As the youth sports industry continues to increase in popularity and value, it’s time for brands to leverage the untapped spending power of parents
By Nicole McCormack, SVP/General Manager of Brand Solutions at TeamSnap
It’s no secret that everyone loves sports. Regardless of what particular sport or team a person is rooting for, no matter how big or how small, there’s always going to be a built-in audience ready to dedicate their time and attention toward their passion.
While it may seem like an obvious choice for prominent brands targeting sports fans to focus on major sports leagues or events like the Super Bowl due to their outsized place in the American consciousness, there are other sporting arenas and accompanying fan bases that have remained largely untapped. While brands are understandably quick to try and capitalize on teams with large household names, they may not realize the potential of branching out into other aspects of the sporting world, specifically youth sports.
When navigating the playing field of sports communities, national or otherwise, there is always one key element that towers above all else: passion. For most sports fans, few feelings top the pride that comes with being able to represent their favorite teams, whether it’s through wearing merchandise or attending games. Within youth sports, this passion predominantly emanates from friends and family supporting their burgeoning athletes on the field. While it’s self-evident that major leagues like the NFL and NBA boast considerable name recognition and dedicated fan engagement, brands need to recognize that the same level of passion is also reflected within youth sports communities.
Children typically begin engaging in youth sports at six years old and often stick with the same sport up through their late teens. Beyond the emotional and financial investments, commanding a notable share of wallet, youth sports also represents an outsized ‘share of life’ for families. Young athletes typically spend an average of 11.9 hours per week playing their respective sports, and that’s just the baseline of their commitment. However, as many families plan their entire year around scheduling sports-related activities, their time spent immersed in youth sports extends far beyond the field. Given the amount of travel, spending, and communal gatherings involved, youth sports are a dedicated lifestyle, and it would be wise for brands to recognize them as such.
Historically, the youth sports industry has been overlooked by advertisers. This is partially due to the reality that there is currently no national association for youth sports. From a marketing perspective, it’s undeniable that the commercial airtime associated with a major sporting event like the Super Bowl grants brands access to millions of potential customers – however, that advertising window only occurs once during a specific time of the year. Unlike the off-season lull that’s inherent to professional leagues, youth sports have no off-season, meaning that brands tap into this particular sector’s potential year-round. Moreover, this is hardly a niche sector either, as youth sports boasts more than 60 million participants annually.
Currently, the youth sports economy is valued at $23 billion and is projected to reach $77 billion in revenue by 2026. The value of the youth sporting industry is due in part to the costs of participating in the culture. On average, families spend $700 annually on youth sports per child, and that’s assuming they’re only sticking to one sport. These expenses can include fees for general registration, tournaments, private trainers, equipment, and gear. The degree of spending is directly correlated with the dedication of the athlete: for serious competitors who travel to compete in games, the costs of gas, hotel accommodations, eating out on the road, and more all drive these numbers up further. Despite the steep bar of entry families need to clear to meaningfully participate in youth sports, the ability to form lifelong connections with the players and accompanying friends and family is ultimately a priceless investment.
Given the current value of this industry and its trajectory, there is no better time for brands to begin meaningfully engaging with this area of the market. In formulating a game plan to score consumer passion points, brands need to understand that the key to marketing toward youth sports communities is not just about offering products, but facilitating and further empowering the connections that these families have with their teams.
While this is relatively new territory for most advertisers, many brands have already cemented their place within this particular area of the market. Because the spending power of youth sports communities extends past participation costs, brands have the unique opportunity to leverage their strengths in service of forming meaningful connections around this space, regardless of whether or not their goods or services are explicitly tied to athletics.
For example, earlier this year Hilton Hotels & Resorts ran a series of advertisements under their campaign “It Matters Where You Stay” showcasing families alternatingly cheering on their teams at youth sports tournaments and enjoying their downtime at the hotel. Other companies that have catered to this audience include Chipotle, which offered a buy-one-get-one deal for diners wearing youth soccer jerseys, and Gatorade, which ran a “Play It Forward” initiative engaging student-athletes across the country.
Ultimately, brands seeking to forge meaningful connections with an untapped and especially attentive audience have a unique opportunity to market themselves as a home base for passionate youth sports fans around the country. As this pastime continues to rise in popularity and more parents dedicate their time to supporting their kids on the field, brands with the savvy to corner this particular market may just gain new, dedicated fanbases of their own.
About the Author
Nicole McCormack is SVP/General Manager of Brand Solutions at TeamSnap. TeamSnap is the #1 youth sports management app in North America, offering brands the opportunity to reach millions of families in the happiest moments of their week through digital media on the TeamSnap app and on-field sponsorships with local youth sports leagues across the country.