Two weeks ago I was lucky to host a panel on “The Future” at the National Sports Forum’s first-ever New York event, with NFL CMO Dawn Hudson, Jon Tuck from NASCAR and David Lehanski from the NHL. While most of the topics revolved around futurist ideas; gaming, VR/AR, fan experience, home experience, brand activation etc., we did pose the question of engagement with the largest segment of the population, one that rarely comes up in the discussion (and a topic I always wonder about); those over 50.
Brand loyal, disposable income, activate in groups, leaders in the community, experienced in the workforce, and perhaps most importantly, living longer and more actively than ever before. The topic was folded into retention, and how you keep your core fans happy while getting the fan for life. However of there were programs set forth just for those over 50 to engage with…they weren’t really mentioned, and brands, outside of maybe Cialis and Viagra, don’t seem to be getting into that engagement space around sports, while maybe they should.
Hip and cool? Not as hip as a young audience, but it can be more fruitful.
It is with that in mind that I received a postcard from our friends at AARP this past weekend. In partnership with the New York Jets, AARP as added value was offering discount tickets to three games and added experiences at Met Life Stadium, including a postgame field visit (great idea to get folks to stay by the way, vs. being herded into a pregame visit with hundreds of others). A quick search really showed that the Jets/AARP promo is not just smart, it is groundbreaking. The organization has had a partnership with the Miami Dolphins for several years (which makes sense from a snowbird sense for those now living in Florida in retirement) but no partnerships turned up with any other NFL teams. Now the rebuilding Jets probably have some distressed inventory to move for select games, so this is a good fit than say the Giants, who rarely push single tickets or promos in the market.
However for AARP it is a great test to see what happens in a major market. By the way the promo does not say you cannot bring younger people along as well. All it says is you must be an AARP member to give it a go. It also does not carry with it any NFL or team marks or likenesses, so it is an interesting trial balloon which maybe could lead to more.
Can AARP pivot off the spend Pharma does in sports already to grow and engage with their core audience? 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. 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, c’mon 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 maybe this trial balloon can fly.
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 50. 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.
Great to see the Jets making this one fly first.