is extremely important, and they use it for most of their online commerce behaviors.

They’re 50% more likely to use their mobile to make a purchase than their PC or laptop, highlighting a desire to do their shopping on the go.

It naturally follows that they’re more open than most to using mobile payment services to aid their speedy commerce; 53% did so last month.

With this in mind, retail brands looking to target this strong-minded bunch should ensure their mobile experience is on point, and their checkout process is quick and pain-free.

Reaching fashion consumers in 2019.

Fashionistas are always the first with the latest – and their online and brand behaviors are no different.

Our latest research reveals a group who know what they want and how they want it, eager to engage with brands and be part of their story.

This opens up a multitude of opportunities for retail brands to reach fashion consumers in 2019, encouraging meaningful and lasting brand-customer relationships on social media and beyond.

5 Things to Know about Premier League Fans

With the Premier League in full swing, many brands continue to launch campaigns looking to take advantage of the competition’s diverse audience.

Its global reach is significant, with around a fifth of internet users following or watching the games online or on TV.

Although the competition has a broad audience, Premier League fans1 do have their differences. Here are some defining characteristics to know.

1. The female fanbase is bigger than you may think.

It’s often assumed that soccer leagues attract a very male-dominated audience, and that interest among women remains limited. But our data says differently.

Women actually make up just under a third (30%) of the Premier League audience.

This presents an untapped opportunity for brands to reach the sport-minded female.

This female audience is 43% more likely than average to be from the top income quartile and is open and receptive to advertising.

57% say tend to buy the products they see advertised, and over 4 in 10 say they come across new brands via TV ads.

There’s, for example, a promising opportunity for short-haul travel brands and service providers to target female Premier League fans.

2 in 3 say travel and exploring is a strong interest of theirs, and they’re 33% more likely than their male counterparts to take short-haul vacations abroad every few months, giving travel companies a unique chance to reach out to women during gameplay.

2. They value premium products.

Premier League fans are big online shoppers. In the past month, 8 in 10 have bought something online.

They don’t just buy any brand, though. The vast majority (3 in 5) say they tend to purchase the premium version of products whether shopping offline or online, which tallies with their affluent nature.

Designer brands perform particularly strongly with this audience.

They’re about twice as likely to purchase all of the designer brands we track, like Louis Vuitton and Prada.

This is most likely linked to the importance they place on their image and status. 75% say it’s important for them to feel respected by their peers. They also care about their appearances and other people’s perceptions of them, and will buy into the brands that can boost their social standing.

3. They favor the big screen for tuning in.

Sports broadcasters continue to compete for distribution rights, and soccer is one of the most highly sought-after sports worldwide.

But the increased competition from digital services like Amazon Prime is set to change the viewing landscape next season. Earlier this year, we saw Amazon acquire the rights to stream games on their platforms for the 2019/2020 season.

In particular, the likes of Netflix and Amazon have shaken up the TV landscape and changed how content is consumed.

Online TV has taken off in recent years and has become a key part of media portfolios for Premier League fans. Two-thirds watch TV-on-demand on a weekly basis, while 60% choose subscription services like Netflix.

While sports viewing retains its appointment-viewing status, there’s certainly an appeal in watching games live on a big TV screen with peers – something that can’t always be mirrored on another device.

This is evident in our data too: while a third of fans now watch Premier League games online, around half are still doing so on traditional TV sets.

4. Second-screening is a big deal.

The vast majority (92%) of Premier League fans reach for other devices while watching TV, and it’s the smartphone which is the clear favorite here (81%).

Second screens are a huge competitor to advertising brands for the attention of fans.

But while they take fans away from what’s happening on the main screen, they also offer a huge opportunity for engagement as fans search around for information.

The question for advertisers and brands is: how can they reach fans as they move their attention from the main screen to the second one?

Our research shows that interaction on social media is where the opportunity lies.

Most fans use social media (54%) or chat with friends (51%) while the action unfolds, potentially discussing the game or reading other people’s comments and opinions on players or the events as they unfold during the game.

The key challenge for brands is being a subtle part of the conversation, without getting in the way of fans accessing the commentary and content they’re after.

5. They’re early adopters of the esports trend.

In recent years, the explosive popularity of the esports genre has bridged the gap between gaming and traditional sports.

The Premier League itself has launched its first esports competition, partnering with EA Sports to create a tournament where strong performers earn points towards the FIFA eWorld Cup in 2019.

This is set to be a hit among Premier League fans as gaming is already a strong interest for over half of this audience.

A sizeable number of fans are onboard with the esports trend too. In the last month, 28% have watched an esports tournament, putting them 64% ahead of average, and 18% have broadcasted a live stream while playing in the last month.

This is a promising opportunity for marketers to sponsor individual players and influencers, creating more income streams for the players and increasing awareness for the sponsoring brands.

