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Brief Published: 30 Sep 2015

YouTube Challenges Sports Heavyweights

While walking around New York last week (where we were hosting our latest Stylus Innovation Forum), we noticed the new ad campaign for YouTube creators Lilly Singh (27-year-old Indian-Canadian comedienne, 6.7 million subscribers) and Tyler Oakley (26-year-old American LGBT vlogger, 7.6 million subscribers). The billboards were hard to miss, towering above the NY streets, testament to how seriously Google is investing in its young YouTube stars.

According to YouTube, this sort of traditional ad push can increase viewers to these channels by as much as 300%. YouTube is now diversifying its advertising partnerships beyond creators to specific channels, such as cookery broadcaster Sorted Food and soccer show Copa90, which has more than 1 million subscribers who tune in for content focused on the fans as much as the game.

Tom Thirwall, chief executive of Copa90's parent company Bigballs Film, told UK newspaper The Guardian: "I think we've started a disruption, and an analysis by the major sports-media businesses as to how you actually engage with young fans. These companies are straight one-to-many broadcasters, employing ex-footballers in suits to talk about the games."

As a result, traditional broadcaster Sky has partnered this month with online network Whistle Sports to launch its own YouTube channel. Thirwall is not worried, however: "Can and will the sports broadcast community come into this space? Absolutely. But the problem is that big media businesses always handle young audiences very clumsily, and often in a very patronising way," he told The Guardian. "Ultimately, it's very difficult to move away from their legacy business models."

For more on YouTube creators, see our New Social Media Influencers report. For more on sports marketing, see The Sports Marketing Playbook.