Four Lessons on Finding New Fans at the “World Congress of Sports”
Finding new fans just takes a little strategic wherewithal

Four Lessons on Finding New Fans at the “World Congress of Sports”

April 26, 2024

Last week we attended Sports Business Journal’s two-day “World Congress of Sports,” where decision makers from the world’s biggest sporting brands gathered to share opinions and insights on the most pressing topics in our industry.

Some of the most interesting learnings we took away were around how these speakers think about finding and speaking to new fans — especially from demographics that have perhaps been historically underserved or overlooked: women, families, teenagers who’d rather watch an endless reel of TikToks than a two-hour ballgame.

Below, we’ve rounded up four of the most impactful lessons from the conference. Know them, use them, and remember that every day is a good day to start building the future of your fan base.

1. Gen Z does not like to make plans too far ahead of time

As one industry leader cited, “40% of all Gen Z ticket purchases occur in the seven days before an event — double that of Gen X.”

For the new generation of fans, your marketing and checkout flows should be engineered for last-minute, spur-of-the-moment purchasing. This group of fans lives in the present and likes to keep its options open. Keep that in mind when you’re talking to them.

2. There is a treasure trove of un-courted female fandom at your feet

Molly Solomon, Executive Producer and President for NBC Olympics, points out that 56% of NBC’s sports viewership is male. “There is a huge upside to cultivating female fans to become more avid fans. That leads to more ticket and merch sales, but also completely new segments of advertisers.” What can you do to unlock that fandom and bring more female fans to your events?

3. Collaborations can unlock new demographics

One way to tap into those untapped audiences that Solomon is talking about? Relevant brand partnerships. Mark Donovan, President of the Kansas City Chiefs, discussed creating a Hallmark-style playoff commercial (Hallmark is also a KC-based company) about a love story between Chiefs Kingdom and playoffs football. It wasn’t just some social-media gimmick — the team recruited two of the biggest Hallmark stars and their massive social reach to reach a completely new audience.

4. Think of the children!

Kids may not have money now, but they will some day. The time to start investing is now. Try to create smart programming that caters to families and children who are just starting their fandom journeys. Parents are always looking for experiences that help them bond with their children. 

Catie Griggs, President of Business Operations for the Seattle Mariners, says, “While you might not be able to get the person who moved to your market to look at you as their primary team, you can get their kids. This is why the family unit is still incredibly important to think about for sports and creating experiences that cater to that … Oftentimes we get stuck in trying to solve issues for the current situation and not putting enough attention on how to build for tomorrow.” 

And some other assorted nuggets of internet wisdom from this week…

Thrillist: Here's how much millennials and Gen Z are spending on concerts

The Hollywood Reporter: Alex Cooper to host watch parties from the Paris Olympic Games for Peacock

Sportico: Get ready for the AI-ified Olympic Games

The Athletic: What to expect in the NBA's next media deal: Amazon, NBC contenders to join

Hoog: What's Inside the World's Most Exclusive Club?

Yahoo Sports: Record 275,000 fans swarm downtown Detroit to witness first round of NFL Draft

Four Lessons on Finding New Fans at the “World Congress of Sports”