Get used to seeing OnlyFans sponsor more aspects of our sport

by 73

Downhill and enduro racer Lewis Buchanan raised a few eyebrows with his announcement that he was adding OnlyFans – better known for its porn channels – to his sponsor list. Our publisher, Mark, looks at whether we should be so surprised.

OnlyFans.com attracted 333 million users in December alone! (source: Semrush) which makes it one of the world’s biggest websites. When you consider that the bulk of that traffic is from users who are paying money to creators to view their content it becomes pretty clear just how lucrative the OnlyFans business is. In fact statista.com reports that in 2022 OnlyFans generated revenues of $2.5 BILLION. 

OnlyFans.com origins & history

Although it’s still synonymous with porn, to be fair, OnlyFans wasn’t invented to provide a subscription service to porn stars – it was created in 2016 by British businessman Tim Stokely, funded by a £10k loan from his dad, to simply provide content creators with a subscription space for exclusive content – It just kind of happened to be a natural fit for creators who wanted to reveal a whole lot more – that was an avenue that really exploded after a 75% takeover of the company in 2018 by Ukranian-American businessman Leonid Radvinsky who really went to town on the NSFW angle. However, that kind of business model does not get by without attracting a lot of flak from critics who wished it didn’t exist – just like the porn industry at large – and that has not been an easy ride for the OnlyFans business.

In August 2021 the US Congress launched an investigation into OnlyFans and their lack of safeguards against under age access and content. Shortly thereafter OnlyFans announced that they were kicking porn off their platform entirely in a very much out of the blue announcement. It was subsequently revealed that the principal reason for this sudden move was that the main payment providers for the company’s paywall system, spooked by the US Congress investigation, threatened to cut off all services if they didn’t act. That decision was, however, rolled back just six days later when it looked like the business would simply not survive without the grot.

The company seemingly made undisclosed concessions to the card giants (Mastercard & Visa et al) that got them off the hook. There was also a huge backlash from sex workers and their paying fans who argued that it provided a safe space for sex workers to operate and they were being put at risk once more without the service – although how much of that argument was a consideration next to the rather existential threat of simply not being able to process any customer payments I’ll leave to your own speculation.

Even though this brought the company back to square one, it was clear that the owners were generally not happy with their rep as a porn platform (perhaps, as seems likely, the card payment companies threats of execution were merely stayed pending future changes?), and so they began a less knee-jerk response and a more strategic attempt at transitioning the OnlyFans brand away from porn. And that brings us to the last 12 months that has seen the company make attempts at sponsorship within the sports sector as well as others – cooking shows for example, are apparently a thing on OnlyFans too, although judging by the appearance of the women, it must be really quite warm in those kitchens.

Sportswashing?

So, is this sportswashing by a porn company? Probably not, at least in my view. Will it work though and will OnlyFans manage to shake off its porn label as a brand? Don’t underestimate the power of the human race’s appetite for sex and while OnlyFans continues to be a home for the streaming porn industry I very much doubt that label will fade. It’s entirely feasible that the plan is to transition as many sports opportunities as they can over to the platform and THEN jettison the porn, but that is a tough rebranding mission for sure and whether the owners are prepared to give up what is clearly a hugely profitable revenue stream in order to clean up their reputation is entirely down to them and what they want their legacy to be. I suspect that money may well be the one doing the talking here.

The Paywall Model

OnlyFans is all about the paywall. Creators make content and their fans pay the creator to get through the paywall to access it. We are all familiar with the concept – we have one too for our full members. Content is expensive and it needs to be paid for. Traditional publishers, like ourselves at Singletrackworld, have transitioned from the classic model of content is free to read but paid for by advertising around it, to a hybrid model of some content is free but some is paywalled. Publishers aren’t being greedy in the main, it’s just a reflection of the fact that advertising doesn’t pay what it used to, but content is ever more expensive to create.

