Report: Short-form content key for Tweens’ sports fandom
November 29, 2023
We are Family, the marketing agency group specialising in children, young people, and their families, has launched its first Global Kids Sports Report, uncovering key data and insights on the role and importance of sports fandom in the Tween market.
The report was undertaken with input from the research teams of some of the world’s biggest sporting brands, sporting bodies and academia, including Manchester City Football Group, West Ham Football Group, San Diego Padres, Red Bull Racing, Table Tennis England, British Fencing, The Youth Sport Trust and California State University, Fullerton.
Undertaking the research with over 4,300 Tweens (7–12-year-olds) and their families across seven markets – UK, US, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Singapore – the research has a particular focus on content consumption and uncovers how sporting bodies, brands and broadcasters can better understand and engage with the next generation of sport fans and retain them as lifelong viewers, players and supporters.
Key takeaways and insights include:
Advantages of fandoms are not onlybeneficial to sporting bodies and personalities, but also vital for broadcasters looking to attain and retain their viewing figures, and the sponsorship opportunities that go along with it.
Fans make the strongest advocates and will stick with their favourite sport, team and sportsperson through thick and thin. Therefore, creating a fanbase as early on as possible will not only impact long-lasting loyalty, but also help establish where Tweens and families choose to put their hard-earned money.
Establishing that fandom starts as young as 5 and blossoms at around 10 – when kids self-declare their fandom – We are Family highlights how creating a family-friendly environment and experience is important to engaging and nurturing that loyalty. Understanding that a child’s family and friends’ ‘tribe’ is fundamental in building and creating lifelong fans, brands and broadcasters need to be thinking of how they can pitch ideas and content that appeals to both existing and future fans (particularly to 7–12-year-olds).
Interestingly, only half of Tweens have been to a live sports event which resulted in mixed feelings on the experience side of sporting fixtures. Despite spending time with their families, experiencing a win in person, and seeing the players up close, came out as big positives. However, many Tweens found the live experience overwhelming, with many children not being comfortable in big crowds and noisy environments, resulting in negative feelings towards the event or even not wanting to go again.
Maurice Wheeler, CEO of We Are Family UK and Global Research Lead said: “Enjoyment, fun and winning were the top cited benefits for Tweens across all sports and all countries, so making sure that coverage and content encapsulates that feeling will help maximise the chance of forging a lifelong bond.”
A huge positive for the industry is that ‘watching their teams play’, is the number one way that Tweens express their fandom. However, only 50 per cent say they regularly watch live broadcast games and competitions with their favourite team, and 37 per cent say the same in relation to their favourite sports star. Of all the channels they use to get their sports content, YouTube is by far the most popular with 58 per cent checking into YouTube on a weekly basis and traditional broadcasters coming in second at just 40.7 per cent.
Consuming content might be the number one thing that kids like to do, but they like to get their sports content from multiple channels and on average, children with a favourite team or sports personality will check 4.7 different channels each week.
Wheeler added: “Broadcasters need to focus on what they can bring to their coverage of live sport to bring a new generation on board. We know that kids love being fans and want to keep up with their team or favourite players, but the way they want to do so is changing. Shorter-form content is winning and outside of knowing who is the most talented (across all sports), they actually want to get under the skin of the people and teams they admire.”
Despite 21 per cent of Tween fans following their favourite sports stars on official social media channels, there is also a broader trend thanks to TikTok’s algorithm removing the need for ‘newness’ in content which has in turn changed the content that Tweens are watching. Rather than seeking out the most up to date videos, this age group are engaging with, and favouring, clips and compilations of great sporting moments from the past as much as the present; and goes some way to understanding why live sport on its own isn’t hitting the mark.
Another impact of social media on fan engagement is that Tweens like a mixture of official and unofficial content. When asked whether they like to consume official (of which 59.9 per cent had a preference) or unofficial (40.5 per cent had a preference) content, less than 15 per cent selected ‘both’ and so preferring just one or the other. This is borne out in the hundreds of Messi Fan accounts on TikTok where Tweens will create their own edits of the player’s best moments.
A quarter of Tweens are also seeking out “content about the biography of the sportsperson”, showing how storytelling and player power is also just as important for Tweens as it is with adults – a trend we’re seeing more of with talent-led documentaries like Drive to Survive and Beckham becoming increasingly popular.
Wheeler said of the data collected on channels and content: “It was interesting to see so clearly that being new and up to the minute isn’t what appeals to this demographic. When they are being fed information all the time, it makes sense that they crave entertainment and fun first – something that played out starkly in our research.”