Winning the Next Wave of Sport Fans

Sports Business Journal

Creative Innovation Company R/GA highlights how to meet today’s fans at the intersection of sports, culture and technology

There’s a traditional hierarchy in sports that puts avid fans at the top and casual fans at the edge.

Avid fans spend more minutes watching sports broadcasts, which make their fandom more monetizable. And they have rituals and inherited loyalties, a passion and commitment, that marketers could tap for brands.

But a transformation in sports engagement is underway. My company, creative innovation agency R/GA, recently surveyed 6,785 sports fans across the U.S., and found that only 35% of sports viewing moments were classic linear viewing focused on the progress of the game and rooting for a team. The remaining 65% centered on different needs: entertainment, the cultural relevance of the game and the personal relationship that viewers have to an athlete.

If two-thirds of sports viewing is outside of avid fandom, it’s time to take those behaviors and those fans seriously. They’re not on the periphery of fandom, they’re the emerging majority.

As we explored the shift in fandom, we identified a new type of fan beyond the old categories of avid and casuals: the On-Demand Fan.

The On-Demand Fan is the product of social change. Social media has led more people to engage with the world on their own terms, following their own interests and shaping their own identities. And the intersection of sports, entertainment, politics and bottom-up culture have created new pathways into sports.

These On-Demand Fans show four characteristics that make them different from traditional fans. Each characteristic creates a new way for brand owners to engage with them.

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