While individuals of both young and old age make up the sports fan community, there are strikingly different opinions between groups of fans who began following sports at different periods in their lives. As such, Voice of the American Fan surveyed a group of fans to determine what age or ages individuals joined their respective fandoms, and what age group dominated the industry.
The results yield interesting views about fans who began following sports at age ten or younger--the most common age group to start following sports.
The information as a whole is beneficial for sports marketers who understand the importance of knowing their customer base. It is important to understand what consumers value in a sport, why they first become interested, and what group of individuals are most devoted to following sports.
Sports Fans Start Young
Individuals typically foster an interest in sports culture at an early age because their parents often immerse their children in it. Over 41 percent of respondents began following sports when they were ten years old or younger, and 28 percent began following between the ages of 11 and 17. This means over half of the respondents began following sports before they were legal adults, supporting the idea that their parents enrolled them in an organized sport affiliation.
Shooting for Fandom
The data further suggests that 34 percent of respondents were inspired to follow sports because of their family or friends’ interest in sports, and 16 percent were inspired by their family’s tradition of following a team. This logic is a common factor of over half of the respondents’ primary reasons for becoming interested in the sports category. It is interesting that both responses come as a result of other people's’ influence—leading analysts to conclude that families who hold traditions around sports, or families who are just interested in sports overall, are more likely to influence their children to become sports fans as well.
Types of Fans
Those who began following sports specifically from the age of ten or younger display interesting characteristics. Fifty-four percent of respondents in this category say they “like sports pretty well” and 37% of respondents indicate they are a “die-hard sports fan”. This statistic indicates that 91 percent of respondents (ranging from ages 18-61+) who began following sports at ten or younger are at least fairly interested in following sports. These respondents are also more likely than not to have played a sport themselves. In fact, 79% of respondents report to have played a sport at one point or another in their life.
The survey asked those who began following sports at age ten or younger to indicate if there were any sports that they used to be interested in that they were not anymore. Sixty-nine percent said that there was NOT a sport they had lost interest in. This yields that fans who grew up liking a certain sport seem to still be interested in that same sport, suggesting that these types of fans are loyal and dedicated fans whose interest in a sport will be long-standing.
The fans in this group are loyal and dedicated sports fans who spend a large portion of their time following sports. For marketers, this indicates the need to focus their goals on generating interest for younger fans because that group is likely to respond positively. Understanding the values and norms of individuals who comprise the largest target market for a company is an imperative and beneficial step to create a successful business in which customers are genuinely interested.