Are Millennials Changing Sport Management?

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The impact of millennials on sport management and marketing has been multi-faceted. A paradigm shift started several years ago, when marketers realized a need to change their tactics to attract a loyal base of millennial fans that are generally tech-savvy, digitally active, informed and entrepreneurial.

Now those same traits that required tailored marketing techniques in the past are defining the way this new generation of sport managers influence the industry.

The Millennial Mindset

Millennials are pursuing their degrees online, incorporating emergent technologies into their careers, running social media campaigns, focusing on user-generated content and mobile marketing and more. This demographic is particularly familiar with the digital world and recognizes its value for businesses of all kinds. They understand a key concept that Joe Legaz, former marketing and entertainment manager of the San Francisco Giants and current director of marketing for the LA Clippers, communicated eloquently in an article by Medill Reports Chicago:

“The rise of social media and user-generated content has changed the relationship between entertainer and viewer,” he stated. “The days of entertaining passive participants is over, as people want to take an interactive role and become a part of the entertainment themselves.”

Millennials, who love creating and partaking in multi-sensory experiences, are poised to engage this changing relationship and give sports fans what they want.

Managing Editor Mary Helen Sprecher further explored millennials’ habits, those that influence the sports industry, in an article for Sports Destination Management magazine. Millennials, she wrote, are more altruistic than other generations; stand up for causes they believe in; are health-conscious; frequently review products and services online; and possess serious brand loyalty when it comes to athletic apparel. Most importantly, they demand connectivity at sports venues, are incredibly tech-savvy and are changing sports themselves.

In reference to running, Sprecher shared this quote from Rich Harshbarger, CEO of Running USA: “Millennials are changing how participants engage with the sport and each other.”

A Different Approach

Regardless of the sports entity with which they work, millennials understand the way tickets and packages are sold these days and how that affects revenue. They know their peers and younger fans will be drawn in through social media promotions, Twitter hashtags and sporting events tailored to support various social causes. They promote a historically unparalleled level of connectivity.

For example, in 2014, when the San Jose Earthquakes set the minimum ticket price at $55 for visiting fans, Seattle Sounders fans “took to Twitter to protest,” according to an article in Sports Business Daily. Before long, Earthquakes supporters joined the opposition, and the united fans of both teams addressed their mutual concern to Major League Soccer officials.

“Opposing fans joining forces is something MLS Commissioner Don Garber never imagined, and it underscored just how different millennial fans are from their predecessors,” the article states.

“That’s not something anyone in our generation thought of,” Garber is quoted as saying. “A Giants fan wasn’t hanging out with an Eagles fan to figure out how they were going to deal with away-ticket pricing. We better understand that. It’s going to affect the way we do business.”

Millennials view their favorite teams and sports differently, and that perspective – along with their exceptional technological skills – affects how they approach sport management and marketing.

Preparing With an Education

Sport Management Master’s degrees, such as those offered online by Adelphi University, are further preparing millennials for careers in the sports industry by exposing them to complex concepts in mass media, public relations and sales and marketing and providing them professional development opportunities and applicable electives. The practical skills and competencies provided by online degrees can augment millennials’ unique experiences and perspectives to better equip them to continue evolving sport management.