Australia is a nation that prides its identity in sport. Australians love to play and consume sport, spending more hours watching sport (2h 22m) than any religious activity (35m).

Sport generates approximately $12.8 billion in revenue per year in Australia, contributing to almost 2% of Australia’s GDP. Traditional forms of sport, however, are experiencing significant slumps in attendance, viewership and grassroots participation as Generation Z and the newest generation, Generation Alpha are growing up in an increasingly technology driven society.

To accommodate the needs of the younger generations and create a long-term vision, sporting organisations can start by being proactive to the changes happening and understanding their consumer base.

The age of instant gratification

Growing up with any piece of information available at the touch of a screen, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are being shaped in the age of instant satisfaction. This inbuilt mentality coupled with the increasing amount of screen time is part of the challenge facing sporting organisations. According to Dan Singer, “Millennials enjoy sports just as much as other members of other generations. It’s the way they consume sport that matters”1. Organisations are realising that sport needs to change and adapt to accommodate the contracting attention spans of the next generation.

Attention and sports viewership

Technology and screen time have been instrumental in shaping the characteristics of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. While this instant gratification has impacted their attention spans, a survey of video game stream viewers showed that 29% of respondents watched live streams continuously for 1 or 2 hours, while 14% watched for 3 or 4 hours at a time2. This indicates that a shortened attention span is not the only issue at play; it is also the quality of the content provided and the entertainment experience that determines viewership. Gen Z spend a significant portion of their time interacting in some way on the internet, whether it be through social media or streaming services. The challenge for sporting organisations is how they approach this change.

The question that needs to be asked therefore is, “What does Generation Z want from sport?” Sporting organisations must address how to retain the interest of their Gen Z fans as they come of age, so they can reap the benefits in the short-term but also ensure the longevity of their game.

Tailoring sports content

Generation Z are an important demographic to engage with, and while many are still at school, by 2030 they will comprise a third of the global workforce. Leading sports organisations are already adapting by creating ‘snackable’ content (such as highlights packages, dunk reels and player spotlights) aimed at grabbing the attention of Gen Z consumers in an increasingly cluttered world. As Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, stated, “If we provide those snacks to our fans on a free basis, they’re still going to want to eat our meals – which are our games.”

One organisation that has responded to the changing characteristics of the younger generations is Cricket Australia. Cricket in its most traditional format, is a game played over 5 days, requiring a large time investment from the viewer. The technical and strategic aspects which are the hallmark of the game, however, may not be appreciated by most of the younger generation as they seek big hits, flying catches and adrenaline inducing plays. As a result, Cricket Australia has popularised the Twenty20 cricket format through the Big Bash League (BBL) and the Women’s BBL. The shorter format demonstrates how innovation can be successful in revitalising interest in cricket amongst the emerging generations; presenting an array of ‘snackable’ content which can be used to further engage consumers.

Knowing that upcoming generations are looking for exciting and genuine content is good but it is important to look beyond the short-term. What will set organisations apart is having the foresight to predict what the market will value next. Soon enough, adapting to meet the expectations of the emerging generations over the coming decades will become industry standard and those that are unable or unwilling to pivot may be left behind. Sport will remain a big part of the Australian lifestyle, but the type of content will be determined by the emerging generations.

Sources:

  1. McKinsey – We are wrong about millenial sports fans
  2. Nielson – Game changer Gen Z sports report

 

For more information

If you found this article interesting, our visualised reports are available here:
Understanding Generation Z: Recruiting, training and leading the next generation
Understanding Generation Alpha: Meet the Alphas

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