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Next Generation Fandom Survey 2024


Fandom Rebounds but Gen Z Interest Continues to Lag


Fandom is about the shared passion for cultural entities. It can be focused on a sports team, an entertainer, a politician, or a consumer product like a Stanley water bottle. Fandom is critical because a society's passions profoundly influence our culture and its direction. 


The Next Generation Fandom Survey from the Emory Marketing Analytics Center is an annual survey of fandom attitudes. It examines motivations, attitudes, and behaviors related to fandom for Americans aged 13 to 74. The 2024 survey involved 2054 responses collected in March 2024. The survey provides fascinating insights into how fandom works and differs in categories ranging from sports to politics across segments of Americans.


We will report the survey results throughout the next several months, beginning with today’s entry, which describes several highlights. Subsequent reports will focus on how fandom varies across categories and demographic (and psychographic) segments. This page will be the landing site for links to all the survey reports.


Linked Reports from the 2024 Survey

 

please check out the new substack for the Future Fandom project


Highlights from the 2024 Next Generation Survey:


Sports fandom is showing a small rebound. The rate of sports fandom has increased from 38.8% in 2022 to 40.3% in 2023 to 43.4% in 2024. I believe we are witnessing a slight resurgence in fandom as COVID disruptions become a memory. I also suspect that Taylor Swift has something to do with the uptick in fandom.  (Figure 1)


Football continues to lead as America’s favorite sport, with 45% of the subjects indicating they are football fans. Basketball is a clear number 2 with a 31% fandom rate. This represents a 5% percentage point lead over baseball. Hockey and Soccer are tied for fourth with 15% fandom rates. (Figure 2)


Fandom intensity ranges significantly across the generations. Sports fandom peaks at 48% with Millennials. Gen X and Baby Boomers follow at 44% and 43%, respectively. Gen Z trails with a 38% fandom rate.  Sports Apathy also peaks in Gen Z. (Figure 3)


The 2024 edition of the survey added questions about women’s sports. Women’s basketball has the highest fandom rate at 16%, followed by Volleyball and Tennis at 13%, and women’s soccer at 11%. While soccer trails other women’s sports, the gap between men’s soccer and women’s soccer is much smaller than the basketball gap. (Figure 4)


When broken down by gender, fandom rates for women’s sports are slightly higher in the male segment than in the female segment. However, fandom for women’s sports is much more evenly split than in general sports categories. For example, 16% of male respondents are fans of women’s basketball compared to 15% of female respondents. In contrast, for the basketball category, 43% of males are basketball fans compared to only 20% of females. (Figure 5)

 

Commentary


Sports fandom is experiencing a minor rebound, with fandom rates increasing by 4.6 percentage points over the past two years. The past year has included several distinctive fandom events. Taylor Swift’s romance with Travis Kelce brought a new audience to the NFL and yielded record-setting Super Bowl viewership. Women’s sports also took center stage with a record-setting Volleyball crowd in Nebraska and Caitlin Clark headlining the women’s NCAA tournament. However, the data isn’t entirely positive. MLB suffered historically low World Series ratings.  


Current trends in fandom have persisted. Regarding generational fandom rates, fandom continues to lag in Generation Z. Data on specific sports fandom remains stable. Football remains America’s favorite sport, and basketball is clearly number two. Baseball and Basketball fandom rates are both up about 1.5 percentage points year-over-year. Other sports like Hockey and Soccer are best viewed as niche rather than mass-market sports, with fandom rates of about 15%. The sports market seems to be settling into an equilibrium where football is the only mass-market sport, Basketball and Baseball are mainstream sports, and everything else is a niche product.


The headline is that sports fandom is trending upwards but ultimately, the story of fandom is found in the details. Fandom is critical because it reflects a society’s cultural passion. If a society’s attention shifts from one sport to another, it means something. A significant current narrative is that Women’s sports are breaking through. If this is the case, there are likely significant ramifications. Is the entire sports market growing, or will women’s sports steal share from men’s sports? If women’s leagues take market share, which sports will suffer declines? The data on fandom for women’s sports is intriguing. The survey data suggests that women’s sports have fandom rates similar to sports like hockey and soccer. The data also indicates that a slight majority of women’s sports fans are men. In a later report, we will further investigate women’s sports fandom.      


It also matters how subpopulations related to sports. This year’s survey shows a substantial increase in Baby Boomer fandom rates (37% in 2023 versus 43% in 2024). In past years, we have found a significant drop-off in fandom within Gen Z, with younger members having especially low fandom. In this year’s survey, the youngest subjects are members of Gen Alpha. We will investigate youth fandom in more detail in a later post.


Today’s post is intended to provide a quick glimpse into sports fandom in 2024. Hopefully, today’s post also highlights the value of further investigation. The survey is extensive, and there are many opportunities to explore how fandom works and where it is going. Over the next several months, we will publish a series of reports that explore many different aspects of fandom.    

 

Please check back on this page, as there is far more to come.


Figure 1


Figure 2


Figure 3


Figure 4


Figure 5


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