3.4 billion. That’s how many people watch the Premier League around the world. That’s almost half the world's population tuning in for the highs, the lows, the triumphs, and the defeats.
With its vast range of potential consumers, it is unsurpassed from a brand sponsorship perspective. Fans span across nations, social classes, and economic levels.
But what happens when a notable age group, like Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, or 11-26 year-olds, appears to be less interested in football in particular than the millennials before them?
Well, is that an accurate assessment? Or is it just one of those scary marketing rumours that cause club bosses (and sponsors) to perspire needlessly?
Yes and no. Don’t you just love stats? They clear everything up, sort of.
The age range of Gen Z is quite broad, financially speaking, so, given that most young ones don’t tend to have as much personal income as, say, 18-26 year olds, it’s more of an issue (presently) with post-pubescent folks.
According to a ‘Fan of the Future’ study by the ECA (European Club Association), a growing number of Gen Zers are either more deliberate in how they spend their money and time or they have more pressing worries, more so than the preceding generation.
The ECA study found that’ the lowest interest in football age rate was to be found among those aged between 16-24, two in five of this group stated that they ‘hated or had no interest’ in the beautiful game, and that’s found across all markets, ouch.
Digital natives. That’s right, Gen Z has its own nomenclature.
A generation raised in one of the most prolific eras of tech advancement could be seen as the problem and potentially the solution for this sudden downturn in football fandom.
With streaming services, social media, and short-form content all vying for their precious attention, you could see why this tech-adept group prefers instant outlets of info and entertainment, to a 90 minute game with pre- and post-match discussion, let alone the expense of travel and tickets to see their favourite team in the flesh, even post-COVID.
But it's not just the time factor; despite being accused of having shorter attention spans, professional fandom is a thing nowadays, according to a Google consumer insights article: "Long attention span for long form videos," which states that 61% of Gen Z'ers consider themselves to be super fans of something, devouring detailed content for hours at a time.
With this generation, it may be the progressive and economic factors that are influencing them. In a report by GWI, Gen Z'ers were found to be more thoughtful about their support, emphasising causes and movements as factors that influence their decisions.
Football fanaticism and the sheer lucrative nature of the global sports economy are also reported to put them off. The push for more thoughtful, wellbeing-focused strategies that highlight the human aspect more than the commercial, could be the way to go for clubs and marketers alike.
Hook em’ whilst their young
And don’t forget the younger group of Gen Z'ers. Lifelong football fandom tends to start early, and if you’re not able to capture the imagination or pique the interest of this even more tech-savvy segment of your audience, then you’ve really got a problem.
Sports media outlets, clubs, and brands can leverage the digital aspect to improve their relationships with fans.
For example, the ECA study highlights that young fans have a growing interest in individual players more so than entire teams, so this could be an area to focus on.
So it’s not all bad news then?
Success, like so much in life and business, holds to a key principle, adapt or flounder ( adapt or die seems a bit too dramatic). If you can speak a demographic’s language, then you are priming them for not just loyalty but the potential for unimaginable growth.
And their language is digital.