Developing Sports Fandom in Youth

While sports have long been marketed towards adults, many organizations are realizing the power of creating lifelong fans early. The buying power of the youth market is frequently overlooked, but the reality is that the youth market also tends to include their parents’ spending power as well as their own.

The problem is that reaching potential diehard fans at a young age can present unique challenges, as the younger demographic may not be actively seeking out sports like many adults. A strong social media presence, engaging brand ambassadors, and relevant brand partnerships can go a long way in building lasting connections.


Here are five tips to help you connect with the youth, and ideally create passionate fans who stick around for the long haul.


1. Develop a Strong Social Media Presence

The youth market is heavily involved on various social media platforms, so naturally, you should be too. This is often easier said than done, as kids and teenagers recognize and seek out authenticity. In other words, just because you know how to be a sports agent doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to run a sports-based social media page, so hiring a professional with a proven track record connecting with younger demographics is usually a wise move.


Additionally, the content on your main social media accounts may not be engaging to the youth market, so consider creating separate accounts that target younger demographics. A cartoon short about your team might not thrill your adult fanbase, but it could be the perfect choice for your pages geared towards kids.


2. Hire the Right Brand Ambassadors

Like any business, the people who represent your brand play a major role in connecting with potential customers (or fans). Like your social media accounts, you may need to hire someone who specializes in reaching the youth market. Maybe that’s someone who acts in movies or TV shows they know or a popular musician they enjoy.


While it’s true that the athletes themselves may attract new fans, a more effective strategy is to have a spokesperson who gets them interested. Once they become fans, they’ll end up choosing their favorite players. You simply can’t expect kids to root for players if they’re not familiar with the sport or team yet.


Take a look at Pickleball. While it’s not a household name, there are currently 2.815 million professional Pickleball players in the U.S. alone. A significant amount of that growth can be directly attributed to TV contracts and professional endorsements, as well as national tournaments with larger incentive pools and prize purses.


3. Partner With Relevant Companies

It can be very difficult to reach a huge market on your own, especially if you’re just marketing directly to them. Instead, try to create a vast network of companies that support your team.


For instance, you could reach out to a sports equipment retailer or referee store to see if they’d be interested in carrying your team’s merchandise. Not only is this a great way to boost sales for your sports team, but it also drives brand awareness. Even if they don’t buy, just seeing the products available makes them aware of the team, even if it’s only subconsciously in passing.


4. Rebrand Your Team

Upgrading your team’s image can be a great way to reach the younger market. At the same time, you don’t want to lose your adult audience. Part of developing a memorable and powerful brand is connecting with as many demographics as possible. For example, choosing a more vibrant color scheme for your logo, switching to more modern uniforms, or getting a new mascot can improve your image without isolating anyone.


5. Get Them Directly Involved With Contests

Let’s face it: sometimes a little bribery can go a long way in the marketing world! Social media users may not be inspired to share your content unless there’s a potential reward involved. Even something small like a free t-shirt can drastically boost your numbers. Instead of just encouraging the younger market to share your content, give them a clear incentive.


Marketing Often Requires Experimentation

In conclusion, improving your social media presence and making it more relevant to younger demographics, hiring relevant people to represent your brand, working with other sports companies to improve your reach, improving your team’s aesthetic, and incentivizing social media shares with prizes are all effective ways to reach and connect with the youth.


When in doubt and if possible, hire a professional marketing team with a proven record for success in connecting with younger groups in the sporting world. If something isn’t working, don’t keep pushing it. Finding effective marketing strategies often requires trial and error.


Marketing to Younger People Isn’t Drastically Different Than Marketing to Adults

While it’s true that some demographics are mainly adult-focused—you’re probably not going to market electric bike kits to toddlers, for example—many of your sports marketing strategies don’t need to be drastically altered. If you have a method that works for growing your adult fanbase, try to stick with that winning formula, but simply adjust it as needed to make it more palatable to the youth market.

About the author

Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She enjoys writing about events, travel, decorating trends, and innovations for the home, but also covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, finance, law, and investing.


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