The goal, however, has become to monetize opinion, no matter how toxic. Outlandish statements matter because they can be clipped up and put on social media, driving engagement and therefore advertising revenue. It doesn’t matter if the YouTuber in question believes what they’re saying, as long as it ‘does numbers’ on social media. Mark Goldbridge, the face of AFTV’s Manchester United equivalent The United Stand, is actually a former police officer from Nottingham called Brent Di Cesare who inhabits the sort of frothing character demanded from such channels.
Tribalism, as opposed to open-minded fandom, becomes normalized on social media, too often at the expense of standing up for vital societal campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and mental health awareness. Adopting a contrarian viewpoint trumps all.
YouTube personalities are even making moves into the sporting arena itself, bringing their army of fans with them. Logan Paul – a one-time star of Disney series Bizaardvark, who has been making YouTube video’s since he was 10 – is a motormouth vlogger who has recently attached himself to boxing. The Gen-Z public can’t get enough. Subscribers get a front-row seat to training camps, making Paul’s brash call-outs accessible in a way elite boxers aren’t.
Aged 26, he is worth $19 million and will fight 50-0 hall-of-famer Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition bout on June 6.
The show itself will closely resemble his younger brother Jake’s fight against former MMA star Ben Askren in April earlier this year. Part of an off-shoot of boxing which is as much about entertainment as the sweet science itself, it generated 1.5 million pay-per-view buys for up-and-coming video streaming service Triller, making it one of the top 10 all-time. Paul is the third-highest earning boxer in the world in the past 12 months, having also beaten former NBA star Nate Robinson. Only pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez and world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua earned more.
Primed for the 15-24 market, the undercard featured short sets from Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, the Black Keys and Mt Westmore, the recently assembled hip-hop supergroup comprising Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $hort and E-40. Expert commentary came from Snoop himself, Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, former WWE wrestler Ric Flair and a seemingly well-lubricated Oscar de la Hoya.
Sports are desperate to keep up in the contest for young pairs of eyes, all potential future fans for life, but face competition with TikTok, computer games and YouTube. Crossover Gen-Z talents like Ryan Garcia – the WBC interim lightweight champion, who documents his career and ridiculous hand speed to tens of million of fans on Instagram and TikTok – help, but sports are becoming increasingly unashamed in their attempts to woo the youth.
In January 2021, NFL on Nickelodeon simulcast the Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints wild card game to make the game more appealing to the child market. Former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, Nickelodeon star Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, 15, and sports broadcaster Noah Eagle explained rules, game mechanics and jargon, to go with virtual slime cannons that erupted after touchdowns, colorful animations and SpongeBob Squarepants-adorned goal posts.