How Millennials and Gen Z are Changing the Sports Experience

February 7, 2020 Nicole Cappabianca

SXSW Gaming Tournament - King of the Hill - 2019 - Photo by Travis Lilley

With comparisons between Millennials and Gen Z to the generations that have come before becoming a widespread pop-culture joke, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Gen Z have different wants and expectations from the sports that they follow. With new industries like esports rising up to the decline of the attendance of the younger generations at live sporting events – these new preferences are changing the face of sports as they have been. These conversations and more are taking place in the Sports Track during the SXSW Conference from March 13-16.

Franchises and networks have had to adapt strategies at a rapid pace to adjust to these changes in consumer attitudes – these sessions are breaking down how they’re changing for new generations.

Millennials and Gen Z Changing the Game, Literally

The adrenaline while watching live sports is real. There’s nothing like sitting on the edge of your seat and watching your favorite player score the winning goal, catch a pass near the end zone, or ace their opponent in the final match. Today, live TV streaming platforms are providing sports fans with a way to watch their favorite games without relying on traditional linear TV. While some streamers are partnering with leagues to raise awareness, others are partnering with players. How are streamers attracting fans through strategic and authentic sports partnerships? What do OTT live sports streaming look like? Game, Set, Match: The Rise of Streamers in Sports will look at how streaming services are tapping into live sports in creative and breakthrough ways and the hurdles that currently exist within the industry with Pamela Duckworth (fuboTV), Jacob Feldman, Megan Rapinoe (USWNT), and Michael Schneider (Hulu).

Gen Z sports fandom is different from any generation before. They no longer solely follow teams – they instead identify with the athletes themselves – and are more likely to root for the person, no matter the team. Gen Z is looking for a new crop of contemporary role models who are inspirational yet relatable. Athletes now create their own individual media brands through their social platforms. Learn how to create multi-dimensional content utilizing athletes, to touch on passion points that are appealing to Gen Z’s action-oriented mindset from former NFL player Anthony “Spice” Adams, Michael Cohen, president of Whistle, an entertainment and sports media company, Harish Sarma, global strategic partnerships & corporate development at TikTok, and Jaymee Messler, co-founder of (co)laboratory in From the Field to the Screen: Casting Athletes.

Over the last decade, millennial sports fans have contributed to a decrease in live TV ratings and attendance at live events – instead opting for highlights, web analysis, podcasts, or other media they can consume for free. When they do arrive, they are often distracted, using personal devices to engage with the team and stadium and stay up to date with friends. If millennials are the generation that values experiences – one study found that 75% value experiences over material items – why the decline in live sports? Sideline Action: What Millennial Fans Want From Live Sports features Jacob Feldman, Brad Griffith (Gametime), Anne Marie Rowe (Boston Red Sox), and Michael Williams (3ice) and explores potential causes, what young fans actually want out of their live events, and strategies applicable to teams and venues across leagues to get fans off the couch and back into the stadium.

Browse More Sports Track Sessions

For more sessions that cover the trajectory of longtime favorites as well as new sensations in the face of new tech and enthusiastic fans, browse through the Sports sessions.

This Convergence Track gives primary access to all SXSW Badges.

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Browse Sports Sessions

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