Sports Marketers Face Timeliest Moment To Fulfill Fans' FOMO

  • by , Columnist, February 13, 2024
As we cull through a consistent barrage of attitudinal data, I can’t help but feel a sense of urgent opportunity for sports marketers to deliver meaningful and unique fan experiences.  That’s not to say that one of the secret sauces of effective fan engagement hasn’t always been delivering the bigger, better deal.  But recent analysis suggests that the stakes are higher and that there is a greater urgency to supersize the live fan experience.

For many years, we’ve tracked fan agreement with the statement “It’s important for my life to include a number of unique experiences.”  And while a majority have consistently concurred with such sentiment, those doing so exceeded 72% just last month, a significant lift from as recently as last November.

But this zeal for actualization has been amplified by three other recent observations.  First, we found across-the-board majority agreement that one’s dominant life philosophy is more about living for today rather than for tomorrow.  This sentiment rang true regardless of political ideology, and was evident even among millennials and Gen Z, though particularly acute for those aged 35+. 



Second, recent sports fan attitudes evoke memories of Veruca Salt. Not the band, but the impetuous girl from the original Willy Wonka movie starring Gene Wilder, whose sense of entitlement earned her an ultimate evaluation as a “bad egg.”  Intriguingly, more than three out of four American sports fans agree that “People today are more selfish than in my parent’s generation.”  And this sentiment is strong even among the youngest adults surveyed.

So, why this urgent focus on satisfying the sports fan’s id?  Therein lies a third observation that I touched upon in this space last month. It is illustrated by the trend we continue to see of devil-may-care consumer spending despite the highest levels of credit card debt in decades, lingering historically high interest rates and an inflationary environment that is still delivering a cost of living that has exceeded earnings growth for all but the wealthiest Americans.

People are spending to escape what remains an overarchingly morose outlook on where things are headed this year.  My friend and colleague Dr. Steve Kraus from the University of San Francisco called it a “vibecession,” where a rock bottom 17% of sports fans strongly agreed that “America is on the right track.” That’s the weakest performance we’ve seen against this measure in the 18 months we’ve been tracking it.

Today, unique and differentiated sports experiences can deliver an even more potent means of escape than under better circumstances. Those spending on sports disproportionately include the upper arm of the above referenced “K-shaped recovery.”   Opportunistic as it may appear, sports marketers confront a challenge to provide memorable activations that seize upon the current environment, while not alienating or pricing out those who may be simultaneously feeling the pressure of this moment.

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