Limited Attention: Gen Z Sports Fans

Following up on yesterday’s accelerant watch, some data to back up the declining interest in sports from Generation Z. Not necessarilly that surprising and it will be interesting to see if some of these new apps and platforms can improve the numbers. Data from the Morning Consult:

–53% of Gen Zers identify as sports fans, compared to 63% of all adults and 69% of millennials.

–Gen Zers are half as likely as millennials to watch live sports regularly and twice as likely to never watch.

–Esports are more popular among Gen Z than MLB, NASCAR and the NHL, with 35% identifying as fans

Full report here.

Pandemic Accelerant Watch: Broadcast Tech and High School Sports

As I’ve previously written, I’m keeping an eye on industry trends that are being accelerated by market forces during the pandemic.

One firm to keep an eye on is Buzzer, “a notification-driven mobile platform for live sports personalized for fans and authenticated through existing subscriptions or micropayments.” In other words, the Buzzer app notifies you when something of interest is on–say a close NFL game in the final two minutes–and allows you to tune in, either via a subscription you already have or by making a “micropayment” for instant access. This isn’t a totally new concept; the NBA has played around with a model that allows you tune into to a portion of a game for a small price. But Buzzer is ambitious, linking platforms and leagues in a personalized experience. Founded earlier this year by Bo Han, Twitter’s former head of sports partnerships and rights, Buzzer has just completed a $4 million seed round. I see great potential with this model, especially with the industry’s ongoing struggle to cultivate the short attention span of Gen Z. More on the upstart firm via Axios.

In a similar vein (and with a similar name) is Overtime, a digital platform for high school sports programming. The business model is different, relying on paid contributors to record live action. The four-year-old company has a massive online following and deserves some credit in making young stars like Zion Williamson household names before their first college game. Investors have lined up, including firms such as Andreesen Horowitz and NBA stars Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. While I applaud their success, I have ethical misgivings over the business model, where the amateur talent they feature is compensated solely via “exposure.” And I’m also not too keen on the further professionalization of youth sports, but it seems that that train left the station some time ago. More on Overtime via the Huddle Up newsletter.

Some Seriously Good Sports Marketing

I don’t eat that many Whoppers, but I’m loving what Burger King did here. Good quick video on a very clever marketing strategy.

Nike Air(plane?)

Some very interesting stuff in today’s edition of Joe Pompliano’s Huddle Up newsletter, which features two very futuristic Nike Projects. The first is a climate-controlled “smart chair,” which I expect is something we’ll see sooner than later:

The chair contains hundreds of biometric sensors and thermal transducers which keep an athletes “active” muscles at an optimal temperature to re-enter the game – think hamstrings, quads, etc.

Along with keeping certain muscles warm, the biometric sensors and thermal transducers have the ability to cool down an athletes central nervous system by transferring cool air throughout certain parts of their body.

The chair works with integrated identity sensors (think RFID Chips in clothing) to provide in-game analytics around an athletes hydration, heart rate, and more.

Analytics will be transferred to team representatives in real-time to help determine the optimal time for game re-entry and injury prevention opportunities.


The second project is more pie-in-the-sky:

Nike recently released a potential plane design they did in collaboration with Portland-based design firm Teague.

Like the chair, the plane would be outfitted with all sorts of elements to minimize the effects of air travel on the athlete’s body. Pretty cool concept, although I don’t expect Beaverton to trade in Air Maxes for Airplanes anytime son.

Bizarre, But Not Surprising: Hacking Tee Times

No, I don’t mean “hacking” as in the way I struggle along the golf course, but actual hacking:

The Singapore Island Country Club dialed 999 after declaring that its online golf session booking system had been “compromised” thanks to “millions” of online booking attempts daily, according to Channel News Asia.

Tech-savvy golfers, it appeared, were using scripts to book popular timeslots for themselves and their mates rather than filling in online forms manually whenever new slots were released.

More on this amusing tale here, via the Register.

Pandemic Accelerant Watch: College Football Becomes a Partisan Battleground

As I’ve previously written about (here and here), I predicted that one of the effects of the pandemic on the sports world would be the increasing partisan politicization of the formerly “neutral” US sports scene.

With the Big 10 football season cancelled, we’re now seeing some of this acceleration at play: Republican lawmakers are calling on the conference to go forward with a season, while Democrats are pointing to the lack of football as evidence that Republican leadership failed the country with a weak response to COVID. Nice piece summarizing the goings on from Axios with lots of good links.

Gambling on College Sports

In a pretty historic deal, the University of Colorado has signed the first sponsorship agreement with the sportsbook PointsBet. From Front Office Sports:

The partnership includes support for the school’s Scripps Leadership and Career Development Program and will “emphasize and create awareness around responsible gaming and sports betting education,” according to a release, which could be an attempt to ease the negative perception of gambling coming to college sports. 

Colorado’s announcement also stresses that the deal comes at a time when college athletic departments nationwide are slashing budgets due to shortfalls resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and will provide a welcome boost.

Even as US pro sports have steadily began to embrace gambling (after decades of pretending it didn’t exist and simultaneously reaping the benefits), the NCAA has a puritanical stance against betting. Much like the pro sports world, this move is the beginning of a thaw, of acknowledging and legitimizing a massive sports betting market that quietly props up spectator sports across the country. For those who worry about corruption and moral decay, I simply point to (most of) the rest of the world, which has long enjoyed legal sports betting without turning in a circle of Dante’s Inferno.

US Threatening to Pull Funding From WADA

Interesting and somewhat unexpected story from Reuters, detailing the American threat to pull out of the World Anti-Doping Agency. This is big: under current rules, this would effectively bar American athletes from Olympic competition, along with most major international competition.

But why?

It’s not totally clear what’s driving the move. From the article:

A report by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), presented to the U.S. Congress in June and seen by Reuters, was highly critical of WADA demanding that it implement immediate reforms. The report also suggested that the U.S. withhold funding unless it was given greater representation on WADA boards and committees and “a proportionate voice in decision-making.” The U.S. is the largest single contributor to WADA, paying over $2.7 million into the 2020 budget of $37.4 million, half of which comes from the IOC.

Does the federal government really care about stringent anti-doping? Eh, not really. There are likely one of two things going on, or a combination of the two. First, this could be a move by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to gain greater power in global anti-doping. Second, this could be a small, soft-power rebuke of the very weak treatment Russia has received from global bodies for their state-sponsored doping programs. I’d say it’s more of the former than the latter, although they are intertwined.

Will US athletes actually be barred from international competition?

No. They won’t be.

How Much Could College Athletes Earn?

More than one might think. One of the weakest critiques of allowing pay for college athletes (whether through NIL rights or other means) is the idea that “only a few would profit.” This is a bizarre argument, for two reasons:

  1. It’s not actually an argument against allowing people to profit from their labor.
  2. It’s not true. As Brandon Kochkodin writes for Bloomberg:

Assuming college football and men’s basketball players in the so-called Power Five conferences were able cash in on their abilities, each would receive $360,000 and $500,000 per season, respectively. Those figures are extrapolated by applying the approximate 50/50 revenue split between players and ownership in the NFL and NBA.

Full article here, with more details on the research study informing the article, as well as how much more top athletes might receive.