But that’s the publishers’ story. Social media has turned everyone into a potential creator and there are many who have grown huge audiences – bigger than most media companies – but they don’t have access to the advertising tools and systems to be able to generate revenue that way. That side of the operation is monopolised by the social media platforms that the creators use to distribute their content. So, the only real sources of revenue for creators is to paywall themselves and ask fans to pay. There’s also the murky world of the influencer industry, but that doesn’t come without risk and small players, well, they don’t get to play.

So what about Lewis Buchanan?

Enter the OnlyFans model. You can get started monetising yourself from day one. Of course you need fans to pay to see your content but at least there’s a relatively risk free model from the start for any budding creator. Into that mix we now have the sponsored creators like Lewis Buchanan.

I wanted to see what was on offer on his channel and so I registered for an OnlyFans account to find out (Yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). It turns out that Lew’s OnlyFans account is free to access. There’s no charge to get through his paywall. However (and this is the clever bit), you need to 1: Register for an OnlyFans account and 2: You need to register a payment card on your account before you can access any creators content, even if that creator’s account is set to free. You won’t be charged for accessing the account of Lewis Buchanan or any other sponsored athlete currently, but of course, if you did want to access say, a paywalled account that exists on the platform, your card is ready and waiting and access is just a click away.

Clever stuff.

Sportswashing? No. A clever marketing tool to attract people to the platform who would not otherwise sign up? Most certainly.

What is Lewis putting on his channel? I don’t actually know as that requires that I add my payment details to my account and I’m not quite ready to do that just yet. And finally, if your partner wonders why you have OnlyFans in your search history then you can at least point them at this article. You’re welcome.

Some sponsored athletes & sports on OnlyFans

Have you spotted any other appearances of the OnlyFans logo where you weren’t expecting it? Let us know in the comments.

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Mark

Mark Alker

Singletrack Owner/Publisher

What Mark doesn’t know about social media isn’t worth knowing and his ability to balance “The Stack” is bested only by his agility on a snowboard. Graphs are what gets his engine revving, at least they would if his car wasn’t electric, and data is what you’ll find him poring over in the office. Mark enjoys good whisky, sci-fi and the latest Apple gadget, he is also the best boss in the world (Yes, he is paying me to write this).

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Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 73 total)
  • Get used to seeing OnlyFans sponsor more aspects of our sport
  • BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    Is this another story that’s leaked over from the ST bike business channel? I honestly don’t know what OnlyFans is or have the faintest idea of who Lewis Buchanan is – who is he? – or what significance this has for me as a mountain biker.

    Do you guys have a sub-editor atm. It feels like no-one is subbing articles with a thought for what the reader can and can’t be expected to know and the effect is slightly alienating.

    Obviously it’s your site and you can publish what you want, but stuff like this and the article about Wahoo’s liquidity rating being downgraded, which at no point explained what this actually meant either for Wahoo or me as a reader/Wahoo user feels a bit jarring.

    I’m trying not to come over as hostile or angry, I’m honestly not, just a bit bemused.

    Why should I care?

    weeksy
    Full Member

    honestly don’t know what OnlyFans is or have the faintest idea of who Lewis Buchanan is – who is he? – or what significance this has for me as a mountain biker.

    1. it’s mostly a porn site
    2. He’s a DH/racer/MTBer.

    footflaps
    Full Member

    He’s a DH/racer/MTBer.

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike, given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    weeksy
    Full Member

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike, given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    That part i don’t know… Obviously he’s done it from a perspective of what OnlyFans will give him as much as what ‘fans’ will pay… But i must admit, i’ve not gone to the site because, well…. you know… work laptop and that’s going to be VERY frowned upon 😀

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    1. it’s mostly a porn site
    2. He’s a DH/racer/MTBer.

    So mountain biking porn? It sounds strangely alluring…

    tomhoward
    Full Member

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike, given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    I imagine there’s a LOT more free grot on the internet, but folk still pay for it.

    that’s going to be VERY frowned upon 😀

    more than that, and I’m not sure how true this is, but financial institutions supposedly take a dim view of any transactions going to OF, in the same way as they might for gambling websites, when doing affordability checks for loans, mortgages etc.

    daviek
    Full Member

    I’m sure I read somewhere that he was going to use it for coaching and the likes. But I might have made that up.

