Perhaps one of the most surprising viral sensations to appear on the YouTube scene in recent months has been NBA star Jeremy Lin. He made a big splash back in July with a video that showed a gaggle of popular YouTubers welcome him to LA in the traditional way, through a massive song and dance number. Then he upped his viral game by posing as his own wax double at Madame Tussauds. Now he’s gone and signed his channel and all of its nearly 400,000 subscribers to Whistle Sports.
Since its launch last January Whistle Sports has been gaining serious momentum by cornering the market on sports on YouTube and beyond. Lin is the latest addition to a roster that already includes trick shot masters Dude Perfect, The Harlem GlobeTrotters, and a host of professional sports leagues. YouTube estimates that just 30 of the world’s top 30,000 pro athletes have YouTube channels. By bringing Lin on board Whistle Sports hopes to change that and blaze a trail for other pro-athletes. Whistle Sports has already launched channels with Lacrosse star Paul Rabil and PBA titlist Jason Belmonte this summer. I caught up with Whistle EVP Brian Selander to get his take on the intersection of pro-sports and new media.
NMR: This is really the first time we’ve seen serious professional athletes coming to YouTube and online video in a major way. We’ve noticed you’re at the forefront of this emerging trend. What do you think is driving it?
Brian Selander: Fans will always care about the final score, but they’re becoming more interested than ever in learning more about the people and personalities that put those points on the board. What drives them? What’s interesting about the way they practice or prepare that makes them different? What do they do when they’re not playing that’s engaging, inspiring or even just funny? What charities or causes keep them busy that they want more people to know?
YouTube and Xbox are great places for athletes to show the parts of their personalities that don’t always come through on the court or field. When you have something to say or something to share you can – directly with the fans.
NMR: Are you ever approached by athletes who want to build their online profile? Is it something you’re actively pitching to players or are players starting to pitch you?
Brian S: We do get approached, and I expect this news could accelerate that interest. Whistle Sports is this great intersection between our multiple pro league partners and some of the most engaging digital content creators in the YouTube space. DudePerfect’s recent video at Gillette Stadium did over 5.2 million views already. That’s an exciting place for pro athletes to be, too.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeremy Lin is an early adopter when it comes to online video. His career has been steeped in social media since the beginning. Remember #Linsanity? He’s a hugely popular presence on Twitter and he’s already seen some success on YouTube. Now that he’s plugged into the Whistle Sport’s network he could be the test case for future pros looking to jump head first into the YouTube game.