The Millennial Factor: Data Insights Drive a Smarter Game for Sports Marketers

The Millennial Factor: Data Insights Drive a Smarter Game for Sports Marketers
empty stadium seats

Data Dispatch: Smartify’s data science team delivers fresh marketing intelligence every month.

In this edition: An exploration of millennial engagement with sports brands uncovers opportunities for digital marketers.

Smartify’s randomized analysis of 70,000 millennial individuals confirmed some things sports brands know too well (for instance, millennials are less likely to hit the stadiums than to watch the game on big-screens at home), and revealed several new insights:

Problem: Sports event attendance is down amongst millennials. And it’s not because they’re unemployed and can’t afford the game; attendance is down at universities, as well. The hometown ballgame is as likely to suffer from millennial disinterest as any world class event (including tonight’s Stanley Cup showdown). Is this generation simply too lazy to get off their helicopter-parented posteriors?

Context: If “I want my MTV” was the youth refrain of the ‘80s, “What’s the WiFi network?” could easily be the current generation’s mantra. Connection — SMS, Facebook, Twitter, mobile web — isn’t just part of the cultural fabric for those born between 1980 and 1992 (the millennial range varies depending upon whom you ask; we’re citing Pew). Connection is the fabric.

Sports brands and event facilities that understand and enable connection, like Brooklyn’s revamped-for-the-digital-age Barclays Center, will have to worry less about reliance on aging audiences. Broadly speaking, however, sports brands realize they have work to do. (Only half of this year’s World Cup stadiums will have WiFi.)

“I’m still waiting for someone to build an arena without a Jumbotron because everyone is looking at their phones,” Casey Wasserman of Wasserman Media Group tells Sports Business Daily.

Also in Sports Business Daily, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber notes that millennial behavior is “radically different” than older generations: multi-tasking, streaming versus cable, and omni-channel consumption are the new normal.

Bottom line: It’s not that millennials don’t want to go to games. They just want the games to connect with them in a way that is as interactive as the rest of their experiences (if not more so).

Let’s take a look at the data.

Finding #1: In spite of sagging sports event attendance, millennials are actually more likely to be engaged sports fans — of everything from teams to brands — on social media than on any other medium. And while they’re particularly passionate about soccer (two of the top five most-loved sports teams are soccer teams), nobody likes the NBA more than a millennial. By comparison, the rest of the population likes the NFL, UFC and WWE better than the NBA. We’ve found that brands that engage fans with interactive social media strategies turn interest into action. (Ask us for interactive success stories.)

Finding #2: Millennials are fundamentally agnostic. They are much more likely than the overall population to like the sport itself: Baseball, not the Giants. It speaks to a certain neutrality in the millennial mindset: Channel-agnostic in their habits, perhaps less prone to petty rivalry than older generations. (Consider a recent incident in California, where millennial fans of opposing soccer teams vented their frustrations about ticket prices in a spontaneous — and joint — Twitter campaign.) Seamless, rich digital experiences win millennial loyalty, not picking sides.

Finding #3: Sports video games are extremely popular amongst millennials. The conclusion here naturally supports a strategy of partnership between sports brands and gaming companies, but there’s something else our findings suggest: Brands that gamify social experiences at the game, in real time, can connect with young fans at 3-10x the prevailing engagement rates.

Get in the game. Let’s talk!

Image credit: Andrew Morrell 

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