8 of the Biggest Sports Viral Videos

No one could have imagined the future power of YouTube and other such video streaming websites when they first became mainstream, and more importantly, the marketing potential that they would bring with them. As things stand there is one hour of YouTube footage uploaded every second, and 4 billion videos are watched everyday, so generally speaking a video has to do something special to stand out – enter the viral video.

A viral video is one that, for whatever reason, we feel compelled to share and tell other people about. Undoubtedly the Kony 2012 video has set a benchmark that will be difficult to surpass. In the meantime, let’s enjoy some of the finer sports viral videos out there. Sports viral videos tend take one of two forms; a creative montage/ short film, or a feat of athleticism and talent that leaves viewers wondering if it is real or not.

Either way, they achieve the ultimate goal of having potential customers talking about them. Here are some of the biggest sports viral videos in terms of views and/ or impact:

1) The Earl and the Tiger

Whether you’re a golf fan or not, you’ll struggle to find someone who hasn’t heard of Tiger Woods. I think it’s for that reason, and not because of the artistic cinematography that this was the most successful sports viral video of all time at its launch. To give you a brief synopsis of the back-story: Tiger Woods, trained by his father Earl, becomes one of the greatest golfers of all time; Earl Woods tragically dies in 2006 and the emotion surrounding Woods’ career is palpable; in 2009 it is revealed that Woods is a serial cheater and separates from his wife; many sponsors drop him though Nike hangs on; he takes a break from golf; Nike releases this chilling viral video as a preface to his highly anticipated return – the video implies that the ghost of his dead father has returned to ask him some questions about his life and his career… yes really…

2) Nike Football – Write the Future

Nike Football are the kings of sports viral videos – they tend to do it better, and much more often than any other sports organisation. This viral campaign was released in the build up to the 2010 FIFA world cup, and was accompanied by a series of television commercials (that were incidentally snippets of this longer video, often with two or three interlaced around a tv show or sports match)

3) Ronaldinho Crossbar Challenge

Another offering from Nike Football – to coincide with their new ‘Joga TV’ service that would encourage freestyle football, Nike released this viral video that showed then soccer kingpin Ronaldinho performing an unbelievable feat of skill. For the first time, millions of soccer fans around the world were joined in head scratching as to whether the video was real or not (this, along with the less popular ‘Ronaldo response’ helped to boost sales of Nike soccer boots also)

4) Lebron James Hits Full Court Shots

If you want a lot of exposure for an “is that real?” type video, what better way to do it than to use a highly polarising sports star… enter Lebron James and his surreal full court shots. Another excellent Lebron James viral video in terms of views is the “Lebron Rise” video – equal parts blasé and patronising in the aftermath of his departure from Cleveland, but I couldn’t put too many Nike videos in this list…

5) NFL Fantasy Files; Pick Me

In order to work people into a bit of a frenzy about the upcoming fantasy football season, this series of viral video clips was released, again getting people to talk about the service, and debating furiously about whether these activities were really possible or not. I won’t spoil any of them for you – just watch and enjoy!

6) Adidas is All In

A laundry list of sports stars, music stars, the head of Adidas PR and a professional cinematographer all combine to produce the most expensive sports viral video ever in this offering from Adidas. The video is definitely energetic and holds attention well, but seeing as it was absolutely crushed in terms of views and impact by the next video, you have to argue that it was a waste of money

7) Evan Longoria’s Crazy Bare Hand Catch

This video couldn’t have had a greater impact if it tried; it made it to the top 5 most watched sports videos of 2011 on YouTube – an incredible achievement for a lowly viral video. More importantly though for the makers; leading news and sports outlets were dissecting the video trying to figure out if it was real or not. You can’t buy exposure like that

8) Ronaldo vs Nadal

Here we have the most recent offering from Nike Football – to celebrate the release of the Mercurial Vapor VIII soccer boots, Nike made this video depicting a tennis/ football rally between two of the most marketable sports stars in the world at the minute. At the time of writing, the video has achieved 5.5 million views in 9 days – Evan Longoria’s video achieved 6.9 million views in 11 months; Cristiano and Rafa are well on their way to becoming the most successful sports viral video of all time, and by quite a significant margin… for the meantime. Enjoy!

Written by Matthew Kearney

Matthew Kearney is a Consumer Behaviour researcher who has been published in a number of journals and textbooks. His research interests include marketing, advertising & social media. He is very passionate about Guerrilla Marketing, Viral Marketing & Ambient Advertising. He is always on the lookout for new or exciting examples, and the impact that these forms of marketing have on consumers. He can be found on Linkedin or twitter.

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