I admit it, I love reading AARP Magazine. It has the largest circulation of any publication in North America, yet people snicker. Not an edition goes by where I am not learning something from those older: Christopher Walken and Bruce Springsteen, Morgan Freeman and Christie Brinkley. On and on and on. Smart short, sensible points from a life full of experience. So while every brand continues to capture the younger demo, and sports is always chasing those fans for life, let’s not forget about the fans for life, those who are living longer, have great brand experience, have the bumps and bruises of life, some great disposable income and yes, even maybe a little time on their hands. “40 Under 40,” great. But those above 50 are a missed opportunity, especially in sports business.
As we see Spring Training starting and the World Baseball Classic getting ready to begin, the annual lament about baseball needing to attract a younger audience starts again. While there is no doubt that every sport wants to grab younger folks and engage more with every medium possible with its fans, the fact is that we as a society are still getting older, but staying more active than ever before.
So with that in mind, here is a quick thought again on the value of having more senior moments…you cannot watch a game without ads for Pharma, so they realize that older fans are embracing sport like never before; why don’t teams to more. The older audience is what has held live theater together; it is embraced by movies, yet sports seems to stay away…time for a re-think on how to engage more over 21 in promotions, while in no way slacking off on engaging the younger audience as well.
Let’s not forget, the older generation knows how to activate in groups, has defined spending habits and in many cases purchases more high ticket items, like cars, more than any other segment of the population. They influence spending habits, young people, voting patterns and public policy. Yet for all the time sports looks to engage the young and the first adopter, the larger group still goes largely ignored. New fans used to mean younger, however with an aging and more active population, it is probably time for those engaging in brand building to start courting the audience more.
Pharma spends huge amounts on sports, yet most programs for activation are still targeted at the younger audience. Giveaways at games are always geared towards those 21 and younger. Yet seniors buy in blocks, bring those younger to games and can help motivate others to come. There has probably always been a reticence to court seniors as a quiet or graying crowd, one that would be averse to young and hip. Yet many teams and properties regularly run Throwback Nights to try and get the arena going, featuring music and clothes for a bygone era. Those who lived in that era, no thanks…those who like the music and are younger, cmon in. Even tennis and golf, two sports which play to an older demo, constantly fight to get younger, but why? We are getting older, living longer, getting healthier and spending more money as we get there if we have it, so why not actively pursue the group with viable promotions, targeted sponsor activation and even specific digital campaigns more, just like brands are doing? Seniors are engaged and online and have great word of mouth activation, so the time has come to make them a target as much as the young or the families. They spend, they enjoy events, they get around and they purchase, it makes good business sense.
How about wearables and data collection as well? Active seniors will stick with brands and properties that stick with them, so building older influencers programs also makes great sense; their word of mouth can be just as impactful, and more cross generational, than those younger.
Now of course no one should abandon the elusive young demo. Certainly the thought of arenas filled with those over 50 may not be that visually appealing, even to those over 0. But a savvy mix for a dedicated age group that is not going anywhere and wants to engage and enjoy everything from NASCAR to MLS should also be a part of the marketing mix.