1Premier League fans are defined as those who follow or watch the Premier League on TV or online.

More Consumers than Ever Use Social Media for News Updates

Our latest research reveals the approach of a symbolic “tipping point” in global social media usage.

It’s a milestone that represents a paradigm shift for social media in general.

In 2018, for the first time, our survey shows that internet users log on to social media to stay up-to-date with news as much as they do to stay in touch with friends.

To compare, when we first started asking this question at the end of 2014, staying in touch with friends was 6 percentage-points ahead.

Since 2016, we’ve seen social media’s original purpose of connecting people take more of a backseat, as its role as a source of news content and commentary has come to prominence.

One element underpinning this shift has been the rise of social video, including livestreaming. More users are tuning into these content formats than in 2016, and they’ve helped social media become a go-to place for news.

As personal sharing declines, passive consumption rises.

News is the most important motivation for internet users between the ages of 25-34s and 45-54s to log onto social.

In contrast, 55-64s still see social media as a place to connect with friends first and foremost.

16-24s also value friends over news updates, though both of these are eclipsed by their desire to find entertaining or funny content on social media. Following news might be on the verge of becoming the top social motivation overall, but it’s just one part of a broader picture.

“Purposeful” social media activities have come to the fore in the last couple of years, as personal sharing has become less relevant to internet users.

This is a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “passive networking”. Against this background, social networks are working hard to preserve user engagement – even if it doesn’t involve sharing personal information. 

The growth of “purposeful” activities on social could not have happened without the ascendance of smartphones as the main device for internet access.

Smartphones allow users an anytime, anywhere way of going online. This lends itself to browsing for ephemeral content, whether in the form of funny videos or news updates.

Because 16-24s prefer finding entertainment to news content, this makes them the biggest consumers of social video.

Until recently, this has largely come through consuming bitesize video entertainment. But social platforms are now looking to expand their video offering to include long-form content that can challenge the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video.

This year has seen the launch of Instagram’s IGTV, and the global rollout of Facebook’s Watch. Snap has thrown its hat into the ring too, with a host of original shows planned for the Discover service on the Snapchat app.

Sports benefit from the growth of social video.

Long-form video isn’t unprecedented on social media. There’s a specific type of video that’s made itself at home on social in the past couple of years, and that’s sports.

Citing “watch/follow sports events” as a main reason to use social media has had a significant popularity spike since 2016, increasing by ten percentage points.

The numbers are even more telling when applied to an audience of sports fans. Sports are not universal in the way that general entertainment and retail are, so focusing on internet users with a declared interest helps us uncover the real extent of the trend.

For sports fans, using social media to watch/follow sports events has increased from 16% in 2016 to 41% in 2018.

In the case of sports, we can see up close exactly how social media has moved from sharing-led to consumption-led motivations.

Social media allows fans to exchange their thoughts on the action in real-time. Buying rights to broadcast sports competitions helps social media companies bring more of the sports ecosystem under their control.

This way, social has grown from just providing an arena for real-time commentary into a platform for also watching live broadcasts.

Twitter’s play into sports is a good example of how just much social media has changed. Twitter used to be known predominantly for its brevity, with a limit of 140 characters per tweet. But now, it’s host to full-length matches.

The network has been looking to cement its position as one of the biggest providers of live sports coverage online ever since its first experiments with it during the Wimbledon tennis championships in 2016.

Alongside the deals Twitter has struck up, Facebook and YouTube have been getting in on the act, with Facebook’s deal to broadcast the Premier League in parts of Asia one of the most eye-catching this year.

More and more online behaviors are finding a home on social.

Outside video, more aspects of online behavior are finding a home on social media.

Use of social media to research/find products to buy has grown since 2016, although closing the loop and turning this research behavior into a purchase has proved elusive so far.

Twitter’s experiments with buy buttons ended with their withdrawal, and in our data, “buy buttons” have have not yet gained traction for any social network.

But this may be about to change.

Visual platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are looking to buck the trend. But while both platforms are visual, they’re building social commerce capabilities in different ways.

Instagram’s “shoppable ads” are a type of buy button, but with the benefit of an image-focused interface to help get consumers clicking. For Snapchat, the approach is more about how a phone camera can be used to discover and research products through augmented reality.

Through its partnership with Amazon, Snapchat is currently testing a feature which takes users to a product’s Amazon page when they point their phone camera at it.

Put simply, Instagram’s social commerce is built around interactive images, whereas Snapchat’s comes through interacting with physical surroundings via the camera.

So why does all this matter?

As user growth on social platforms reaches saturation, they’ll be forced to work harder to get revenue from the users they do have. This lets new content types spring up, with the potential for monetization through ads or partnerships.

The social tipping point also brings into focus just how many verticals social is still poised to disrupt, either in competition or partnership.

Social media is no longer a place where internet users go to be social; it’s now a TV set, a shop window, and a source of news, all in one.