Sports Engagement: Gen Z vs. Millennials

SponsorPulse Staff
  • August 8, 2023
  • SponsorPulse Staff
Photo courtesy Phillip Goldsberry via Unsplash
Gen Z and Millennials have rocked our world with their love for innovation, new products, and digital experiences — reshaping how we interact with the physical and digital worlds.

In the past, we’ve published handy guides about the consumption habits of Millennials and Gen Z to help you understand them and some of the best practices to reach them.

In today’s post, we embark on a journey to compare consumption and engagement habits with sports from the two demographics.

The Changing Landscape of Sports Consumption

As per the data collected by SponsorPulse, it's evident that both Gen Z and Millennials in the USA maintain a strong interest in sports, with the NFL, the NBA, and MLB reigning as the top favorites across all age groups.

Delving deeper into the numbers, when we compare the overall Engagement from the wider population, there aren't significant variations in the levels over time across the top five leagues in the US. However, intriguing nuances emerge when we focus on specific demographics.

For example, in the 19-24-year-old age category, all leagues have experienced an average 10-point decrease in engagement since 2018.


Surprisingly, compared to the age group of 25-39, which experienced high Engagement volatility between 2019-20, the 13-18 age group has shown remarkable consistency and stability in their Engagement numbers. 


Isn't it fascinating? The younger demographic has remained steady in their preferences over time. And guess what? This valuable insight can be a real game-changer for sponsors.

With such consistency, they now have a better chance of accurately targeting the right demographic when evaluating sponsorship opportunities.

But to better understand these demographics, we must look closely at their consumption habits.

Gen Z Sports Consumption

With its significant disposable income of $360 billion, Gen Z demands authenticity and purpose-driven branding. 

Gen Z looks for companies that give back to their communities and take meaningful action worldwide. A good example? Nike's ‘Made to Play’ initiative

Sustainability is another key factor, with Gen Z supporting brands prioritizing environmentally-friendly practices, like Patagonia and Gucci's sustainability efforts.

Moreover, Gen Z values inclusivity, which could explain their slightly higher preference in Engagement for emerging women's sports like the WNBA and the NWSL compared to Millennials. This younger generation embraces diversity and social justice causes, making them more likely to show approval and consider purchasing from brands that promote these values.

On the other hand, millennials exhibit a relatively lower preference for emerging sports.

Research by Dentsu revealed that younger fans appreciate original sports content developed specifically for social channels and YouTube — suggesting significant differences in how users consume the content.  

Besides reaching them where they are, to win over Gen Z, brands must align with their values and champion inclusivity, diversity, and social justice causes, as these factors significantly influence their approval and support.

Millennial Sports Fans

Millennials have slightly different values compared to their ‘younger siblings.’ 

Millennials favor service-based companies that offer rental options, aligning with their preference for experiences and their eco-conscious mindset.

Sustainability is a significant factor for Millennials as they aim to support brands with transparency and ethical practices. 

Health and wellness are also important, valuing mental and physical well-being. 

According to SponsorPulse data, when it comes to Engagement preferences, legacy sports have a slight advantage among Millennials compared to more emerging leagues. It's interesting to note that Millennials show a different pattern of Engagement compared to the younger Gen Z demographic (aged 24 and under) when it comes to sports like the NFL, the MLB, and the NHL. 

The preferences of these two age groups may differ significantly regarding their sports interests and engagement.

Connect With Your Demographic

The new generations continue to engage with sports yet have different consumption methods and unique values.

As the sports landscape continues to evolve, understanding the unique traits and preferences of Gen Z and Millennials becomes crucial for brands and marketers to engage and cater to these distinct demographics effectively. Create a free account and use SponsorPulse's powerful insights to discover more about your engaged audience.