Youth & Sports Part I: Start with Early Engagement

Are young people playing the same sports as older generations did in their youth? Do young people consume sports in a different way than their older counterparts? In our latest study we answer these questions and more to see how sports leagues and brands can better market to, and ultimately create, young fans. 

Youth Participation and the Rise of Soccer

Gen-Z is at their peak time to play and gain exposure to team sports, and enjoy the positive aspects of those activities. Unsurprisingly, they strongly over-index on all team sports, while their top benefits are health, exercise and fun.

Soccer and basketball are the sports of tomorrow as their popularity continues to grow.

Parents pass down fandom and engagement, and in turn drive participation. In fact, 70% of gen-Z sports participants say their parents were in favor of them playing sports when they were younger.

Starting Early to Build Fandom

Gen-Z are less likely to be active fans and fall lower on the “fandom scale”.  You can think of them as active sports participants, but passive fans. This is true across all sports, with gen-Z about half as likely to report strong fandom.

Individual league fandom is not independent and it’s important to understand the clusters of fans. Gen-Z fans are more soccer-focused, while millennial fans span multiple sports.

Engaging in sports (via participation or attending games) as a child grows general and specific sports interest.  Childhood matters for fandom. Engaging in sports as a child – whether it’s playing them or attending games – has a positive impact on fandom likelihood as an adult. Playing sports can increase fandom likelihood anywhere from 1.5 to 3.0 times, depending on the sport.

Viewership & Engagement

Viewership is mostly on live TV, yet millennials lead the push towards streaming. Gen-Z will likely follow suit as their fandom intensifies. Millennials are driving increases in sports streaming even though most sports are consumed on broadcast TV.

Gen-Z follows sports for entertainment’s sake. They prefer condensed clips/highlights especially on visual-based platforms. They watch sports to be entertained (as opposed to watching randomly or out of loyalty).

Gen-Z and millennials are also drawn to the personality element of sports. Gen-Z, and to a lesser extent millennials, are more likely to have a favorite player and less likely to have a favorite team. They’re also most likely to follow players on social media.

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