TikTok taps into surging soccer interest with Portland clubs deal

Dive Brief:

  • TikTok announced a multiyear partnership with soccer teams Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC that is designed to connect with fans through content, in-stadium moments, player appearances and more, according to a company announcement. Both teams will produce weekly content on their TikTok accounts, and select players will create exclusive videos on the platform.
  • TikTok will also be the official jersey sleeve partner for both teams in 2021, the first joint patch sponsorship of both a professional men’s and women’s soccer team in the U.S. The jerseys were revealed on TikTok on Feb. 23. A portion of proceeds from each jersey and four forthcoming scarves will be donated to a Portland-area nonprofit.
  • The partnership between TikTok and the Portland soccer teams seeks to tap into the surging interest in the sport on the app, as the #soccer hashtag has over 40 billion views and the #football hashtag has nearly 80 billion views internationally, per TikTok.

Dive Insight:

TikTok’s partnership with the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC is the app’s latest team-up with sports organizations that are increasingly looking to engage younger fans on their preferred social and mobile platforms. The pressure to create digital content has only been accelerated by the pandemic, which has kept most fans from attending live sporting events.

Along with a pledge to create frequent and exclusive content that could encourage return viewers, the partnership will put TikTok’s logo on player jerseys, a move that will both increase the platform’s visibility and benefit a Portland nonprofit. The effort also puts a men’s and women’s team on equal footing. The purpose-driven elements of the team-up could help interest younger consumers who want to see brands support social causes that are important to them.

“We strongly feel that gender equity in sports is crucial to changing perceptions and progressing for the better as a society. The Portland Timbers and Thorns share this belief, and we are proud that our first soccer team partnership in the U.S. places an equal emphasis on female athletes,” Harish Sarma, TikTok’s director of global strategic partnerships for the Americas and Oceania, said in the announcement.

The partnership comes on the heels of a similar deal with UFC, which is the third most-followed sports league on TikTok. The app teamed with the NFL in 2019 and broadcast a tailgate experience ahead of Super Bowl LV that featured Miley Cyrus. Deals like this could position TikTok for continued growth, especially as it is no longer in the crosshairs of the U.S. government.

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