Marketing & Sponsorships

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Marketing Sports Events to Teens: First, Know their Priorities

18 Oct, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

While we’ve seen that high school sports participation is on the uptick, engaging teens outside varsity pursuits remains a challenge for many sports event owners. This includes those trying to sway them to register for anything from obstacle races to fun runs to team sports to triathlons.

It seems that Generation Z (or the ‘post-Millennials,’ as they’re sometimes known – in other words, those born in or after 1996) has some specific needs and some equally strong preferences. It’s up to savvy sports event owners to know how to market to them.

According to an article in MediaPost, several formidable obstacles are facing those who want to reach teenagers, and chief among those are short attention spans and a higher-than-average media exposure. Factor in the news that many members of this generation are more inactive than their predecessors (the CDC recommends that teenagers get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, but it estimates that only 10 percent of adolescents are meeting that recommendation) and you have a perfect storm for people who will bypass the news of a participatory sports event.

But for the sports planner who wants to work to engage teenagers, it helps to think like one, say the MediaPost gurus:

Be Aligned with Relevant Events or Trends: Social campaigns activated around events allow marketers to gain visibility in front of millions of Gen Z’s following sports tournaments, video game releases, television shows and more. (Case in point: When the Walking Dead showed up on TV and zombie-themed races started being offered, they found an immediate audience among teens, as well as tweens and Millennials.)

In some cases, research has been done – and has proven that Millennials are at least watching sports. MediaPost noted, “A brand recently aimed a healthy-living campaign at Gen Z’s on Facebook and Instagram. The company, which has partnerships with major sports leagues and entertainment brands, set out to determine which content — ads attached to sports/entertainment versus the client’s standard branding — would drive engagement. The company found that ads aligned with events, especially sports events like March Madness and Major League Baseball, generated 34 percent higher engagement and 30 percent higher video view rates than ads featuring the company’s branding only.”

Meet Gen Zs Where They Are (and that means on social media): Social platforms have a huge Gen Z user base and boast high penetration and daily usage trends among these audiences. For example, Instagram’s 500M+ user base, which skews younger, is a gold mine for marketers looking to reach millions of young people with a lower investment.

According to Forbes, digital strategist Sammy Lau says, “Facebook’s popularity among teens continues to slip, while social platforms like Tumblr, Instagram and SnapChat are growing in influence among the teen demographic.”

The article further noted that savvy marketers “need to stay on top of how social media platforms are doing among teenagers — and that means more involvement than an update every six months; social media moves at the speed of light, not the speed of a marathon.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that teens consider Facebook something their parents use (making it deeply uncool.) Of course, Bleacher Report has noted it is streaming high school football games on Facebook Live, perhaps as a means of bringing their parents onboard.

Use the Appropriate Form of Communication: According to TheNextWeb, the average teen sends 3,330 text messages a month. They would rather get their news, updates and pitches that way than via phone call (which they consider intrusive) or e-mail (which they might not check very often.) They also download plenty of apps in order to streamline their interface with brands and events. Event owners who take advantage of these methods to push out information are ahead of the curve.

Remember Their Parents are Still Involved: Forbes points out that teens are in no way completely independent; they are still under the care and responsibility of their parents and other caregivers: “On average, parents will spend around $17,000 on a single teenager in one year. Don’t overlook them in your marketing plans for teens.”

While teens may have more choice on things like clothing and music purchases, adults are more involved as decision-makers on what concerns their children’s health – and that includes sports. As an aside, you’ll need to reassure the parental units of the continued safety of the teens when participating in any sport; they’ll be well-studied on issues like concussions and sports injuries.

Know What Interests Teens: Of course, not all Gen Zs are interested in the same events. Like every other demo, they’re a great mixture of interests, priorities, likes and dislikes. It’s not the only demographic that understands eSports, but as Yoda would say, the force is strong in this one. At the same time, teens love to have bragging rights, and events like mud runs and marathons have a cache their friends will envy.

Put an Ear to the Ground: Forbes also recommends actual teen input, noting, “Julia Benben is the marketing director at Freetoes, a toeless sock company that was founded by a teenager. She advises: ‘Use a teen intern or part-timer as part of your staff. They know what’s trending and what brands are losing popularity. Really listen to their ideas and opinions, then base your decisions on their original input blended with your marketing expertise.’”

 Because if there’s one thing everyone remembers from being a teenager, you desperately want to be treated like an adult – with your ideas given appropriate consideration.

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