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Gen Z Americans Are Largely Uninterested In Traditional Sports Compared To Other Demographics

Are you into sports? Well, if you’re a sports fan who’s 24 years old or younger, research suggests that you’re in the minority among fellow U.S.-based Gen Z-ers.

In a survey conducted last year, 53% of Gen Z participants said they were sports fans–with 21% self-identifying as “avid” followers. While these statistics may not raise many eyebrows at first glance, they’re notably the lowest figures of any other age demographic.

For instance, while 50% of all adults identify as MLB fans, a mere 32% of Gen Z-ers feel similarly.

The same goes for the NFL and NHL, respectively, followed by 59% and 38% of everyday American adults. Among Gen Z-ers, though, these figures dwindle to 49% and 25%, respectively.

Notably, the only two sports that don’t have a disparity between the percentage of general adult and Gen Z fans are the NBA and UFC, which boast nearly identical figures among the two groups.

However, all hope may not be lost, as there’s one area that interested Gen Z far more than their everyday adult counterparts: e-sports. While only 19% of all adults follow esports, 35% of Gen Z-ers are fans.

Dustin York, a professor at Maryville University, says that leagues need to hone in on this statistic to get Gen Z-ers interested in professional sports. He also broke down what exactly draws Gen Z to e-sports and streaming platforms instead of traditional sports.

“Pro sports, traditionally, is an ‘I sit there and consume the media’ [activity], where Twitch and streaming is more experiential,” York began. “You can be part of the show with Twitch and Esports. Donate five bucks; you’re part of the show. Subscribe to the channel; you’re part of the show.”

“With professional sports teams, VIP access–which is oftentimes much more expensive, by the way–might get you season tickets and a cool email once a year, but it doesn’t offer the same experience,” he added.

The Missouri-based professor then offered some suggestions for what traditional sports leagues could do to make the experience more interactive.

“Maybe a team could provide an online token that, when paid for, would allow fans with that token to vote on superficial aspects of the game–such as what uniforms the team would wear or what the halftime show performance would be,” York stated. 

“Ideas could be created out of thin air for fans to decide. Voting, for sure, is one of the easiest ways to increase fan engagement. You don’t technically have voting rights,” he clarified. “[But] it still adds a sense of ownership.” 

York used holding Nike stock as an example of feeling invested in a company without having any real power. 

“I have stock in Nike,” York stated. “It doesn’t mean I have any power in that company, but I feel invested in them. I feel involved; I feel like I should buy Nike to help myself out.”

It sounds like the leagues have some severe changes to consider if they want to bring in more Gen Z sports fans!

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