By Aimee Howells, Business Director at TAKUMI.
Football is one of the nation’s most treasured sports – it’s fair to say that Euros 2020 has been a long time coming. The 2018 World Cup feels like a distant memory when the pubs and streets were filled with fans uniting over their love for the game so the anticipation amongst fans is a shared experience right now.
During lockdown football fans have had to adapt in finding ways to connect when the live game wasn’t present.
Creating digital communities and uniting over nostalgia, while connecting with their icons through their intimate social channels, gives a rare glimpse into the real, behind the scenes of the players. We also saw fans supporting social movements, that the likes of Marcus Rashford dared to get behind, to lead the way in policy changes and bringing his influence into parliament.
This shift in consumption was a long time coming however, as football and how it’s consumed – particularly among younger generations of football fans – has changed.
With Gen Z as the first truly digitally aged generation, their expectation of content is much greater than previous generations. With every mobile phone turning the owner into a creative director and producer, it’s true to say that Gen Z view content through a critical lens, want to be entertained, respond to consumable content, are used to having multiple content strands on the go at any given time and have more purpose behind their decision making over what they want to give their heads and hearts to.
This is why, in my opinion, the game’s biggest clubs scored a colossal own goal with their European Super League idea, as it showed that they were totally out of touch with Gen Z’s demands of the modern game.
Ahead of a huge summer of sport, starting with the Euros and followed by the Olympics and the return of Wimbledon Tennis, there are plenty of opportunities for brands and rights-holders to capitalise on the increase in consumer engagement with sports. But, in order to be successful in a competitive market, marketers will need to re-assess the way content is delivered in order to keep the passion alive among the modern fanbases.
Gen Z and the new ways of watching football
For many older football fans, a crowded pub or a stadium is where they find community spirit in sport and the passionate atmosphere helps them to connect with each other.
However, younger football fans have grown up online. Gen Z are more likely to engage with the game and other football fans online, for example through following gaming influencers on Twitch, engaging with social media content from their favourite players or participating in the rising e-sports industry.
A study by ComRes found that 61% of 18-to-24-year-old football fans engage with football through video games compared to 37% who play in a team. The live game is less appealing to them now that they can engage with their football club online, at any time and at a minimal cost.
This new trend means brands and football clubs need to think of new ways to connect with their Gen Z fans online. Creators can help influence this and can help mobilise online communities in ways like never before.
Creators and the modern football audience
Creators can add another dimension to the live game viewing experience.
For Gen Z audiences, they don’t want to just watch a game, they want to comment, interact and engage with it and other fans. Creators bridge the communication gap between fans and the football game in an accessible way and create online communities for young fans to be a part of. They also help to create authentic links between the club and its sponsors. Creators can add context to commercial partnerships and can open up new and extended audiences through their followship and platforms, which in turn unlocks more commercial value for the sponsor. Creators can also act as directors and producers of content that has authenticity and can capture the energy of the sport on and off the pitch.
Another interesting angle is when players use their influence to help brands create purpose. For example, Burberry announced Marcus Rashford is to be its winter ambassador. Along with this announcement, the fashion brand also unveiled its continued support of FareShare (a charity providing meals to some of the poorest children Britain). Brands, such as Burberry, can work alongside Creators to communicate their aligned values to the Creator’s followers. This can help to connect younger fans with the game through a player that they align their values to, which in turn brings an emotional connection back to the game.
According to our whitepaper Into the Mainstream: Influencer Marketing in Society, which surveyed 4,000 consumers, marketers and influencers across the UK, US and Germany, found consumers are more likely to source information from Creators over other information outlets.
More specifically, 74% of young fans get their football news from social media. Social media is fast becoming the place for news updates and in particular football updates. Sponsors will likely benefit if they’re partnered with a team that works closely with a respected Creator as they’re likely to reach the majority of the team’s football fans.
Football will always have some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the world of sport – highlighted by their response to the European Super League and their active protests around commercial modelling overtaking the core passion of the fans in recent months. But the way football is consumed by younger fans has changed. They want to be part of the game and the depth of the experience, as well as be entertained by it – watching a live broadcast game just isn’t enough anymore.
TikTok’s sponsorship of Euro 2020 goes to show that rights-holders are starting to see that Creator platforms are where their modern audiences now are, and that a blended approach to broadcast and consumable content can work hand in hand.
Clubs need to engage with Creators and social media more to allow their younger fans more access to football and the lives of the players off the pitch. A deeper narrative and media texture is required to engage the future generations.
What better way to engage but to lean on the power of Creators to influence the modern football audience?