In the recent years a new social media platform called TikTok has emerged. A growing number of leagues (NFL, NBA..), pro teams (Bayer Munich, Warriors/NBA..) are now using TikTok to better engage with younger demographics.

Picture: Warriors (NBA)’s TikTok official account

In April 2014, the American version of TikTok originally launched as the lip-synching app Three years later, in November 2017, Chinese company ByteDance bought . ByteDance was then folded it into their existing app, TikTok, in August 2018. TikTok became an international sensation in 2018.

But before we go over some examples of how sports organizations are using the new social media platform, let’s go over some key stats about TikTok:

  1. TikTok is the 4th biggest social media platform today:

524M+ users globally.

  1. TikTok is the #1 app downloaded on the App Store:

As of November 2018, TikTok was the third-most downloaded app globally between Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

In 1H2018, TikTok was the #1 app downloaded on the Apple App Store.

  1. TikTok beat Facebook in terms of first time installs per month:

As shown in the graph below, with 3.81M first time installs in October 2018, TikTok beat Facebook in this metric, according to SensorTower.

  1. TikTok’s engagement rate is low for a social media platform:

TikTok’s engagement rate of 29% is low for a social media. By comparison, Facebook and Instagram have an engagement rate of 96% and 95%, respectively.

  1. 40% of TikTok users are under the age of 20:

As of March 2018, nearly 40% of TikTok users were under the age of 20,

26% of TikTok users are between 20 and 29 years old.

TikTok’s young demographics is one of the key reasons why a growing number of pro teams and leagues are starting to pay attention to TikTok. They see in TikTok a great opportunity for them to better connect and engage with the next generation of fans also commonly known as the Gen Z.

“I think what makes TikTok so exciting is that literally one of our biggest goals in the entire company is cultivating the next generation of fans,” says NBA Vice President of Social and Digital Content Bob Carney. “It gets really, really exciting for everybody when you can reach a completely new audience.”

  1. 44% of TikTok users are female:

Although only 44% of TikTok users are female, the bulk of the NBA’s 4.3M TikTok followers are young females. That being said, while Bayern Munich’s nearly 86,000 TikTok followers are roughly an even split of men and women.

  1. The majority (68%) of TikTok users like watching someone’s videos:


  1. 42% of TikTok’s total revenues come from the US:

In 1Q19, apps developed by Chinese firms or by companies with large Chinese investors, brought in revenues of $674.8M in the U.S., according to Sensor Tower. In other words, 42% of all TikTok revenue now comes from the USA. This represents a 67% YoY increase in terms of revenue growth

Not surprisingly, the biggest sports leagues in North America have already embraced TikTok. NFLPA also reached a deal with the platform in January 2019 to allow TikTok users to implement 3D AR stickers of its players.

Now let’s go over some examples of pro teams and sports leagues using TikTok today:

  1. The Golden State Warriors (NBA):

The Warriors (NBA) recently made some headlines as it became the first NBA team to reach 1M TikTok followers. It is worth pointing out that 63% of the Warriors’ followers being female.

When the Warriors posted on August 1 a TikTok video with Curry kicking a basketball across the practice facility with Fort Minor’s “Remember The Name” playing in the background, it reached two team members, with the latter hurling it to Curry, who proceeded to drain a three-pointer from beyond the three-point line.

As of November 6, 2019 that post has more than 18M views, said Warriors Vice President of Corporate Communications Lisa Goodwin. It’s also garnered more than 1.4M likes and nearly 16,000 shares via TikTok. You can check out the TikTok video of Steph Curry here.

  1. Bayern Munich:

    In the world of pro soccer, the Bayern Munich, with 700k+ TitTok followers, is the perfect example of a leading soccer team that has successfully adopted TikTok. What attracted the leading soccer team to TikTok was the ability to offer creative story telling for a young audience.

“We saw the power and creativity, and also that it’s something new,” says Felix Loesner, head of social media at FC Bayern Munich. “It’s something like the old Vine where you can have creative storytelling for a special young audience. This makes the app so interesting for us.”

  1. The NFL:

The NFL is another great example of a major sports league that is currently using TikTok to “score with young viewers.” The NFL (along with Major League Baseball, or MLB) seems to be losing its edge among younger viewers and fans, and to the advantage of basketball and soccer, according to a report from Morning Consult.

“While 68% of all adults polled chose MLB or the NFL as their favorite professional sports league, that share fell to 52 percent among the youngest adults,” the report said. “Forty percent of those respondents also said they preferred the NBA [National Basketball Association] or MLS [Major League Soccer], compared with 23% of all adults.”

With that in mind, the NFL sees TikTok as a great new platform to win the young viewers. This is why last September the NFL signed a new multi-year partnership with TikTok to bring the NFL experience to TikTok’s global community. NFL content include uniquely packaged highlights, sideline moments, and behind-the-scenes footage. Additionally, the NFL and TikTok partnered together around a series of NFL-themed hashtag challenges, inviting members of the TikTok community to express their passion for their favorite NFL clubs and players on TikTok.

So what are the best way for pro teams and leagues to engage with TikTok users?

1. Tell efficient stories. To that end, befitting the app’s musical and idiosyncratic roots, many ideas center on the lighter-hearted moments in sports. For example, the Dodgers’ most-liked video to date was one of Clayton Kershaw and Alex Verdugo dancing in the team’s dugout. Bayern Munich, which timed its account launch ahead of a rivalry match against Borussia Dortmund, garnered almost 135,000 likes on a behind-the-scenes walkthrough video on gameday at the Allianz Arena. The NBA, meanwhile, has been on the platform since the days and built much of its audience through posting quirky in-game moments.

“When we first got going, we were really focused on using it as an outlet to showcase all of the fun moments that were happening in and around the arena,” NBA Vice President of Social and Digital Content Bob Carney says, before noting that every game is shot from 10 camera angles while many also feature social producers. “There was so much content that we didn’t have a home for.”

  1. Focus on video highlights with engaging music: The NBA has found success by dropping in highlights and setting them to music. It wasn’t part of the original plan – the league already had a history of utilizing Twitter and Facebook as its home for game-related action and developments. But even as relative veterans on TikTok, Carney is cognizant that the league needed to stay nimble on what fits the platform so long as they don’t stray too far from what’s already working.
  2. Keep it simple. The least packaged video content does best on TikTok: Ditto Sue Jo, the Dodgers social media coordinator, has found that it’s the least packaged items that often pop the loudest on TikTok.

“I don’t necessarily think that a lot of pre-produced content does well on platforms like TikTok,” Jo says. “There’s a platform at a time and place for stuff like that, but I think with this, the more organic it is, the more natural it feels, [then] the more excitement that people kind of feel from it.”

Bottom line: Through TikTok, many pro teams and sports leagues have a great opportunity to engage younger demographics that they would not necessarily engage through other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Moving forward we expect more teams and leagues to jump on the TikTok bandwagon as a way to better engage with their younger fans.