Does sport have a Generation Z problem?

Article brought to you by VLAST

The next generation of consumers doesn’t appear to be following in the footsteps of sports-mad millennials. In this article, we explore the challenges facing the US sports industry.

Recent research by Morning Consult revealed that Generation Z are less likely to identify as sports fans than the general population. In addition, Gen Z are twice as likely as millennials to say they “never” watch live sports.

For the US sports industry, built on significant television contracts, this presents a unique challenge. Is it really as simple as Gen Z just aren't that into sport? Or is there something else at play?


A commonly held narrative is that young fans prefer ‘snacks to meals’—short-form content to full-length games. However, the popularity of watching online video gaming challenges this notion of shorter attention span and demonstrates that Gen Z are still prepared to invest meaningful time if the content is sufficiently engaging and interactive.

Recent research from Nielsen revealed that Gen Z consumers prefer to pay purely for what they want on their terms and without any long-term contractual commitment. They are cutting the cord on traditional pay TV subscriptions, preferring authentic original content and wanting to be closer to their favourite sports and players beyond just watching a game or a sporting event.


One of the biggest differences between Gen Z and previous generations is fan phenomenon. Gen Z are not loyal to a club for life in the same way as their parents or grandparents, preferring to follow a number of teams instead and often changing teams similar to fashion.

Another key distinction is that Gen Z identify with the athletes themselves – and are more likely to root for the person, no matter the team. This means that their loyalties shift as athletes move around in their careers. Gen Z is looking for a new crop of contemporary role models who are inspirational yet relatable. Athletes now create their own individual media brands through their social platforms.

Two of the best examples of this is U.S. basketball phenom LeBron James and European soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently became the first person to amass 500 million followers across social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Generation Z are more open-minded, liberal-leaning and actively engaged in advocating for the fair and equal treatment of others. They are not satisfied with talking about changing the world, what motivates them is creating change or collaborating actively to make this happen. As Gen Z looks for a new crop of contemporary role models who are inspirational yet relatable, the work of sports teams foundations becomes essential for the future.


Generation Z clearly presents both a challenge and opportunity for sports properties and marketers as they leverage the power of athlete ambassadors to connect and engage with young fans. As a leader in its field, Vlast can help rights owners navigate the challenges of talent activations by aligning contractual obligations against the passions of specific talent, to create more authentic partnerships.