Forecasting Future Fandom: What Will Gen Z Become?

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

The Next Generation Fandom Survey was conducted in the early Summer of 2021. The early summer of 2021 followed the disrupted seasons of 2020, and with crowds in arenas, felt like it was the beginning of a return to normalcy. As of this writing (mid-December 2021), the mood has again shifted. The news is full of mandatory boosters and renewed mask mandates, all while stadiums are again full. The point is that the survey is a snapshot in time. The results should be viewed in terms of cultural mood at the time of data collection.

The survey data is now about six months old, and it's time to start thinking about the next edition of the survey. As a final report based on the 2021 edition of the survey, we present a future-oriented analysis for Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Soccer fandom. There is significant concern about where sports fandom is going. I think this is a critical issue. Even though sports are often dismissed as mere entertainment, I believe that sports are a foundational part of the culture and that less engagement with cultural institutions is a warning.

In the report linked below, I present data on sports-specific fandom for different generations, differences in fan behaviors, and a forecast of fandom based on generational level differences in psychological traits and demographics. Collectively, the data and projections suggest that sports fandom will be lower as Gen Z becomes the core sports customer. However, the forecasts suggest different futures for the various sports, with Basketball and Soccer relatively stable but Baseball and Football with significantly fewer fans. The report ends with a discussion of issues that complicate forecasting fandom.

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To start things off, the figure below shows the current percentage of each generation that claims to be a fan of Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Soccer. The data is stunning. It appears that something fundamental is happening to sports fandom.