The 4 Types of Sports Fans and How Marketers Can Catch Their Attention

Ways to captivate viewers even without their cherished games

Four foam fingers, three pointing up and one pointing down
By understanding where sports fans have migrated, advertisers will be ready to press play once the pause on live sports has ended. Getty Images

Live sports, like most industries, has been drastically affected by Covid-19. In the month of March alone, the NCAA canceled March Madness entirely, while several professional leagues including the NBA, MLB and NHL postponed their seasons. The impact of the pandemic on sports has now reached a global level, with the IOC deciding to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Given the unprecedented cancellation of live sports programming, fans are naturally shifting to other forms of media to fill gaps in content. But not all fans are created equal. There are four unique types of sports viewers who will turn to alternative content to fill the void of regular sports programming.

Advertisers should now consider classic games, esports or even content completely outside of sports when looking to shift their previously allocated ad spend to continue reaching highly coveted sports fans.

Here’s how to identify each type of fan and where to find them in during this live sports pause.

The avid fan

This fan never misses a game and is constantly in tune with the performance of their favorite teams. Their closets are filled with apparel from their favorite teams, including jerseys and hats. They may even have a piece of signed memorabilia.

For this type of fan, live sports are difficult to replace as part of their media diet. To cope, these viewers will instead turn to the next best thing: reruns of classic games that sports channels like ESPN, NBC Sports and CBS are airing in place of previously scheduled games. Avid fans will also revisit older games that are saved on their DVR and tune into sports newscasts for the latest updates on players, teams and leagues during the lapse in live play.

For advertisers to successfully navigate this change, they must shift their ad spend, similarly to how fans are shifting their viewing habits.

Where can advertisers reach them? The avid fan will stick to sports-related content primarily on their usual channels for reruns, but will also spend time on streaming platforms where sports reruns are available.

The multitasker

These fans can’t get enough of sports, period. Managing fantasy leagues is more than just a hobby, and they are attracted to any sport where point scoring is involved. This type of fan doesn’t necessarily follow a specific team or sport, but is interested in anything sports related.

Multitaskers will now turn their attention to sports-centric films and documentaries, like ESPN 30 for 30. In addition to these films and sports specials, multitasker fans will miss the competitive nature of sports and might take up video games or esports to curb their appetite for competition. Games like NBA 2K and Madden NFL allow these fans to get their dose of sports, even when the live games aren’t happening.

To reach these fans, advertisers should shift spend to networks airing sports movies and OTT platforms that have these content rights.

The fair-weather fan

Fair-weather fans don’t watch sports for the competition or results; instead, they are attracted to the overall social experience that comes with it. This means their commitment to sports viewership is far more casual than other fans. Since their motive for watching isn’t tied to the sport itself, these types of fans might now find themselves gravitating toward non-sports related content.

Fair-weather fans will miss live sports, but will adjust and spend their time watching cooking shows, reality television or classic sitcoms. In fact, Nielsen released a report stating that staying home might lead to a 60% increase in the amount of content watched overall. Without live sports on the table, fair-weather fans will be upping their consumption in other areas.

Advertisers looking to reach fair-weather fans can reallocate ad spend to networks and streaming platforms that house this type of casual content like Bravo, TBS and Food Network.

The hipster

Hipster fans aren’t intrigued by traditional sports and are more captivated by niche groups, such as rugby, and the sub-cultures related to them. Given their taste in sports, their alternative content choice skews untraditional compared to other types of fans. Hipster fans are drawn to esports because, similar to niche sports, the gaming community has a highly dedicated fanbase. In addition to esports, hipster fans will add lifestyle shows including culture, history, travel, comedy routines and music to their content rotation.

While hipster fans will disperse more broadly than other subtypes, media buyers can shift ad spend toward platforms like Twitch and streaming services like BritBox.

With live sports on pause, each type of sports fan will react differently to the change in regularly scheduled programming, and adjust their media diet accordingly. For advertisers to successfully navigate this change, they must shift their ad spend, similarly to how fans are shifting their viewing habits. This will mean investing more in OTT, across gaming platforms or with different networks to reach fans as they move to alternative types of content. This is also a time to test ads on less explored areas like gaming platforms, which are experiencing a record number of viewers as a result of Covid-19.

While reallocating ad spend will help advertisers reach audiences outside of live sports viewing, it also poses an opportunity to connect with new audiences across alternate channels. By understanding where sports fans have migrated, advertisers can stay in the game while live sports are paused.


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Mike Evans is the svp, demand facilitation at SpotX.
Publish date: April 6, 2020 https://stage.adweek.com/brand-marketing/the-4-types-of-sports-fans-and-how-marketers-can-catch-their-attention-without-live-sports/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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