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Gen Z & Sports: How social media is reshaping sports culture

27th July 2021 By Yolandé Haynes
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Almost a year ago I moved to Manchester to start a new job, but almost immediately lockdown began, and I was unable to meet new people or explore this exciting new city. With restrictions finally easing, Facebook sensed it was about time that I actually left the house to meet new people through the medium of sport – so it served me a paid advertisement for a local tag rugby league.

The power of paid advertising has not only helped me discover a new sport, but it has also significantly improved my wellbeing and allowed me to meet some amazing new friends.

Even though I consider myself to be an active person, I would never have discovered my local team if it hadn’t been for social media, even though it is only a 10-minute walk from my house.

Declining interest

Gen Z is not like previous generations of devoted fans. A report found that they just aren’t as obsessed with sports as millennials. Only 53% of Gen Zers consider themselves as sports fans, compared to 63% of all adults and 69% of millennials. This is evident in Gen Z’s viewing habits as they are half as likely as millennials to watch live sports regularly and twice as likely to never watch, which is a major problem for sports brands who rely on broadcast revenue for means of income. Since 2017, media rights have been the largest revenue source for the sports industry, but to satisfy and engage this ultra-connected, difficult-to-impress, and increasingly socially aware generation of fans, sporting bodies must dramatically change the way they engage their audience.

Finding new ways to reach Gen Z

Social media platforms are integral to reaching and building new audiences. The way sports players, clubs, and fans connect is changing due to social media. Audiences are no longer simply watching sport, as fans can often get news, insights, and commentary directly from the sports team’s channels instead of waiting to hear breaking news from traditional news outlets. Social media also creates the space for audiences to participate in the conversation through Tweets, hashtags, and memes.

Sports fans often rely on their social media feeds to stay up to date on news regarding their favourite teams. This creates a great opportunity to leverage social media to increase engagement, develop one-on-one interactions with fans, and tell the stories of the team and its players, coaches, and top supporters.

Highlights and replays are becoming an incredibly significant way to engage with Gen Z since they condense hours-long games into the most exciting moments and are great for sharing on social media.

Platforms dominated by Gen-Z, such as TikTok, have given the sports industry the ability to reach a younger demographic. Here, content is not always aimed at generating income or ad exposure, as it is with Facebook or Instagram, but rather at engaging and building the next generation of fans.

TikTok was one of three official Euro 2020 sponsors, along with Vivo and Qatar Airways, aiming to solidify its image as the place for football fans to share their passion for the game, as well as raise awareness among new audiences.


Goalazo 🥶 #EURO2020 #France

♬ Oliver twist. Mixed – Follow me

The platform demonstrated their commitment to football and their role in culture, through their sponsorship by creating a EURO 2020 hub, separate from the ‘For You Page’, which featured hashtag challenges, football music charts and LIVE streams. #EURO2020 currently has 17 billion views, while Ed Sheeran’s live performance at the TikTok UEFA EURO 2020 on June 25th 2021 set the record for a live event, with over 5.5 million views. In comparison, the TV audience for the Euro 2020 final peaked at 30.95 million viewers, with an average of 29.85 million viewers watching the entire game, demonstrating the potential of TikTok’s reach.

In the years to come, adapting live sports & content to this new generation will be essential for traditional sports. Having a social media presence not only opens up new and exciting options for audience development, higher engagement, and income creation, but it also gives individuals a platform to have a voice, influence, and affect real change, both inside and outside of the industry.

Ready to discover how to make social media work for you? Get in touch with our award-winning social media experts to see what we can deliver for you: