10 Creative Uses of Archive Footage

21st April 2020


Are you looking for new, creative ways to use archive footage? 

At this time, many broadcasters, content producers and rights holders are looking to sports archives in the absence of live coverage. It provides an opportunity to reimagine archive footage in creative and innovative ways to connect with your audiences - while also providing a much-needed distraction from national and world events. We run down our favourite 10 creative uses of archive footage in the editorial space to inspire your content strategies, from documentary storytelling to embracing new technologies.

1. "Watch Parties"

Live streaming or broadcasting archive matches and long-form replays is one of the most accessible content options to fill programming schedules right now and can provide fans with their sporting fix. However, the real value is providing audiences with a platform to engage with a like-minded community of supporters in real-time as they relive, reminisce and reconnect with memorable moments from the history of the sport, whether it's via social channels or on your platforms. 

See how Tennis TV is sharing match replays' live' in line with the ATP tournament schedule that would've been to create a social viewing experience.

2. Documentaries

Documentary filmmaking is a powerful and unique form of storytelling; now may be the perfect time to delve deeper into the untold stories of the sporting world. There is a growing appetite for in-depth and authentic stories from audiences worldwide and content-rich archives are now more accessible than ever through dedicated archive content sourcing platforms - just like IMG Replay - to streamline access, delivery and clearances. A great story, told well, can transcend genres and reach beyond a devoted sports fanbase to new audiences. Dependent on the subject and availability of footage, premium documentaries can take 12-18 months to land on audiences' screens; however, topics and shorter formats can allow more experimental development and broader distribution within a shorter timeframe. Great documentaries can also be timeless, and we love to see archive programming being re-launched, with the added benefit of potentially reaching new audiences. See our collection of documentaries available to license today. 

ESPN's highly-acclaimed Michael Jordan-themed documentary series "The Last Dance" is proving the intrinsic value and potential reach of archive-based documentaries, check out the trailer on ESPN's YouTube channel. 

3. Challenge your audience

At home challenges referencing archive clips are providing light-hearted and highly engaging content across entertainment and lifestyle verticals, and sports are no different. Challenge your audience to recreate or finish iconic moments from home; from re-enacting their favourite moments to turning the camera back around to recreate their reaction or celebrations. It can also be a great format to work together with athletes to elevate your messaging and give fans a chance to connect with the people behind the moments.

Check out this fan video that reached over 4 million views on Twitter, via JOE "Young Football Fans Recreate Iconic Goals."

4. New Commentary

Reimagining archive coverage or highlights with new commentary can provide a fresh perspective to audiences - whether it comes from experienced sports commentators, sporting legends, former players returning to offer unique insights. Alternatively, user-generated content could be embraced by encouraging your community to share their commentary to drive even greater fan engagement.

In the US, Major League Soccer introduced a new format to their regular stream of live match replays by incorporating real-time video commentary from former players in MLS Classics: Remix.

5. Immersive Virtual Experiences

Virtual products can deliver an authentic, fan-first experience using archive footage to create 'new' ways for audiences to experience the action from the comfort of their own homes. Whether it's embracing VR technology to create virtual environments for fans to experience classic matches from the best - virtual - seat in the house, to simulating outcomes by combining archive data, footage and CGI with sophisticated algorithms, as seen in the televised Virtual Grand National on ITV

6. Gamify

Sports fans are often by nature competitive so there is a growing trend for gamification to amplify content and increase video engagement. Archive footage can play a part in this trend in many ways, whether it's incorporated into training content, such as tracking sprints against Usain Bolt's 100m or more traditional formats, including online trivia or quiz formats to test fans or support promotional campaigns with giveaways.

Check out Fox Sports: The Home Game

7. "Head to Head"

As part of an overarching content strategy, 'head to head' can be a theme in both a historical context and theoretical. Looking back at iconic rivalries and past "head to head" matches between players or teams can invoke passionate debate among fans, but this is not limited to "head to heads" that took place. Who would win in their prime can throwback to one team in two era-defining moments, or it can be a chance to reimagine two sporting legends that never faced each other in reality.

The eWBSS (World Boxing Super Series) virtual legends tournament did precisely that when Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson met in the finals of the virtual boxing tournament last month. The concept was in part inspired by the 1970 'Super Fight' between Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, a 'fantasy fight' that utilised footage of the two heavyweight greats filmed during sparring sessions.

8. Who did it better?

On to another comparison format but this time focusing on the moments within the context of the original output, comparing tries, aces, goals & other iconic moments across sports, nationalities and archives can provide a source of debate for audiences worldwide. For example, "Who did it best: Drop goals in the 2019 Rugby World Cup" - was it Stuart Hogg's drop goal against Samoa, the first for Scotland in 5 years, or the fastest drop goal in Rugby World Cup history - in just 36 seconds! - for Wales' Dan Biggar against Australia. 

9. Compilations

Archive content for compilation lists, ranking, countdowns etc. can be sourced and produced as broad topics or interactive as most appealing to your audience and optimise content for your chosen distribution strategy. The rich history of sporting archives provides a multitude of material to support any theme - from the funniest bloopers and unexpected moments to the greatest athletes and golden moments. However, if unanimously agreeing on the ranked positions proves too challenging, you can always throw the voting back to your audience. 

Have you seen these eight 20-second sports moments, shared as part of a Daily Dose series to encourage global health advice for effective hand washing.

10. Highlights

Highlights content can come in many forms and whether it's experimental post-production, packaging with enhanced data application or using AI technology to automate creation and discovery - there is a captive audience awaiting this content. YouTube's Tomos Grace (Head of Sport, EMEA) shared recently that 7-to-10-minute highlight content performs significantly better all-round than the 2-to-3-minute highlights that have become more commonplace. Leveraging highlight content as free top-of-funnel marketing beyond your owned channels and platforms can also prove valuable to drive audience growth as part of your content strategy.


The best of the rest...

Be inspired by past projects from some of the world's most creative minds, from global brands and agencies to award-winning storytellers - all bringing their vision to life using archive content.