Millennials can be Persuaded to Watch More Sport

Gamers aren’t usually linked with the sporting community but nearly as many people go to eSports events (over 12 million) as attend Premier League football matches (just under 14 million). I think there is an opportunity for sport to integrate live gaming competitions that will embrace the Millennial Generation.

The fast growing eSports industry

When I hear the word gaming it conjures up images of teenage boys hunched over a console in a darkened room. That was before I discovered eSports, live gaming events where attendance is growing exponentially. With 67% of gamers wanting to go to more events more often, this growth is set to continue.

This is a brave new world for sport’s administrators but gamers are looking for the same experiences that sports fans have enjoyed for centuries. They want to be part of a community, meet their heroes, enjoy an atmosphere and watch their favourite teams and players. Sound familiar?

Generation Y

Sport’s rights holders need a strategy to engage the millennial (18-34 year old) generation. 69% of this group (more than any other age group) can be persuaded to attend more sports events according to Mintel. In fact as this graph below shows, the older someone gets the less likely they are to change their sport viewing habits.

75% of gamers are in this age group and 54% of these also watch traditional sports. If sports clubs in particular want to position themselves at the centre of a community then they can’t ignore gamers.



London vs. Manchester

Take two of the largest communities in the UK. I would like to see football teams in each of these cities working together to create a new rivalry.

For example, Arsenal could create its own London based gaming team under the Gunners brand and play against a similarly constructed team from Manchester. The gamers could then play on the eve of an Arsenal vs. Manchester United match, juxtaposing the competitions to increase the reach of both events. Gamers would take an interest in how their team does on the football pitch and traditional United and Gunners fans would take interest in their gaming counterparts.

Benefits for the Teams

eSports is still relatively underdeveloped and the industry would benefit from having big sports brands like Arsenal involved.

For major sports teams, this is an opportunity to expand fanbases, create additional rights and generate new commercial opportunities. Ticketing is the most obvious income stream but there would also be new sponsorships, licensing deals and a whole host of digital rights. As the table below shows, when gamers attend an event, they like to buy more merchandise than the traditional sports fan:


Major Event Integration

And why stop there? Perhaps the International Olympic Committee could include gaming as one of its sports? That may well irritate squash’s governing body which has spent over 20 years unsuccessfully campaigning to become part of the world’s biggest sports event. All the same, embracing the gaming community would certainly see an increase in Olympics followers. It would also put eSports on the map in a big way.

Simple Gaming at Existing Events


If so many gamers are interested in live sports then at the very least sports events should build interactive products to engage this audience. Generation Y want to be connected and entertained during a match. It is no longer enough to rely on the atmosphere of a football crowd – without developing additional engagement the in stadia experience will fall further behind TV.

This is a group that rights holders can’t ignore, they behave differently to traditional sports fans but are becoming increasingly important. Sport should take this opportunity to broaden its appeal.

If you want to be truly amazed by the world of eSports then watch the first 30 seconds of this video:


How to Increase Fan Engagement in Cricket

Cricket’s administrators should follow the women’s Ashes structure to increase fan engagement and TV revenue.

In 2013, the women’s Ashes was restructured to give one winner, taking into account performances across the Test, ODI and T20 formats. It was a huge success with greater national media interest than ever before. I think parts of the men’s game should learn from Clare Connor’s brilliant initiative.

Cricket has a problem – with three different formats it is hard to keep track. I have read a paper on David Kendrix’s ICC ranking system and studied how the County Championship points work. That probably defines me as a cricket nerd but I still have no idea which is the best county or even the best international team!

By combining the three formats into one competition, it would enable fans to understand what is going on throughout the tour.


International Example

Firstly, let’s take a typical England tour to India with 4 Tests, 4 ODIs and 4 T20s. I would then allocate:

  • 4 points for a Test win
  • 2 points for an ODI win
  • 2 points for a T20 win
  • Half points for a draw or tie

Enhancing Narrative

Work is then needed to make every match matter.

I think tennis does this fantastically well. Each game reaches regular climaxes with big implications for the overall match. The pressure boils over at the end of a set where risks are required and mistakes are costly.

We could do the same with cricket. Each “set” (1 x Test, 1 x ODI, 1 x T20) would take two weeks and could be repeated across the summer, providing broadcasters with regular scheduling:

Week 1
Test 1Test 2Test 3Test 4
Week 2
Test 5T20ODI

Each of these matches are important for the set and each set would be vital in the context of the overall series.

Consequences of points system

  • Match 1 (5 Day test): Starting the set and generating most points (4) allows test match cricket to retain its status as the most important match to win. Winning it would guarantee at least a draw in the set.
  • Match 2 (T20): Whatever the outcome of the test match, there would be everything to play for in the Friday evening big ticket T20. Off the back of a test victory, a team has the chance to clinch the set. A test defeat would position this a must win game.
  • Match 3 (Sunday ODI): Unless a team has won both the test and T20, there is still everything to play for in this deciding match, perfectly placed for a family day on the Sunday.

That would complete the set before we are back for another scintillating round starting with the test match.

Squad Dynamics

Player selection, rotation and management would become key strategies and talking points over the series. Perhaps, like in limited overs tournaments, the squad size could be restricted forcing players to excel at all formats or be tactically rotated by management. Would Cook be good enough to retain his place in a squad of 15 or would this give a chance to Alex Hales in test cricket?

An initial issue with a proposal like this is that players might find it hard to make constant format adjustments but shouldn’t that be part of the game? This is a proposal for fans not players.

Easy to Follow

The greatest advantage of this structure is how easy it is for fans to follow. With a consistent narrative built throughout the tour, we would remember key moments and know who the best team is rather than it being broken down by format. This is a big part of the 2013 women’s Ashes success.

When fans find sport easy to follow, it usually has positive implications for broadcasters. That, at least, should give encourage the game’s administrators.