    NewRetroTom
    Full Member

    @BadlyWiredDog

    a bit bemused.

    Sounds like you need to get yourself wired into the media a bit better.

    I honestly don’t know what OnlyFans is

    If you read the article it gives you not only an explanation of what it is, but also a history of OnlyFans.

    Yak
    Full Member

    I’m sure I read somewhere that he was going to use it for coaching and the likes.

    Hmmm. Paid skills coaching but not in person? Does anyone else do this?

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike, given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    As Mark says in the article, Lew’s channel will be free to view. Read the article to see why this is cunning though!

    thepurist
    Full Member

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike

    Does anyone read the articles before commenting? You need to register for an OF account to watch his stuff, but his content is free to view once you’ve done that. The catch is that to register you need to give them payment card details, even though you’re not intending to watch anything that needs paying for.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    BWD I thought the linked article did a good job of explaining OnlyFans, less so Lewis Buchanan. However, as with the Marketing article and survey, I think there’s an assumption that lots of us follow the Sport/Competitive/Celebrity side of cycling, which I certainly don’t so hadn’t heard of the chap either.

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    If you read the article it gives you not only an explanation of what it is, but also a history of OnlyFans.

    It didn’t tell me why I should care. Or did I miss that bit?

    Yak
    Full Member

    Surely the free-to-start-with thing is just the initial marketing doodah. It is a paywall/payment model site after all.

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    I’m amazed anyone is prepared to pay to watch him ride a bike, given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    As Mark says in the article, Lew’s channel will be free to view. Read the article to see why this is cunning though!

    footflaps
    Full Member

    As Mark says in the article, Lew’s channel will be free to view. Read the article to see why this is cunning though!

    YouTube etc doesn’t require CC details to watch their free stuff, so I still don’t think it’s very cunning at all.

    Unless he’s the most amazing MTBer on the planet and given I’ve never heard of him, I somehow doubt he is.

    A bit of a non-event IMO.

    Yak
    Full Member

    Well only cunning if you can’t resist the urge to go straight from biking stuff to paid grot. Otherwise it’s just alienating an audience.
    I don’t know Lewis’s content at all, but if it’s anything like some of the other riders with you-tube accounts, then there’s lots of kids who will happily watch them. But now the kid audience is mostly removed.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    That raises an important question for Lew’s longer-term career prospects.

    Is his content now going to be exclusively on OF?

    Because if so, and if users need to give CC deets to see it for free, he will have a much smaller audience than he’s used to.

    So they better be paying him very well.

    And as I said in the thread on here last week, it is a form of sportswashing – in terms of getting OF in the headlines for something other than pron – as well as possibly testing the water for business diversification.

    poly
    Free Member

    Is this another story that’s leaked over from the ST bike business channel? I honestly don’t know what OnlyFans is or have the faintest idea of who Lewis Buchanan is – who is he? – or what significance this has for me as a mountain biker.

    Do you guys have a sub-editor atm. It feels like no-one is subbing articles with a thought for what the reader can and can’t be expected to know and the effect is slightly alienating.

    The answers to your questions are in the 1.5 line “teaser” right below the headline.   The Wahoo credit rating was a bit more cryptic, but this is quite obviously (and if it wasn’t there’s a whole thread in the forum!) about the fact that a company which is synonymous with porn is sponsoring a MTB’er.  I’m a bit surprised that you’ve not heard of OnlyFans – not because I expect you’ve been there, I haven’t, but because there was quite a media storm a year or so ago when Visa decided they would no longer allow payments there.  This is undoubtedly part of their push to clean up their image.

    Should mountain bikers care?  Probably.  If your business is so shady that Visa stop wanting a small % of everything you do because it’s morally dodgy then it’s not great for the reputation of the sport.  Given we should be keen to see more women in the sport and some women would find it a poor choice of sponsor, and given MTB is popular with teenage boys who need to understand that internet porn is not real life, there’s some actual controversy here rather than just a business story.

