The global spectator sports market is expected to grow to $181B this year. But, the fan experience encompasses so much more than just the game or match itself. Given the rise of athlete-brand partnerships, the robust growth around esports, and the introduction of new content formats, marketers have more options than ever for connecting with this passionate group of consumers.
Below we explore four emerging sports trends and why they matter to marketers.
1 – Increasing demand for non-live content
Fans are increasingly engaging with their favorite players in the off-season. To meet this year-round demand, marketers must produce more content across more channels – especially as Millennial and Gen Z fans turn to social media for their sports fix. Sixty-seven percent of fans aged 18-27 regularly consume sports on channels like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, and it’s expected that short-form content will show the most growth in the next few years.
Interestingly, just one in four members of Gen Z say watching live events is an important part of being a fan. Instead, they prefer interactive and bite-sized content that can be easily shared. Millennial and Gen Z fans consume over three hours of non-game sports content weekly. And, even when they are watching live events, 78% are dual screening. In response, marketers have begun creating content specifically designed to engage this audience. In 2020, ESPN added 500 live shows featuring polls, Q&A sessions, and more to their digital and social media platforms.
2 – Crypto is emerging as the future of the fan experience
Compared to the general population, sports and esports fans express higher levels of interest in crypto. Marketers should be ready to leverage this crossover interest. In the US, 47% of fans are familiar with crypto, compared to 23% of non-fans. And, fans across the globe are beginning to realize the value of crypto in tangible ways. More franchises are beginning to accept it as a form of payment and crypto-related sponsorships grew 1100% over the past year.
Teams are also experimenting with fan tokens to build loyalty and as an additional form of revenue. Crypto tokens help marketers engage with fans through merchandise discounts, rewards, exclusive content, and VIP experiences year-round and across geographies. While currently still more common with European teams, the fan token market is expanding and has surged more than 60% since 2021.
3 – The spotlight on women’s sports grows
Historically, female sports fans and women’s sports have been underrepresented in the conversation around sports. But, the long-standing shrink it and pink it approach to addressing female sports fans is beginning to change as marketers realize the incredible purchasing power of this audience. In 2018 the women’s sports apparel market was worth $26.8B, which accounted for a quarter of the entire sports apparel market.
Fans of women’s sports also struggle to find consistent coverage on traditional channels. A study summarizing 30 years of sports coverage found that 80% of televised sports news and highlights shows included zero stories on women’s sports. But when access is available, the audience is there. The National Women’s Soccer League and the WNBA were the only professional sports leagues in North America to see increased TV ratings in 2020. As coverage increases, marketers will have new audience segments to engage with and new ways to reach them.
4 – Brands pay attention as esports evolves
The esports industry is set to surpass $1B in revenue for the first time this year. By 2024, it’s expected that 519 million people globally will consume esports content. This tremendous growth offers marketers a new channel for expanding reach. On average, the esports audience spends 100 minutes per session on platforms like Twitch or YouTube Gaming. In just one month in 2020, Twitch reported a 50% jump in esports streaming.
Esports fans tend to be early adopters who are young, diverse, and very active on social media. They view advertising as beneficial and are very receptive to brands in the space. Forty-two percent say sponsorships are critical to the success of an esports event. This is reflected in the fact that sponsorships grew by 17% in 2020. They also seek out personalized content and are 51% more likely than the average gamer to have made an in-game purchase in the last year.
Target sports fans with Smart Auction Packages
When it comes to sports, the one thing we’re willing to bet on is that these fan bases will continue to grow. Our auction packages can help you leverage the power of these passionate audiences.
Whether you’re targeting sports fans in general, or looking to target high-visibility events like Roland-Garros or the FIFA World Cup, our team can help you connect with the right audience year-round.
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