Recently, YouTube sensations, the Sidemen, have exclusively partnered with London football club Leyton Orient. The Sidemen are a group of YouTube stars including KSI, Zerkaa, W2S, Vikkstar123, Miniminter, Behzinga and TBJZL. The group have achieved multiple successes including a combined total of 100m YouTube subscribers, 26bn YouTube views and selling 26,000 copies of their book, “The Sidemen” in three days. The UK entertainers have also accomplished greatness in the footballing landscape, including the hosting of three charity matches that have raised £390,000+ and participating in the EE Wembley Cup which was viewed by millions worldwide.
Since Orient announced their partnership, there’s been mixed reviews from their audience. Some responses consist of Orient fans not being aware of who the Sidemen are which has created conflicting opinions towards the YouTubers affiliating themselves in professional football. However, the majority of reactions have been positive, especially from Gen Z audiences. Plus, Orient’s Twitter announcement of the Sidemen becoming official club partners is the clubs most engaged post this month. This demonstrates the enormous brand awareness the Sidemen have already accumulated for the O’s.
Content creators have been making an enormous name for themselves across the traditional sporting landscape. Examples include UK personalities Chunkz and Jaackmaate working with Sky Sports and Sportbible on football social shows. Sidemen member KSI defeating US entertainer Logan Paul in the first professional YouTube boxing match in November 2019 at the Staples Center in LA. Plus, US Influencer Jake Paul is fighting former NBA star Nate Robinson on the undercard of Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jnr later this month. Leyton Orient has identified the influence the Sidemen have on a growing fanbase of Gen Z audiences which will be commercially appealing to captivate this demographic towards the O’s audience.
The growth of digital media has increased the leverage that building an online brand has towards creating opportunities for career development. The discussed creators have been exceptions at executing this, which has seen them accumulate millions of online followers that have supported their journeys. This naturally entices interest from the corporate world of sport, an industry continually making efforts to keep ahead of the digital curve.
Bringing the Sidemen into the commercial football world automatically sparks a connection with a rapidly growing audience, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. These demographics are typically those who were born between 1995-2009 (Gen Z) and 2010-2024 (Gen Alpha). Both are target audiences that are proving beneficial for high volumes of brand awareness for sports organisations. For example, UK creator Chunkz featured in a video on the Pro: Direct Soccer YouTube channel with fellow creator Yung Filly and Chelsea star Mason Mount. The video has over 1m views which are widely recognised for Chunkz teaching Mason Mount the, ‘Frankenstein’ celebration which Mount performed in Chelsea’s 4-0 victory against Everton 8 months ago which went viral.
The point is that content creators are influencing a new wave of culture into the sports industry that is keeping the game engaging for the younger generation, who are the most influential demographic towards enhancing commercial brand awareness like never before. This has been demonstrated with KSI’s 2nd bout with Logan Paul becoming DAZN’s 3rd highest selling event in 2019, the 2015 EE Wembley Cup accumulating a 300% increase in brand searches for EE alongside YouTuber formed team Hashtag United becoming a semi-professional football team. In the past, the Sidemen have created various football related videos including skill challenges, FIFA tournaments and collaborations with other football associated influencers, including the football freestylers, the F2.
To summarise, the sports industry must acknowledge the influence digital creators can bring to any landscape they apply their passion too, which is what Leyton Orient has executed excellently.