How Bleacher Report is using animation to differentiate its World Cup coverage

Bleacher Report is creating animated videos to join conversations around the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this month – with a unique satirical twist. The publisher will offer a special episode of its popular animated series “The Champions”, as well as a new, shorter-format show called “Champions Chat” and quick sketches to follow the matches.

During the last World Cup tournament in 2018, Bleacher Report’s B/R Football vertical did not have a YouTube channel. TikTok didn’t exist in its current form, and Instagram was still primarily a photo-sharing app. The content created around the last World Cup was focused on images.

So why is Bleacher Report turning to animation this time around? “We’re known for that,” said Lee Walker, B/R Football’s senior brand strategy director. And social platforms are pushing video harder than ever, with TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, he added.

Animation content sees a 72% increase in cross-platform engagements (shares, likes and comments) per post compared to other B/R Football content, a Bleacher Report spokesperson said, citing internal figures. Animation content represents eight of the 10 most engaged posts for B/R Football in 2022, they added.

It also sets B/R Football apart from all the “clutter” and “lots of content” that will surround the World Cup, said Brian Quarles, creative director of sports marketing agency rEvolution.

However, none of the new animated content for the World Cup has a sponsor. It is also expensive to produce. While Walker and the spokesperson declined to say how much it costs to create the animations, Walker said it’s “more of our premium programming that we produce and it comes at a cost. “. The cost is justified, they say, because it has a “long shelf life” and is their most popular content. Previous seasons of “The Champions” had sponsors, including Playstation for season three and for season four.

Given the rise of streaming platforms since 2018, viewers will have more options to watch World Cup football matches, which kick off on November 20. 56% of people polled in the US by Insider Intelligence will watch games via linear television. NBCUniversal will broadcast more than 2,000 hours of World Cup coverage on Telemundo, Universo, Peacock, and the Telemundo Deportes app, according to the broadcaster. The company is working to generate more advertising revenue for this World Cup than for the 2018 games, Adweek reported.

B/R Football currently has 36 million cross-platform social media subscribers and garners more than 200 million video views per month, according to the company. So far, B/R Football has had over 1.75 billion video views and 1 billion engagements in 2022, a spokesperson said.

The latest data from Tubular Labs shows that B/R Football had 52.8 million views on TikTok, 35.8 million views on YouTube, 20.8 million views on Twitter and 13.2 million views on Facebook in September 2022. Viewers are predominantly male and are between the ages of 18 and 34. year. Almost a third of YouTube viewers are based in the United States. B/R Football has 4.1 million subscribers on TikTok and 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube.

B/R Football’s most popular show, “The Champions” animated series, will premiere a special World Cup episode titled “The Champions of the World” at 12:00 p.m. ET on November 18 on YouTube. B/R app, Twitter and Instagram, with discounts shared on TikTok.

The concept of the show is that UEFA Champions League players live together in a mansion. The episodes are five to seven minutes long and parody what happened in real football matches and their respective stories. Its sixth season averaged 15 million views per episode, according to Bleacher Report’s spokesperson, with most viewers coming from YouTube.

The problem with “The Champions” is the time it takes to produce – usually around two to three months. But with all the news coming out of the World Cup tournament, the B/R football team wanted to produce animated content in a shorter format with a faster turnaround time to cater to the World Cup matches. .

There will be two ways for this. The first, titled “Champions Chat”, will feature five two- to three-minute episodes, timed to follow each stage of the World Cup. The first episode will air on December 2 at the end of the group stage.

B/R Football will also produce 60 second sketches which can be created in approximately 15 hours.

“Champions Chat” is inspired by daytime TV talk shows, Walker said — think “The View.” This will allow the Bleacher Report team to “react to World Cup stories much faster than we can on the full show,” he said. It’s recorded live to tape and produced by the same 15-person US-based team behind “The Champions,” including eight animators, two writers, and three producers.

The football player characters in the show are “pre-animated”, so they can be manipulated with webcam face tracking to generate mouth movements that match the voice-over audio, kinda like a puppet, Walker explained.

The quick sketches – which have no voiceovers – will model B/R Football’s TikTok videos. One of those videos – a comedic version of the players preparing for the World Cup – has nearly 24 million views. The animation style is a bit simpler than “The Champions” and is done by an outsourced team (Walker declined to share who the team was, fearing they’d be picked up by “rivals”. But he did says they’re not based in the US and have a “time zone advantage” to shoot video before people wake up in the US). Around 20 sketches will be produced during the World Cup tournament.

“It’s a wild rush as the game unfolds to hit those social conversations and transfer them into those kind of quick 60-second animated sketches,” Walker said.

The fact that the animations are parodies also means Bleacher Report doesn’t have to pay expensive rights to include the names of famous athletes.

“From our perspective, I think it’s important for brands to find a position to talk about the World Cup or be part of that conversation,” Walker said. “The content that a fan can engage with…it’s about personalities. It’s a bit of a window into the caricatures of these players.

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