Mobile-first fandom reshaping sports experiences – Snapchat

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A new study from Snapchat has revealed a marked shift in how fans watch and celebrate sport, shifting beyond stadiums and TV to multi-screen and constant online messaging among the fandom.

The results have significant implications for brands, advertisers, and sports teams and associations aiming to remain relevant in a generation obsessed with mobile and messaging.

Power of the fandom

The study of 2,000 UK sports fans commissioned by Snapchat shows that over half (55%) of sports fans believe the way we watch and celebrate sporting moments has drastically evolved over the past ten years.

A decade ago, 56% enjoyed watching important sporting events with friends and family at someone’s house, with only 14% using social media and instant messaging for communication about sporting events.

However today that has more than doubled, with 29% discussing and celebrating sporting moments with fellow supporters through their smartphones, and notably this has increased even more among Gen-Z (41%) and Millennials (39%).

Meanwhile 79% of sports fans emphasise that the enjoyment of sports extends beyond the field and TV screen, with smartphones playing a pivotal role.

An overwhelming 86% of Gen-Z share this sentiment,  while over a third (35%) say they feel more immersed in sporting events when engaging with fellow fans online during the event, which rises to 53% for Gen-Z.

Almost three quarters of people (73%) also say they can’t imagine watching sports without their phones nearby to engage in active group chats, and for Gen-Z, this figure jumps to almost the whole generation at 94%.

And a significant proportion of respondents (52%) stated that they rely on social media and messaging apps to stay updated about sporting events they aren’t watching.

When asked what they were most looking forward to ahead of 2024’s big summer of sports, 64% of sports fans say they are likely to turn to social media and instant messaging platforms, such as Snapchat, to celebrate and engage with fellow fans.

And among Gen-Z (18 to 24-year-olds), 83% plan to use social media and instant messaging platforms, like Snapchat, to celebrate and engage with fellow fans during events such as the Olympics and Euro 2024 next year.

Kahlen Macaulay, Senior Manager, Sports Partnerships at Snapchat said: “Our latest research really demonstrates the power of online communities to bring people together in the sporting moments that matter.

“We know that 98% of people using Snapchat want to feel connected to the wider sports community – whether it’s to share in the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, to celebrate their own personal bests, or just get behind the scenes with their favourite players and try the latest kit through our immersive AR.

“Sport has always been better with friends, and Snapchat is a place where everyone, but importantly advertisers, clubs, sports associations and broadcasters, can connect and celebrate with like-minded fans, no matter the sport.”

Manchester United is a sports brand with a global following in the hundreds of millions that recently launched an official brand profile on Snapchat.

Nick Speakman, Global Head of Social Media at Manchester United, said: “We’ve witnessed a vast evolution in sports fandom over the past decade. Fans today actively seek an immersive mobile-first experience and the ability to instantly engage with friends in a way that was never possible in the past.

“This shift in fan behaviour should be embraced by sports teams who want to stay relevant for a new generation that is in sync with mobile and messaging.

“As a club and a global brand, we recognise this and we’re excited to see the future of sports fandom evolve even more, with platforms like Snapchat continuing to play a central role in connecting fans to sport like never before.”

To join the celebration on Snapchat ahead of 2024’s year of sport, scan this code.