Building a New Generation of Sports Fans Among the Millennial Audience

Whether it's Derek Jeter or Danica Patrick, sports marketing needs a big win to score with millennials

by Staff Written

October 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

It’s probably not out of left field to say that the professional sports industry is struggling. From very public downfalls of some of the most beloved athletes of our time to plummeting sports network subscriptions and game day ticket sales, the industry is scrambling to find solutions and find them quickly.

Much like other industries, the sports industry needs to shift its marketing focus from the tried-and-true baby boomer generation to the up-and-coming millennial set, which now accounts for about $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. A key theme at this year’s IMG World Congress of Sports was precisely that: Millennials and the decline of avid sports fans among this demographic.

With new research from Eventbrite revealing that millennials highly value experiences and are increasingly spending their money and time on them, it’s surprising to see this isn’t reflected in ticket sales among this demographic. As a millennial, one big reason is a lack of personal connection to the players, teams and professional sports overall. Today’s 18-to-34-year-olds yearn to connect to their friends and fellow fans through social media. And yes, they expect the same type of access to pro athletes.

According to the “Content Marketing Best Practices Among Millennials” study by Yahoo, DigitasLBi, Razorfish and Tumblr, 52% of millennials seek out sports-related content as a way to relax, and 72% want to “see it all” when it comes to celebrity content. By marrying the two with original content curated by athletes, this powerful demographic is given an opportunity to bond with their favorite players and teams over personal experiences, thus connecting the audience beyond the game, driving interest and intent to purchase tickets.

Retired New York Yankees Captain Derek Jeter might have the right idea. He recently launched The Players’ Tribune, a multimedia company where world-class athletes have the opportunity to share their “unfiltered, honest and unique perspectives,” according to the site’s mission statement, through written features, videos and photo galleries.

The Player's Tribune Portal

The website launched on October 1 with a poignant piece by Russell Wilson on his thoughts regarding domestic abuse in the NFL, which was quickly followed by a charming article by Danica Patrick on her not-so-typical personal relationship. The point is, whether content focuses on a controversy facing the sports industry or an every day topic, fans are given another perspective, one that delves into the lives and deepest thoughts of the athletes they support.

As a millennial and not being a NASCAR fan myself, I watched Danica Patrick in her next race simply because I felt like she shared something personal with me and, as a result, I knew her a little bit better. I guess it’s working sports world. You may want to take note.

October 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

Staff Written