Macro trends shaping the world of sport

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Macro Trends Shaping the World of Sport

The shift to digital platforms, preference for quick statistics and highlights, need for immersive experiences, shift to become more lifestyle and entertainment oriented and sports culture becoming more inclusive are macro trends that are shaping the world of sport (particularly TV and digital).



A recent study has found that a new generation of US sports fans is changing the way in which sports are being engaged with. Research has found that the average age of TV viewers of all kinds of sports is rapidly increasing, as younger fans shift to digital platforms. As the younger generation of sports fans prefer watching on-demand videos on platforms like YouTube, SnapChat and Instagram, marketers are having to alter their strategies in order to "attract a younger audience and ensure long-term viability".

Millennials are streaming sports through websites and apps twice as much as their Generation X counterparts. This shows that falling TV ratings does not reflect an overall decrease in interest in sports, but it reflects a change in viewing preference as millennials come of age. In addition, even though millennials and Gen Xers are using sports sites and apps equally, there are significantly more millennials who follow sports on social media.

This source tells us that one major driver of this trend has been the emergence of the "live" functionality by Facebook and Twitter. This allows fans to follow sports via social media, getting all the main highlights of the action but without committing to sitting down in front of a TV set for the entirety of the game. This trend will continue to gain steam over the coming years as Twitter has announced that it has signed a deal to live stream the NFL, and YouTube Live has signed a deal to live stream the UEFA Champions League finals.


Another way the younger generation are forcing a change in the coverage of sports in the US is being driven by their appetite for quick statistics and highlights, rather than watching entire games and matches from start to finish. Again, this is shifting viewers away from traditional televised sports and towards digital platforms who deliver information in this format.

This article confirms that the length of traditional sports games is something that is appealing less and less to American sports fans these days. Historically, America's love affair with sports began after the great recession when many were out of work with a lot of time on their hands to engage in watching sports. Now, however, the nation is much busier and highlights are often preferred over watching a match or game from start to finish.


Passive spectating is losing its appeal to US sports fans. The younger generation in particular are demanding more immersive experiences that put them closer to the action. According to this source, "generating constant, captivating, exclusive content" is now the modern sports marketer’s priority. For this reason brands are now choosing to sponsor events, rather than purchasing TV advertisement slots, because it allows them to engage with consumers by creating interesting content specifically addressing the consumer's need for an immersive experience.

Snickers is an example of a brand who have done this. During the Superbowl of 2016 Snickers showed American football star Richard Sherman videos of fans making score predictions, while he was in the midst of a press conference. Sherman then talked to these fans via social media, which instantly increased interest of the conference.

This trend may be driven by the current development of augmented reality and virtual reality. "VR’s immersion helps mimic real life and offers a complete 360-degree view to create the illusion of an unfiltered experience". VR and AR are currently being experimented with in order to find out how they can be successfully used in sports.


Today's fans have an increasing desire to know more about their sporting heroes. For this reason athletes have become synonymous with celebrities, and the worlds of sports, fashion, entertainment and lifestyle are beginning to merge. Sports stars are becoming more engaged in marketing, and sporting events should take on a more entertainment feel. For example, at the UEFA Champions League opening ceremony in 2016, PepsiCo (the event's sponsor) "fused the worlds of sport and entertainment by negotiating the performance of its brand ambassador and pop star Alicia Keys."


Gender roles in the US are being broken down, and the idea that sports is a man's world is evaporating. It is predicted that in the near future female fans will equal the number of male fans, and the world of sport is responding to these changes. For example fans want to see more female sports, and marketing is moving away from targeting a male consumer base. Sport is making steps to become more inclusive overall, and is not just focusing on gender equality. For example, "Guinness ran emotionally-charged story vignettes during the Rugby World Cup 2015 featuring former player Gareth Thomas talking about the challenges of coming out as gay in the sport." Sports marketers are focusing on understanding these new key demographic bases that have not been focused on previously.


To sum up, I have found that the shift to digital platforms, preference for quick statistics and highlights, need for immersive experiences, shift to become more lifestyle and entertainment oriented and sports culture becoming more inclusive are macro trends that are shaping the world of sport (particularly TV and digital).