Most members of the Gen Z demographic group are too young to gamble legally, but some analysts suggest sportsbook operators who ignore the segment in their early 20s are sacrificing what could be a valuable customer base for the present and future.
This newest generation born between roughly 1997-2015 has been raised in a world with growing acceptance of sports betting and other gambling, using it for the same source of social engagement with friends as is the case with favorite reality TV programming like The Voice, according to representatives of the firm Team Whistle.
Team Whistle is a New York-based digital media and marketing research company that studies the leisure habits of the younger generation while also developing content for them related to sports and entertainment, primarily on social media platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.
Luke Beshar, the company’s senior director of analytics and strategy, and Owen Leimbach, an executive in strategy and innovation, hosted a webinar discussion called Gen Z Bets Like No Generation Before Thursday during an online conference sponsored by Hashtag Sports called Context x Sport Betting.
For representatives of gaming companies, sportsbook operators, professional sports leagues, and others, the presenters focused on what they have learned about how the tens of millions in the Gen Z demographic view sports betting and gambling, compared to their grandfathers who may have been prone to hang out at racetracks or in smoky bars.
“Sports betting, which may have in years past been siloed or a tabooed hobby, is obviously now becoming mainstream,” Beshar noted. “Sports betting offers this lane for younger consumers who are not watching sports the way a lot of us or our folks watched, [which was] watching the whole game, sitting down.”
They watch sports differently from older adults
Those in their 20s and the teenagers coming up behind them are known for their short attention spans that coincide with a vast number of entertainment and streaming options, so that they’re more likely to follow sports through short bursts and highlight clips instead of devoting three hours in real time to an event.
For this group, Beshar said, sports betting is on the one hand a form of entertainment through which they socialize with peers, placing bets together and rooting for them to succeed. On the other hand, economic trends and the job market have been less favorable to them than it was for their parents’ generation, so many view sports betting as one more potential way to earn income in a non-traditional manner.
Beshar said Team Whistle’s research found 76% of young sports gamblers view it as a form of “entrepreneurship,” beyond just something fun to do.
With their ready access to online information, “some believe they can make a pretty penny by keeping an edge on sports. … They’ve got tools at their disposal they can use to feel a form of entrepreneurship, a hustle to use.”
Leimbach said that for Gen Z bettors, finding information to help make decisions “doesn’t feel like it’s even research, it’s very fluid. They feel they can find an edge.”
Engaging them will make them customers
The presenters hammered home the point that connecting with the younger demographic as customers is all about providing “engagement” for them — keeping them entertained and promoting social interaction among them in addition to presenting something on which to wager.
“It’s about finding ways to bind viewers through activities,” Leimbach said.
With this generation, a lot can be accomplished through information and tips presented on social media in a way that wouldn’t necessarily reach older gamblers. Just as there are so many different ways that viewers watch sports today that didn’t exist 10 or more years ago, there are ways to connect with young adults on different platforms across their field of attention.
“Generally speaking, people are looking for tools and resources, and providing a drip feed on social media” is a great way to engage them, Beshar said.
And in the current climate of saturation of new sports betting markets by companies promoting themselves, he said the younger audience is looking for a sense of casual, positive fun that can be provided by operators — which is how the companies might want to portray themselves.
“It’s not taboo anymore,” Beshar emphasized of sports betting. “Let’s celebrate it — it’s fun, it’s engaging,” and the companies that do the best job of marketing that aspect “in relatable tones” may be able to separate themselves from the rest.
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