Generation Z are those of us born between 1995 and 2015. There are nearly 74 million Gen Z members in the US. We even have nicknames; perhaps the most fitting is the igeneration.  

We are a generation that has grown up with cellphones in our hands, and information and entertainment at our fingertips.  As Gen Z members get older it becomes increasingly important for clubs, teams and sponsors to understand how Gen Z interact with sports and sports media.

In an effort to better understand the way my generation consumes sports content, I talked to my friends about their sports viewing, their interaction preferences, and why they choose to engage with sports in their own individual way.

A common theme that emerged from my conversations was that sports are a time commitment – a big one. NFL and MLB games can easily take three hours to watch; NHL and NBA games take a little over two hours. That, my friends agreed, is a long time to watch one sporting event and something they’re not willing to do.

What’s the better alternative? Well for my friends and others the answer is social media. Specifically, social media accounts where you can get live scores, breaking news, and even highlights about your favorite teams, players or sports. In their opinion, it’s much easier and less of a time commitment to follow along with the entire league by scrolling through a twitter feed and getting updates on their phone than it is to just watch the game. By doing this you still get the ability to see the game’s changing plays that make the actual game exciting, but you free up all those hours you would spend watching to do other things.

So, if Gen Z is spending less time watching sports on TV and more time online looking for quick hits of information, then what is the best way to get their viewership to your team?  From my conversations three things stand out:

1.     Be entertaining. Teams like the Los Angeles Chargers draw followers from outside their fanbase for one major reason. You don’t need to like the team to enjoy them poking fun at other NFL teams after a big win, or to get fired up by their pre-game video content. If a team can make their content not only viral, but different than what other teams have then they will draw in more followers than the other teams in their leagues.

2.     Be successful. Getting the attention online from Gen Z actually has little to do with what you post. It comes down to the on the field, court, diamond, or rink performance. The members of Gen Z are drawn to success. If a team is performing well in their games, then there is a natural buzz about the team online. Take the Kansas City Chiefs. Their remarkable high scoring games on the football field lead to more talk on social media from everyone. People that aren’t even all that interested in football can see a GIF posted online of a no look Patrick Mahomes pass and instantly began to take more of an interest in the team as a whole.

3.     The Need for Speed. This instant gratification generation wants their information as it happens. If a team can’t post their content immediately then they will find another account that will. Today’s social media has countless highlight accounts and third-party news sources that are dedicate their time to getting content out to the masses as it happens, and if a team can’t keep up then they may miss out on eyes consuming their content.

The key to engaging this allusive but valuable sports viewing audience lies in a strong social media team developing and delivering a content rich presence. The use of popular memes, GIFs, and internet trends are keys to capturing the igeneration’s hearts, minds and ongoing viewership. Remember, this generation is accustomed to instant gratification. So being good may not be good enough. A combination of both speed and good content posted by sports teams is mandatory in gaining Gen Z’s approval.