2023 Top Trends Spotlight: Sport-Curious

November, 2023

More on this trend can be found in our Top Trends 2023 Volume 2 report. Click ‘Download PDF’ for the full report.

Lifestyle content is piquing the curiosity of young adults who may have thought sports “aren’t for me,” changing the rules of engagement. Deep knowledge and an obsession with winning aren’t prerequisites — there’s room on the bench for everyone.  

The Culture Shift: 

The relationship young adults have with sports today looks nothing like previous generations, causing concerns for league and team executives. A Morning Consult survey found that nearly half of all Gen Zers have never been to a live sporting event. 

Shifting values, like Gen Z’s proclivity toward collaboration over competition, may make the inherently competitive nature of sports less appealing. But Gen Zers are engaging with sports culture in their own way. For them, lifestyle content is a greater entry point to sports, and it’s one that opens the culture up to non-fans, too — no prior fandom required. Learning that an athlete is a sneakerhead, a gamer, or a fashionista, and catching glimpses of their off-duty personalities can pique their curiosity and win them over. 

Why it matters: 

Sports strategies, much like in business, have traditionally been built around squashing the competition. We’re seeing a shift from the winner-take-all, sports-obsessive mindset toward one that’s more collaborative and inclusive of the casually curious. As more brands attempt to crack the code on courting the elusive and opinionated Gen Zers, speaking their language and finding a way in to court them courtside will be key.

What we’re seeing:

left to right: CNN and Fox Sports

Taylor Swift’s alleged romance with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce has taken the NFL by storm, drawing brands and even casual sports fans into the gossip. After her first appearance in the stands, NBC reported a boost of >2M female viewers. Brands benefited, too. The 550-model New Balance sneakers she wore to a game led to a revenue boost of 25% that week. 

Cultural representation in sports matters to the distinctly diverse Gen Z. Ryan Turell of the Detroit Piston’s G-League team aimsto become the first Orthodox Jewish member of the NBA and speaks openly about staying true to his religion while on the road. Many teams are using cultural heritage celebration theme nights to attract wider audiences. 

For Brands: Connecting Sports with Subcultures

While the sports world has started to use identity and interests to connect to fans, like cultural theme nights (NHLMLSNBA/WNBAMLB) or with this MiLB x Marvel partnership, there’s room to expand with social content that speaks to different niche subcultures to connect their worlds to the sports world. 

For example, to connect with a community of Scientific Edutainers (those who rally around entertaining science content), a sports franchise could create social content that goes deep on things like the velocity of a field goal kick, the spin rate of a fastball pitch, upper extremity biomechanics or other highly measurable aspects of the sports world.

To read the full Top Trends Volume 2 report, click ‘Download PDF’ below.

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