With varying degrees of truthfulness, it has become commonplace for every president to begin his annual State of the Union address with “the State of the Union is strong.” Similarly, in its 2023 report on the state of sports fandom in America, Deloitte proclaims that “the current state of sports fandom is strong … for now.”
Why the hint of concern? In its survey of more than 3,000 U.S. sports fans aged 14 and older, 68% said they currently participated in sports or had in the past — with about one-third of respondents chalking the single biggest reason for their fandom up to participation in youth sports.
But, as Deloitte notes, there are “concerns over the state of youth sports and participation rates [that] could signal trouble for the fan base of the future,” some having to do with “the myriad of entertainment options available to younger people today —including video games, social media, user-generated content, and streaming services.”
Those same concerns have been voiced as Gen Z has matured, however, and they’ve done little to mute that generation’s interest in sports. In fact, among Gen Z respondents to Deloitte’s survey, 60% said they were more of a sports fan today than they were three years ago, suggesting that they’re still “growing into their sports fanhood.”
Positive signs for sports betting
Among survey respondents over the age of 21, 77% said they’d multitasked while watching a live sporting event at home — and sports betting was among the top sidebar activities those on the younger end of the spectrum reported engaging in.
Twenty-two percent of respondents said they’d bet on a professional sporting event within the past year — a figure that rose to 30% among millennial and Gen Z sports fans. Sports bettors were more likely to have attended a game in person, bought sports merchandise, paid for a streaming video service to watch sports, and participated in fantasy sports over the past 12 months, with 80% of sports bettors saying that wagering increases the entertainment value of live sports.
Sixty-six percent of non-betting respondents reported being burnt out on sports betting advertising, while 48% of bettors said the same. But in terms of other forms of engagement, 66% of sports bettors surveyed want the capability to bet on their mobile device on different aspects of a game they’re attending.
Betting just one dish on a lengthy menu
Deloitte’s report points out the obvious: that streaming will only become a bigger part of the sports viewing experience, and that younger sports fans are more likely to watch sports that way versus through traditional telecasts.
Moreover, Deloitte forecasts that streaming video on demand, or SVOD, will become more personalized in the future.
“This might look like placing real-time bets through mobile devices at home or in-venue, watching a game from a player’s point of view in VR (virtual reality), instantly buying unique merchandise from an event through a streaming video service, or sharing custom, real-time statistics with friends via social media,” the report states.
But in terms of the type of side dishes sports fans are keen on being served, sports betting was way down the list, with only 11% of millennials and 7% of Gen Z’ers and Gen X’ers saying they’d be interested in “integrated sports betting capabilities.” This ranked behind such accoutrements as real-time statistics and analytics, different camera angles, watching from an athlete’s point of view, co-viewing with friends and family, and a live social feed displayed onscreen.
Photo: Cy Cyr/PGA TOUR