When it comes to spending money, millennials are known for valuing experiences over physical goods, but they’re not as interested in buying tickets to sports games. Why’s that? And what will it take to attract this new generation of fans?

Skidmore Studio, a Detroit-based creative firm, has helped entertainment brands better engage their younger audiences, especially the millennial generation. VeggieHappy invited them to contribute this guest post and share their findings:

In the course of our work, we have surveyed over 500 millennials across the U.S., researched industry trends, and analyzed success stories from Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. We found that millennials are an excited and loyal audience when given an experience that aligns with their values.

The Challenge

Sports teams, venues, and ticket sellers are faced with a big challenge these days: Their loyal customers, baby boomers and Gen Xers, are getting older and attending fewer games. Now, the sports entertainment industry must turn their attention toward younger generations to stay relevant.

Millennials: A Driving Economic Force

Sports demographer, Rich Luger, noted that the greatest decline of sports fans has come from millennials (born between 1981–1996) and Generation Z (born 1995–2015). Unsurprisingly, this has had a drastic impact on ticket sales across the board. In the last year, less than half of millennials purchased tickets to a professional sporting event. In 2018 alone, Major League Baseball reported a 4.1% decline in total attendance.

However, as the oldest millennials hit their mid-thirties, their generation’s economic footprint has grown tremendously. The average millennial spends over $47,000 per year, collectively making up $600 billion of our economy. Millennials now hold the majority of the economy’s leisure spending power, but feel the price of a ticket isn’t worth the experience.

Millennials and Gen Z prioritize experience and value for money, with millennials ranking concessions and entertainment as their top concerns when they attend a game. Our survey also found that the two biggest purchase factors for millennials are cost and interest—while having something to watch is important, it’s the surrounding experience that attracts and retains this demographic.

Reworking the Millennial Equation

We explored several strategies venues have tried in the past to re-evaluate how the venue experience is portrayed and appraised by millennials.

Experimenting with Ticket Selling Methods

Understandably, not all venues can simply drop prices on their ticket sales. However, this target demographic is famously open to trying new things and quick to respond when they like something.

Offering a Trade-Off

With price being a prime concern, one of the more adaptive ways to fill empty seats has been offering alternative seating options, such as last-minute seating assignments or standing-only tickets for lowered prices.

Packages Targeted at Millennials

Partnering with local and national brands to offer bundled services, such as meals, travel, or pre- and post-game events can be a great way to take advantage of the all-around experience that millennials are looking for.

Fostering a Fan-Centric Experience

As digital natives, millennials value sharing their experiences with the world—which is why it’s so important for brands to create an experience worth sharing.

Empower Your Fanbase

Allowing, creating, and promoting fan-participation in your events can have a massive impact on fan attendance. Everything from stadium chants to standing room Q&As with coaches and leaders adds to the experience of “going to the game.”

Make Them Part of Your Brand

Putting a spotlight on user-generated content is a fantastic way of showing appreciation for your fans.  Interactive activities like a dedicated fan website or displaying fan tweets onto the stadium jumbotron fosters engagement and promotes more discussion of your event.

Create New Reasons to Care

With a new audience base comes the opportunity to explore unique strategies and capitalize on shifting market priorities.

Appeal to Millennial Tastes

Millennials are more likely to shop locally and ethically than any other demographic. Branding or rebranding to embrace your local heritage or providing progressive health-centric concessions, such as plant-based options, have been effective in generating more interest with a younger audience.

Design a Stylish In-Stadium Destination

With the knowledge that our target demographic is looking for a complete experience, and not simply a seat to watch the game from, it’s important to accommodate to those wants; a discreet space in the stadium to socialize or a high-energy mingling area can help accomplish exactly that.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of untapped potential with younger generations that can fill the gap being left by older fans. Teams, venues, and ticket sellers need to find creative ways to appeal to the growing market power of millennials. Experimenting with ticket options, facilitating interactive fan engagement, and creating added value to the experience are the keys to attracting this new audience.

Find more successful tactics to get younger fans to the game in our full white paper.

About the author

Sierra Soleimani is a marketing strategist (and millennial) at Detroit-based creative firm, Skidmore Studio. Skidmore specializes in brand strategy and design for customer-facing food and entertainment brands, such as Universal Orlando, Dave & Busters, the Detroit Tigers, Xenith, Halo Burger, and more.

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