The World Surf League had the most viewed video across various social media platforms in the past year, says California analytics company, Hookit, in a recent study that analyzed over 1,200 sports leagues, teams, and federations. Given the WSL is small time compared to North American sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, or NHL this may come as a bit of a surprise. But the findings illustrate just how valuable viral content can be in a world that competes for eyeballs, not to mention how unpredictable the phenomenon of going viral can actually be.
The video, which shows a large pod of dolphins splitting peaks in Western Australia, has nothing to do with professional surfing. And yet, sharing videos like these has become a major social media strategy for the WSL to build its audience. With over 120 million views, the strategy seems to be working. Not to mention, the video outpaced Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show, which only accrued a little over 50 million views on social networks, according to the report.
But the WSL isn’t the only sports organization trying to leverage viral content. Also on the top 10 videos list is a video of a military dog dropping the puck before a Ducks-Flames game (shared by the NHL) and Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola surprising a young fan in a taxi (shared by the soccer club). In fact, not a single one of the top 10 videos on the list is an actual moment from a game or contest. Each is a curiosity or a moment that pulls at the heart strings (i.e. “Marlins wearing José Fernández jerseys to honor teammate, who died the previous night,” which came in at no. 10).