A fact book on fan behaviours

PwC's Sports Survey

The belief that younger generations are less interested in sport continues to permeate the sector. Too often taken at face value, this idea doesn’t do justice to the complex notion of fandom, which poses increasing challenges for sports organisations. As gaining a deeper understanding of fan communities is the starting point for (re)building healthy relationships, PwC Sports Business Advisory has collaborated with IRIS to compile a fact book on fan attitudes to sport, with a focus on media habits.

Comparing media habits in general, the share of sport is struggling at between 17% and 24%, shrinking among younger generations, where it’s neck and neck with gaming. Often questioned, the level of general interest in sport of Generation Z is in fact the highest value of any age group, reaching 60%. This result is mitigated by the average number of sports followed with great interest (two to four for younger generations, who tend to engage with sports in a more superficial way), whereas Boomers follow on average six different sports with deep commitment.

Also running counter to industry beliefs, around 40% of Generation Z and Millennials are willing to pay for sports content, versus 22% for Boomers. This gap is inversely proportional to the monthly household budget currently allocated to sport, which doubles from the youngest to the oldest age group.

In terms of content formats, live and near-live remain the most dominant, again with major differences at both ends of the spectrum. Generation Z now consumes more highlights than live, while Boomers watch relatively twice as much live as highlights. The same generational contrast can be observed when looking at preferences by platform.

Another breakpoint is seen when looking at the percentage of fans watching live events in their full length, rising to 93% among Boomers compared to 62% for Generation Z. 37% of them are even ‘crunch timers’ 1, who only tune in for thrilling moments. This validates the adoption of a moment-based approach to content delivery, as taken by the NBA League Pass and Buzzer.

Overall, although younger generations are more interested in sport than their elders, their habits can be radically different – more expeditious and volatile and, above all, less aligned with traditional platforms and formats. Most importantly, the fact book shows the deep diversity of sports fandom, highlighting the importance of a tailored approach to engaging with each cluster and, with the scale gradually brought by technology, each individual.


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PwC fan behaviour fact book

Top 15 sports globally determined by video consumption on Facebook

Source: PwC Analysis, IRIS Intelligence | 05/2021 | CAWI | Base: n = 18.717 | 36 markets worldwide

1 Crunch timers’ are fans who only watch live sport when a moment of particular intensity (crunch time) occurs

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Reto Brunner

Reto Brunner

Partner, Advisory, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 14 19