Sports fans as consumers - loyal, vocal and priceless

How the new generation of fans are engaging with sport and the crucial lessons from their behaviour shifts

Every generation of consumers has their own unique approach to everyday life. The ever-changing technological advancements of the past 20 years, as well as the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the developing generations adapt with perhaps the most unique approach so far. 

For the sports industry, this unique approach has seen consumers (fans) develop new forms of fandom which have challenged the conventional methods of consuming sport. This is perhaps most evident in the rapidly growing digital communities, which are becoming the epicentre of fandom, where fans can connect with each other, their teams and their favourite athletes. 

As the Covid-19 pandemic saw ticket sales plummet, digital communities of fans have grown and seen a new generation of fans emerge. In this article, we analyse this new generation through the lens of Nielsen’s 2022 Global Sports Marketing Report: ‘Fans are changing the game’.

OTT on the rise

Having been exposed to internet media services for all of their lives, the blossoming generations of sports fans are showing an increased level of interest in consuming media through over-the-top (OTT) media services, compared to traditional media channels. 

This behavioural shift has significantly impacted both rights holders and brands, as solely OTT-based media platforms, such as DAZN, have seen their viewership and market share grow, giving sports fans a consumer-adapted channel to engage with their favourite teams and players. 

Source: Nielsen
Source: Nielsen

The multi-screen generation

Alongside a significantly higher dependence on internet-based media services, sports fans, across the generations have increased their on-screen activities in conjunction with watching live sport. Secondary screen activities such as social media, playing games, texting and ordering food have all seen increases, with an average growth of 5% across all generations and a 10% rise for Generation Z. 

Nielsen’s fan insight report from 2021 shows that 47% of people who consume some form of sporting event on TV or across digital platforms simultaneously engage in a multi-screen activity. This compares to just 33% for the same activities, across the general population. 

Although the surge in multi-screen engagement is clear across all generations of fans, Generation Z are showing a distinct behaviour shift in specific areas, with mobile-gaming, social media and food delivery all creating key opportunities for brands looking to capitalise in these markets. 

Fans continue to trust brand sponsorships in sport

With modern fans utilising more screens and online services than any previous generation, the battle for consumer attention has never been more fiercely contested. Brands and rights holders alike face the challenge of not only gaining the attention of consumers, but also the trust.

Peer-to-peer communication has long been seen as the pinnacle of trust within advertising, as is shown in the below data from Nielsen’s, which analyses the most trusted advertising channels. The relationship between fans and sport has also been one known to spark trust with previous generations of fans - something which has continued with the modern generation. 

The below figures show that globally, 81% of consumers either completely or somewhat trust advertisements or sponsorships from brands in a sporting context, a significantly large increase compared to popular devices and channels such as social networks and mobile devices.

Source: Nielsen

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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