By Sahil Patel
We’re a few weeks away from the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the frenzy that surrounds the biggest sporting tournament on the planet. Pretty soon, that’s all anyone is going to talk about, no matter where you go.
To serve that appetite for content, and show exactly how insane people can get about football (or soccer, for you peons), digital content producer Bigballs Films has unveiled four new series for its Copa90 YouTube channel, one of the largest sports channels on YouTube with more than 676,000 subscribers.
The slate begins with “Eli’s Fan Hike,” which premiered this week. The four-episode program will follow host Eli Mengem as he treks across Europe and North, Central, and South America — totaling more than 10,000 miles — to make it in time for Australia’s first World Cup match in Cuiaba. Along the way, Mengem will meet with football fans in each of these regions and explore what the team means to them and the global community. New episodes will roll out on a weekly basis, with a finale set for June 16.
Mengem, who joined Copa90’s talent roster after winning its Best Job in the World competition, has hosted “Derby Days” for the channel. That show follows him across Europe as he takes in some of the biggest rivalries in the sport.
Mengem’s World Cup plans don’t end with “Fan Hike.” Following the show’s conclusion, Copa90 will pivot to another series called “Eli’s Fan Stories.” Spanning eight episodes or “video diaries,” the show will provide a first-hand look at how a young fan experiences the World Cup. Mengem will meet, travel, watch matches, and hang out with fans with “the most interesting stories,” according to Bigballs Films.
Other shows include “World Cup Taxi,” a nine-part series that will follow hosts Maya Jama and Tom Deacon as they ferry World Cup-goers around the host cities, spend a day with them, and share their World Cup experiences.
Jama is hosting another World Cup-centric show for Copa90, “Maya’s FIFA World Cup Cities,” which bowed in March. In that show, she’s been providing a travelogue of the places, people, and culture of the World Cup host cities. She has also been spotlighting the local clubs of each of the host cities, and the fandom that surrounds the game at the local level.
The final series is a special continuation of Copa90’s interactive talk show, “Comments Below.” In “Comments Below Brazil,” hosts David Vujanic and Poet will provide coverage of the entire tournament, from the games to everything else happening around it.
“Comments Below” is a successful format for Copa90, averaging thousands of comments per episode. The 12 Brazil-based episodes will be shot in Sao Paulo, Copacabana beach, and Belo Horizonte, and will air from June 10 to July 18.
These shows exemplify Bigballs and Copa90’s strategy of serving football fans old and new in ways that the traditional sports networks aren’t able to. Unlike those companies, Bigballs and Copa90 aren’t beholden to “corporate restrictions” on how a sports programmer must present content, says Bigballs CEO Tom Thirlwall. “We are eye-level with the fans, celebrating with them in bars, at games; it creates a more visceral film, and a more emotional connection with the content,” he says.
It’s an appealing pitch for advertisers who want to tap into the World Cup frenzy. And so far, it’s been working for Bigballs films. The company has secured sponsorship deals with World Cup sponsors Hyundai and Adidas as part of its tournament programming plans. Hyundai, in fact, is on board as title sponsor for “Maya’s FIFA World Cup Cities” and “World Cup Taxi.”
The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12.