Insights from chatting with a 17 y/o sports fan on media, ticketing, & sponsorship

Whoever is closest to the customer wins in business.

Or as Rich Franklin puts it: “If you want to see how a lion hunts, you don’t go to the zoo.”

We all know that the way fans are consuming is changing rapidly. Our tactics of old are not good enough.

This past week we had the pleasure of chatting with a young sports fan, Tyler, on The Inches Podcast while he was job shadowing Rich.

Not sure he was expecting it, but we bombarded him with questions on how he consumes, buys, and recognizes sponsorship at the games he goes to.

I LOVE doing this exercise with young people…because you learn where you need to start building your assets in order to stay competitive in the attention market. Each conversation I learn so much and formulate a strategy around how I can use these insights to build brand & a rapport with the next generation.

We spent a lot of time with Tyler, so you can listen to Part 1 HERE and Part 2 Here. But as always some notes below.

Snapchat is where it’s at…and it’s not even close

I’ve spoken on this in the past and I’ve done so because of the overwhelming response back on Snapchat is the main platform that teens consume on.

When Rich asked how Tyler how he consumed the content of his favorite sports team, the Portland Trailblazers, his answer was Instagram Stories & Twitter.

There is always a problem when you ask this question, it dives into where he is already being steered for that content.

You see, the Trailblazers post their content on those platforms, so Tyler is forced to consume there.

When I followed up with where he spends most of his time on his phone…the answer was immediately Snapchat. No Question.

For context, teens & college kids don’t text as much anymore, they Snap message.

I’m baffled that the telecom companies haven’t bought Snapchat yet. They would grab the entire market share on messaging.

Anyways, back to sports…

The main takeaway here is we haven’t been putting out enough content on Snapchat for the next generation.

How do I know? Tyler told me so. He flat out said he would connect more with his teams if they posted more content on that platform.

And I’m not talking just posting scores…I’m talking content that is really thought out for the platform. Some short-form, long-form, unique content that will captivate the audience.

Imagine if your team had a week where your star player gave in-depth tips on building your basketball game only found on Snapchat.

Imagine if you did an art contest with a photo where people could paint on it (ok, the submissions could get out of hand but you would get a ton of good ones).

One thing that I always get push back on this is “Snapchat is a bit too young for us to really put time into…”

This though is a misunderstanding of how long the platform has been a factor.

The stat that always kicks out to me is that 1/3 of Snapchat users are Parents.

WOW…that seems like the generation we want to hit.

Overall if you are looking to do some damage in building brand & rapport with the next generation you need to put more time into Snapchat.

Side note…With Snapchat ads, you can hit $0.03 per click…I know, crazy.

YouTube is the main long-form platform

One thing that jumped out was how he consumed sports. A key thing he said was when he was watching long-form content on teams, he was doing so on YouTube.

If it was a live game, he would watch it on cable with his friends. But he said when consuming content it was on YouTube on his phone.

Sometimes we focus on how teens have short attention spans…but you can reach them with longer content if you get it on the correct platform.

This jumped out to me because it is a channel that we as teams can OWN.

We can build a backlog on behind the scenes, Hard Knocks type, review restaurants, Hot Ones eat the delicacy of your city, live concert in your office, long-form content, and own ALL of the sponsorship we put on it.

The amount of attention we can command from this platform is still high.

Our goal as a marketing department (with interest from the sponsorship department) should be to reach our fans where they consume, build a rapport with them through heart-string pulling content.

Analysis, game highlights are all great…but fans now demand more.

We can offer more. Let’s double down on YouTube and really build out our long-form content.

Tickets are a problem for this generation

This is where it got interesting. Tyler is a ticket buyer, and in particular, last season he purchased a 10 game $150 package last year that he liked.

But then, the Blazers went to the Western Conference Finals. Ticket prices skyrocketed the next year. That deal wasn’t there anymore and therefore he went back to buying on 3rd party platforms like Stubhub.

For fans like Tyler, getting them on our team’s ticketing system is VITAL. It is a crucial age to build familiarity and rapport with our organization, game, and staff.

When I say “on our ticketing system” I mean creating relationships with the department. Our salespeople are people, they are someone our young fans can build a lifetime relationship with.

If we can use technology & strategize on ways to facilitate that connection early on, we can steer them away from the one-off purchases and create a lifelong customer.

One key tactic we spoke about was a loyalty program, like a frequent flyer program, where Tyler could earn better deals as he purchased more.

His 10 game package would have earned him credit for this season and kept him in the system. A call or email to let him know that despite the increase in the ticket price… he could buy the same package and earn points.

