Next Generation Fandom

Updated: May 25



Listen on the platform of your choice here.


Today’s episode hits two points. First, we continue through the NBA playoffs. I suspect that I will struggle to get a word in as the NBA playoffs are something that Doug truly loves. I “think” the only thing in sports that Doug has more passion for than the NBA playoffs is UGA football.

The power of passion leads us to our second topic. When people have passion, they show up, and they make things happen. This passion of fans is why fandom is a powerful force in sports, business, and society. This summer, my research group is investigating how fandom changes across generations at a more fundamental level.


Fandom is about passion, identity, and group affiliation. Fandom is a fundamental aspect of what makes us human and the underlying traits of belonging to and having passion for being members of groups. We usually think of sports fandom, but fan groups are everywhere and include groups centered on entertainment, politics, and consumer brands.


A recurrent challenge in marketing and management is understanding the next generation. In academia, we talked about understanding and teaching millennials for 15 years or so. Similar conversations occur in the private sector as employers try to attract and motivate younger employers and brands position for a new generation of consumers.


There is a cottage industry of snake oil salesman that study the behaviors of new generations. The guidance is predictable:


· The Millennials (Gen Zers) are different from previous generations.

· They are more attuned to technology and have shorter attention spans.

· They care more about social issues and need to have a purpose at work.


Lather, rinse, repeat.


Our approach to studying fandom is different. Rather than only look at behaviors (how much someone uses a second screen), we dig into fundamental human traits such as the need for belongingness or status. We are doing so with a national survey that we expect to launch this week.


Throughout the summer, I will be publishing anecdotal findings now and then. We will probably do a full episode related to the survey findings later in the summer – if we can figure out how to make it compelling.

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