Generation Z, often referred to as Gen Z or Zoomers, includes individuals born roughly between 1997 and 2012, meaning the people aged between 12 and 26 years old.
As in most of the social aspects, in football too, the trends and the way of development of what and how is offered to the audience and fans, are heavily shaped by the teen-youth generation.
Gen Z counts today for more than a quarter of the global population (26%) and their cross-industry influence is increasingly taking the greatest focus. Brands and companies of all sorts are really engaged and work hard behind the scenes to understand, unveil the best secrets to connect with the Gen Z, to eventually reach and engage with this digital-native generation.
This generation is being exposed to football through various mediums and platforms, where high-skilled marketing, 24/7 updates, photos, likes and media campaigns are dominant. Unlike the previous generations, their interactions with the overall sport industry have been influenced by technological advancements and changes in media consumption.
Let’s see how and what is special in the relationship of Gen Z with football.
Digital Consumption: Generation Z is the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age. They are heavily and more likely to consume football content through digital platforms, such as social media, streaming services, Apps, and online communities and forums. They follow their favorite players, teams, and leagues on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, which provide instant access to highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes content, and allow them to interact in real-time.
Short-Form Content: Gen Z’s attention span is often associated with consuming shorter bursts of content, as their exposal to various platforms, news and interactions are numerous and simultaneous. This has led to the popularity of short-form videos, like on TikTok, GIFs, and memes related to football.
Social Media Engagement: Generation Z is drawn to athletes who show authenticity and relatability, and expose more themselves and their personal stories and journeys, making fans feeling more connected to them. Football players who engage with fans through personal stories, vlogs, live streams, live Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and personal stories build indeed stronger connections and create a bigger fanbase with their young audiences.
E-Sports and Gaming: Although the previous generation of Millennials was already exposed to gaming, that was only the introduction and the first contact with platform- and online gaming. Today, 87% of Gen Z play video games on devices such as smartphones, gaming consoles, or computers at, a, at least, weekly frequency. The popularity of football video games like FIFA, has so high as they enhance the fans’ connection with their teams, feeling they are part of the team while playing, and is felt as the virtual world is so close to the real sport. E-sports tournaments for football games have also gained a lot of traction and popularity, appealing to Gen Z’s love for both gaming and football.
Social Activism: Generation Z tends to be more socially conscious and concerned about global issues, than the previous generations. This has translated into football as well, with players and fans from this generation taking a stand on social justice and equality issues. High-profile events like “take a knee” (#TakeAKnee) before matches to protest against racial inequality have resonated with Gen Z’s values.
Global Connectivity: Another extent of the internet use for the Gen Z football fans, is their 24/7 possibility to connect with other football fans from anywhere around the world, engaging in discussions, debates, and fandom with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, enhancing their understanding and perspectives on the global appeal of football.
Personalized Experiences: With the great technological and digital advancements, football experiences have become more personalized. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications allow fans to immerse themselves in the game, offering a unique perspective and interaction that leads to even a greater experience of the games for the fans. For example, VR seat in the stadium, watching the game from the perspective the fan chooses, from the ease of their home, or 360-degree view of the game, allowing them to watch the game as if they were really present at the stadium.
Generation Z is highly digitalized and tech-savvy generation. Their engagement with football is definitely not confined to passive viewing; they actively participate in online discussions, gaming simulations and leagues, blurring the lines between virtual and real-world football experiences. As Generation Z continues to grow and influence the world of football, their impact seems to likely extend beyond the sports industry alone. Their underlining of values like inclusivity, social justice, human rights and authenticity is expected to actually be left as a lasting legacy on football culture.