Following on from our blog a few weeks ago, today we’ll look at how Gen Z consumes sports media, how that differs from what we’ve seen in the past with other demographics, and why things like table tennis streams are great for capturing their attention and potentially turning that into something more.
The amount of feedback and comments we’ve received since we covered the viewer experiences and fan engagement models for Gen Z a few weeks ago has been incredible, so thank you to everyone who reached out and shared their insights. In that blog, we talked about the fundamental shift that is taking place in sports media and how new forms of content, like Mixed Reality, are shaping the next generation of fans.
Understanding Gen Z’s relationship with sport
Contrary to popular belief, Gen Z are into sports. However, the ways they are engaged in sports and form their loyalties are different from what’s been seen before. As fan engagement models change and sports media makes efforts to adapt to the needs of Gen Z, it also presents non-mainstream/grassroots sports with an opportunity.
Fan Engagement for Gen Z should be built around participation and impact. This is the generation that craves instant rewards, they want to see what they can do and how fast they can see the results. Gen Z prefers not to be stagnant. They want to be a part of the action and not a bystander. As a result, they would rather participate in niche sports than follow traditional ones as a fan.
They like to play what they watch, and they watch what they play. That means that sports such as table tennis, snooker, darts, and other activities that you can easily participate in at a grassroots or amateur level are highly attractive for Gen Z. Sports like these allow for the direct engagement they want, and with the rise of digital technologies in sports media, individuals can watch broadcasts like table tennis streams as both a fan and a player. They can enjoy the action but also try to take pointers from it. - and then when it’s over, they can go and try to hone and improve their skills with what they’ve learned as they watched. Gen Z are no longer limited to passively watching professionals as previous generations of sports fans have been.
Sports like this are therefore in a very interesting position right now. Table tennis, tennis, volleyball, and many others have significant numbers of kids and teenagers (and even adult ‘weekend warriors’) actively participating. These are Gen Z’ers who are already engaged with these sports and who potentially can develop a life-long loyalty to it - and things like tennis streams, table tennis streams and so on can help build that relationship.
Physical education and sports are important parts of growing up and shaping one’s personality. According to research, a steady 70%+ of kids aged 6-12 are participating in various sports.
It’s often more accessible for parents to get their kids into table tennis or badminton than into, say, soccer or baseball. These sports have access to large numbers of Gen Z already engaged due to the qualities that we’ve discussed earlier (and which again, is only boosted by the presence of table tennis streams). so this is an opportunity not to be missed.
Research shows a strong correlation between playing sports and developing fan loyalty. So, getting youngsters invested in those tennis streams and table tennis streams and building up loyalty with them today may well lead to a strong bond between them and the sports they watch in the future, potentially similar to bonds Gen X and Baby boomers have with sports. To capitalize on this, however, sports governing bodies and broadcasters need to think strategically.
This all starts with the way kids are playing and training. The closer sports can get to digitally-native experiences, the more likely a child is to actively choose sports over other forms of entertainment. This is yet another reason why things like table tennis streams are so important - they offer a more digitally-native experience than a standard TV broadcast.. Gen Z lives in a world where everything can be measured. They know what songs they listened to the most in a year, they know how long they spent on their phones every week and how many steps they take in a day. Sports training should be on the same level of precision in order to be attractive to Gen Z - and because they offer more stat tracking, more camera angles, more commentary options and more information in general, broadcasts like table tennis streams are well placed to succeed with such an audience.
Table tennis streams, analytics, and their impact on coaching
Giving Gen Z sports analytics and insights and demonstrating their progression is key to holding their interest in a game. For example, in table tennis, there are very few things that are currently measured in training. Only general sports analytics from smart devices are available and there’s very little comparison or even awareness of how you performed today versus last week. Thanks to our table tennis stream the team at OSAI has opened up table tennis analytics, providing easy-to-use tools to measure key performance indicators for every table tennis player. Currently, on our platform, there are several hundred table tennis coaches, who use OSAI to track the performance of their athletes. One of the key pieces of feedback we’ve received is that the table tennis analytics brought by OSAI and our table tennis streams help coaches better engage groups of kids, who are now willing to work harder because they can see the benefits and improvements offered in raw numbers. Some coaches see young athletes attend more sessions and become more competitive too - they attribute this (at least partially) to table tennis analytics and progress tracking.
There are commonalities among generations - the love for authentic experiences. Gen Z do crave authenticity, especially if they can share it online. Table tennis streams from OSAI make it easier to build sports analytics into the training young athletes receive and give them an opportunity to share the progress, re-enforcing the life lessons and social elements youngsters learn through grassroots sport.
What does sports content for gen Z look like?
As Gen Z gets more involved at the grassroots level, now is the perfect time to enhance the sports broadcast and evolve the viewing experiences. Mixed Reality, real-time insights, highlights - they’re all part of the foundation for a successful long-term strategy.
Short-form content is particularly important. According to the sports marketing agency Two Circles, the value of the short-form will more than double in the next four years. Gen Z watches around 3.5 hours of video content a day, but they do so in short bursts throughout the day. This is one of the reasons why sports media focuses not just on live broadcasts, but also on sharing highlights and experimenting with short-form videos, in an attempt to build up successful fan engagement with Gen Z.
Fan engagement doesn’t have to be about loud music and kiss cam at your games. Gen Z is an impact generation, who likes to participate and see immediate results. Continuing our example of table tennis streams, in this situation fan engagement may mean connecting players with pro-level coaches , who can guide and advise youngsters throughout their training, and do so using digital platforms and technologies (something already available with the OSAI app). Merging digitally-native experiences with real-world challenges is one of the sure ways to win over the hearts of Gen Z.
Gen Z appreciates diversity, they like to be different, yet they strive for popularity. Playing and watching sports both have the potential to be a big part of Gen Z’s identity, allowing them to use sports media to stand out, compete and socialize. Bringing digitally-native experiences (like precise sports analytics) and high-quality immersive content (like Mixed Reality broadcasts) into sports media will therefore help to future-proof traditional sports media and fan engagement frameworks