Instagram Reels: The Next Big Thing in Sports Social Media

Instagram has launched an exciting new feature that could revolutionise how sports organisations publish video content in the future.

Reels is a 15-second video feature that is being described by industry experts as the Facebook-owned company’s answer to TikTok.

Instagram has launched Reels in more than 50 countries including the United States, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom, having tested the format in several markets for more than a year.

Reels allows users to tap into a whole suite of editing tools within the main Instagram app to create and share 15-second videos with different visual and sound effects.

Instagram’s head of sports, Dev Sethi, played down suggestions that Reels has merely copied TikTok’s hugely successful formula.

“First and foremost, TikTok is 60 seconds worth of content, Reels is launching as a 15-second format,” he told SportsProMedia.

“I think the through-lines between Instagram, TikTok, Snap, and really even Instagram with Stories, has been that there is this appetite for people to not only consume, but create these short-form chunks of content.

“While I think TikTok has also identified some of those preferences of young people and how they create and consume, that’s something that Instagram has really keenly observed and heard from the community on our platforms as well.

“So, as we’ve seen the rise of short-form video on Instagram, we thought there was an opportunity to create something that really fits the needs of young people, and also creators within sports who aren’t just defined by creating mid-form content, long-form content, but can be really expressive and creative in creating short-form content.”

The arrival of Reels within the digital landscape undoubtedly creates an exciting opportunity for sport, providing another innovative tool that it can use to reach out to a younger demographic.

Some leagues have already experimented with Reels since it went live on August 5, and many more are expected to jump on the bandwagon over the next few weeks.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) were one of the first to test out the capabilities of Reels, sharing a game recap from the opening night of its return in Orlando.

In the United Kingdom, newly-crowned Premier League champions Liverpool used the new feature to promote their new kit deal with Nike.

While Reels has quickly found favour with numerous leagues and clubs, Sethi believes that individual athletes could be the main beneficiaries of the new feature.

“I would argue that we really first started to see the rise and proliferation of athletes as creators through our Stories service,” he said.

“It gave them a comfortability in creating content that didn’t have to be over a minute long and super well produced – it could be really engaging, authentic, even raw at times.

“It gave them that comfortability to express themselves in a way that didn’t feel like they had to be full-time creators with a full-time production team.

“Reels to me is the next iteration of how athletes can express themselves. If you take that concept overall and apply the new diverse and creative tools that we’ll have in Reels, then you’ve got a really nice match in that next evolution of how athletes are able to express themselves and create on our platform, in ways that feel really native to how they’ve used Instagram as well.”

The addition of Reels to Instagram gives the platform the edge over many of its rivals, providing sports organisations with the opportunity to publish a wide range of video content.

“We now have a holistic series of services where brands can express themselves,” said Sethi. “And then now that next evolution with Reels where you can be a bit more creative in what you create, and then even more diverse in who you can potentially reach.”