But more importantly, that ticket rep would have facilitated the conversation…keeping him in the Blazer system and not resorting to StubHub.

Overall, let’s start getting creative with how we connect with this generation in regards to ticketing. If we can build programs like the loyalty one we spoke about we can create a bond with our department.

Our current system does not work for the new generation. If we can make some tweaks we can grab them back and build for the next one (maybe even message them through Snapchat?)

OK, we’re at sponsorship…and it ain’t pretty

Sponsorship got a little bit ugly, which is good. The reason why we do this exercise is to understand where we are missing the mark and adjust & evolve.

Rich asked a few questions on sponsorship that really dove into what was getting through to him in this form of advertising.

We chatted about breaks in the game and digital. A key thing he brought up was when there are breaks in the game, he is on his phone.

No matter what was going on in the break, his attention was mainly on the phone.

This is nothing new to most of us when we look into our arenas. If you look during your breaks…you will see this in action.

The tough thing is if our team isn’t there, someone else is taking that attention.

When asked if he’d engage with a sponsored digital game or activation during the break, and his answer was a predictable yes.

But the next question was the heartbreaker. The red flag. The siren…DEFCON 1answer we all need to pay attention to.

I asked him, besides the building sponsor, to name as many sponsors as he could for the team

Now, remember, Tyler goes to 2 games a month. He is a frequent fan. The one that sponsors pays you to build up a familiarity with.

They literally pay us in sponsorship to help frequent fans like Tyler remember their brand so when they make decisions on purchasing they choose that brand due to their fandom and the connection we set up during games.

Welp, he could only name 2…Toyota & McDonald’s

…that’s rough by any measure and somewhat of a wake-up call.

But how? Why could he only remember two? Well, we dove deeper as to why those were the ones he could remember?

Here’s the secret sauce.

Toyota was the half-court shot during a break. McDonald’s gives out free chicken nuggets if they score over 100 points.

That’s it…

One big thing was the jersey sponsor…which is really tailored to his age group…wasn’t one he could name.

But as we think about this we can really break down why those stuck out. They are active assets that pull in his attention. They command it both digitally and in-arena.

Rich and I have talked about this on the podcast but we need more active assets in our assets to reach the next generation.

Why? Well if you don’t have active assets they’ll jump to the next one that is active…which is their phone…and 90% isn’t your content.

The more active your content…the more recall the fan will have. The signage is great…but it is not enough.

In sponsorship, we have to do a better job at reaching this next group of sports fans or we’ll lose them. Fortunately, it can only go up from here.

Athletes driving his apparel and consumer product buying

This was an interesting one that popped up as we chatted about consumer products. The team had less influence on these products…but athletes were a big influence when deciding.

This is the influencer generation. Athletes have done an amazing job of building this influence with fans.

Fans today gravitate toward the athletes over the teams 100%. I’ve heard it called the LeBron effect by some teams…those kids who bought a Cavs, Heat, and Lakers jersey.

It’s our job in sponsorship to understand this and utilize it to drive purchases for those sponsors in the consumer goods category.

When we think about ways to engage these sponsors with this generation, it comes down more to the athletes you have over your team and building with your assets and strategy.

Of course, we have to recognize this is a sample size of one

Whenever I do one of these deep dives I get really excited about some things…then I have to remember to take a step back and realize this is a one-person sample size.

There are some great nuggets to build off here…but it doesn’t mean it is the end all be all answer from one session.

BUT this is why it is so important to do this exercise multiple times a month. You can start to see which ones come up frequently and get a better picture of what is happening in the real world and adjust.

While this is a sample size of one…it is valuable beyond measure.

But this is how you learn…not industry blogs…not Twitter trends…this right here

Again I’ve been doing this for a while (a deep dive with any young person I can) and it is the number one exercise that really produces results in the tactics we employ.

No blog has ever given me as much knowledge & insight. No Twitter posts from industry leaders.

A key example here is when Tyler said the place he consumes his team’s media is on Twitter & Instagram Stories. The only reason this is the case is that Twitter is where his team primarily distributes content.

When you ask most social media managers for teams they say Twitter is the place that is non-negotiable to engage on.

But if you ask where Tyler engages the most… the answer is Snapchat.

Snapchat has been thrown to the wayside for most teams, reading blogs on how it is doing poorly as a public company.

If you do these interviews you start to see places you can win where others aren’t even participating.

Where you can steal attention where others aren’t. Where you can grow that others haven’t thought of or have written off.

The person who is closest to their customer wins. This is how you do it.

A HUGE thank you to Tyler for his time.



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