    Is the headline true? Possibly not – just the PR of it being discussed is good for OnlyFans but they’ll only keep chucking cash whilst (a) it generates a story in itself; (b) it generates new customers for OnlyFans (either of traditional or alternative content!) OR (c) it improves their reputation/standing.

    If you are the sort of MTBer who has no interest in the competition side of things then it might be less relevant.  But I’m in that camp and it still raised my eyebrows.

    desperatebicycle
    Free Member

    while OnlyFans continues to be a home for the streaming porn industry

    Is that what it is though?
    I get the impression that the streaming porn industry does ok by using the free sites (eg. redtube? funny but I only found out about this from someone on a STW post!) – OnlyFans gives people what they think is “exclusive” content. Like the fellas who think they are getting something a bit more exclusive by paying for it – and paying for it personally to the woman/chap showing them their bits.
    Maybe there’s a market for watching sports people that appeals in a similar way. Hard to comprehend really, but then so is taking photos of your food and posting it online etc etc etc.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I’m a bit surprised that you’ve not heard of OnlyFans – not because I expect you’ve been there, I haven’t, but because there was quite a media storm a year or so ago when Visa decided they would no longer allow payments there.

    I had heard of OnlyFans but was completely unaware of the Visa story.

    sirromj
    Full Member

    given how much stuff is available for free on YT etc….

    Surely then you’ve come across riders on Youtube asking for support on Patreon? A similar platform. Usually supporting them gets you a extra content, for example Ali Clarkson goes more in-depth with his reviews, tutorials, or behind the scenes.

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    I’m a bit surprised that you’ve not heard of OnlyFans – not because I expect you’ve been there, I haven’t, but because there was quite a media storm a year or so ago when Visa decided they would no longer allow payments there. This is undoubtedly part of their push to clean up their image.

    I’ve heard of it. I filed it under ‘stuff I stay away from’ and forgot about it. I suspect most folk on here are similar.

    If you are the sort of MTBer who has no interest in the competition side of things then it might be less relevant. But I’m in that camp and it still raised my eyebrows.

    It sounds like a PR stunt. Doesn’t it? It needs filing under ‘ignore’.

    Tbf, what do I know. When twitter first appeared I was astonished that anyone would give a stuff about people’s stream of consciousness out-bleatings. I still am tbh.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    And definitely don’t assume that it’s “cunning”.

    Along with my above point about Lew potentially being screwed by this (geddit?), it’s not uncommon for cash-rich, one-trick-pony companies like OF to make poor, under-researched business decisions as they try to expand into new markets.

    I know this ‘cos I used to work for one (also internet based, but family friendly).

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Surely then you’ve come across riders on Youtube asking for support on Patreon? A similar platform. Usually supporting them gets you a extra content, for example Ali Clarkson goes more in-depth with his reviews, tutorials, or behind the scenes.

    Yes, but they have a shop window which is a) free, b) doesn’t require a CC and c) doesn’t say ‘GET YOUR PORN HERE’ in large letters all over it.

    He’s on using OF as they’re paying him a load of money. I can’t see all the MTBers on YT suddenly jumping ship to OF…

    tomhoward
    Full Member

    I can’t see all the MTBers on YT suddenly jumping shop to OF…

    The most successful ‘creators’ on OF are the ones that had a huge following prior to joining the platform.

    BillOddie
    Full Member

    Only Fans have been trying (probably unsuccessfully) to show that they are “not just for grot” since the whole visa/mc thing kicked off.

    This has been further amplified by the fact new platforms are starting to muscle in on their market.  Fantime being the one that has had lots of publicity in Sports and “Sports Entertainment” circles after a WWE wrestler got fired from WWE due to he adult content on Fantime.

    Keeping in mind that MTB is a tiny fish in the sports pond, if a Race Team wanted to slap Brazzers (don’t google that on the work laptop) on their chest then I don’t have an issue with it, better that than an online gambling site.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    Every time there is info about how poorly the second tier guys get paid (i.e. people who could be top 20 DH/XC or top 10 Enduro in the world but aren’t fully making a living from their sport and definitely won’t be retiring when they retire from competing.)

    Generally the consensus is that the only way to get more money into the sport is to have non-industry sponsors.

