When Yann Sommer was asked if he could blow a kiss directly into the camera, he couldn’t have had any idea of the impact that simple gesture would have. The Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper and Swiss international was already one of the Bundesliga’s most popular figures, but his action that day would bring him a whole new level of international recognition, even among those with no real interest in football.
Sommer’s kiss was turned into a GIF – a short, soundless animated clip that is played continuously in a loop – and added to the Bundesliga’s official accounts on both GIPHY and Tenor, two established GIF online databases and search engines.
Within a year, the Sommer GIF had attracted almost 19 million views and been used widely as a sticker (a GIF with the background removed) on Instagram. While usage of the GIF peaked during Sommer’s participation in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the generic appeal of the gesture means it has also proved a popular choice among non-sports fans too, bringing Sommer – and the Bundesliga by extension – onto the phones and laptops of a whole new worldwide audience.
GIFs have been around for three decades now, but it is only in the last few years that their popularity has really taken off in conjunction with the rise of social media as well as messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Since March 2018, more than 1,600 GIFs have been created by the DFL’s subsidiary DFL Digital Sports that have attracted almost 800 million views – around 2.5 million views per day.
The original goal had been to reach a total of 100 million views by the end of 2018 only for demand to go through the roof. By that point, Bundesliga GIFs had been seen 700 million times. Today, the one billion mark is not far away.
Bundesliga GIFs come in several variations. Some, like Sommer’s kiss, have been created specifically for this purpose by players at the DFL media days. Others, such as goal celebrations, have for example been taken from scenes in the video game EA SPORTS FIFA19, while some have also been added to the Bundesliga library from each club’s individual creative output.
The DFL initially started out working solely with GIPHY but has also joined up with Google acquisition Tenor to expand its reach. Currently, both platforms host similar content and search engine capabilities – English keywords, with important GIFs also found using German and Spanish too – but, as insight into the market grows, there could be scope to provide different material to each platform.
As GIF usage grows, plenty of other opportunities are presenting themselves: be it on WhatsApp, Instagram or other social channels. The opportunities which GIFs provide for the Bundesliga seem endless. And it all started with a kiss!