    And yet every single one gets absolutely blasted (on a variety of websites, not just here).

    HSBC, Mercedes, various energy drinks, alcoholic drinks. Many more.

    And now a website that includes but isn’t limited to, consenting naked ladies.

    dangeourbrain
    Full Member

    And yet every single one gets absolutely blasted (on a variety of websites, not just here)…

    …And now a website that includes but isn’t limited to, consenting [bare] naked ladies.

    Give it one week

    BillOddie
    Full Member

    Give it one week

    Well played

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    He’s a DH/racer/MTBer.

    He’s not really a DH racer any more.
    Often see him out on the trails round here.
    Good luck to him he’s just trying to earn a living the best way he can.

    dangeourbrain
    Full Member

    Well played

    Ah thank you

    poly
    Free Member

    It sounds like a PR stunt. Doesn’t it? It needs filing under ‘ignore’.

    Isn’t all sponsorship either a PR stunt or a tax dodge?

    ChrisL
    Full Member

    OnlyFans sounds like it’s the same sort of deal as Patreon, except for being less squeamish about porn. Presumably this is part of a strategy to become a competitor to Patreon rather than “Patreon but for porn”. For those not offering adult content or being offered sponsorship money I wonder what OnlyFans can offer over Patreon? Maybe they take a smaller cut of the income or something, I presume they need something to overcome the guilt-by-association issues that pretty clearly exist.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Isn’t all sponsorship either a PR stunt or a tax dodge?

    Sponsorship is simply a form of marketing, no need to be so dismissive about it FFS.

    But in this case it’s veering into PR stunt territory.

    hungrymonkey
    Free Member

    Just as an aside, it’s pretty derogatory to refer to porn as ‘grot’. I know it’s only lighthearted, but it’s not very inclusive, and pretty derisory of sex workers.
    You may choose to be dismissive of those who chose to work in the sex industry (though I suspect the vast majority of you consume their content, even if you give out a holier than thou veneer), but while not the ‘cleanest’ industry (in more ways than one), there are a great many people who choose to be there, choose to make their money that way, and are doing so very much within the law.
    Perhaps be a little less judgemental, going forward eh?

    As for Lew Buchanon – who gives – he’s getting paid a decent whack for riding his bike – not something many others get the opportunity to do.

    Fair play, I say.

    eddiebaby
    Full Member

    So mountain biking porn? It sounds strangely alluring…

    Isn’t that the selling point of Fresh Good Friday and reviews of the top of the range versions of bikes out there?

    rOcKeTdOg
    Full Member

    I’m hoping they’ll be in touch to sponsor my YouTube channel. I’ll admit 50+ overweight, bearded cyclist with no riding skill is a bit niche but 🤷‍♂️

    dangeourbrain
    Full Member

    Presumably this is part of a strategy to become a competitor to Patreon rather than “Patreon but for porn”.

    I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t see one as any more or less about porn than the other, if anything I’d see patreon as the “less desirable” of the two as being as its less open about it though I doubt the content on either is entirely within the bounds of taste decency or legality.

    Only fans simply has the distinction of being first and as a result somewhat synonymous with that side of the sex industry in a way patreon could only aspire to. OF is to online porn streaming what Coke is to fizzy brown vegetable juice and in the same way as sprite works but making it obviously “Coca-Cola Clear” wouldn’t be a good thing for either sprite, or the coke/Coca-Cola brand.

    If they want to escape that very lucrative market what they need (IMO) is a rebrand or, more likely, a distinct separation of the two sides of the business “only [adult] fans” and “any fans” or what ever but as two distinct entities.

    Sticking with the fizzy drink analogy I expect Lewis’ success with OF to follow a similar trajectory to Tab Clear.

    That being said, the idea is to drive traffic (I’d guess his demographic is largely teen & male) towards the only fans brand where hopefully they’ll start to consume other chargeable content like cooking or woodwork shows etc. although they could reasonably be hosted on an “adult free” service with a similar level of monetisation to that which the same content could garner on an adult one.

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    I really liked Tab Clear…

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