Lots of professional sports leagues, teams and sponsors try to involve children in events in the hopes that they’ll become fans who will support the club for the rest of their life. Not only are they hoping the kids will be fans, but in a perfect world, their parents will become fans (otherwise, who will buy the tickets?) and, by extension, the rest of the family. They do this through a variety of avenues: visits to local schools, workshops with clubs, Aus Kick in the case of the AFL, volunteering with child-focused charities such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and sponsorship activation on game days like bounce houses and face painting and temporary tattoos. Great idea, guys. Good work.
But here’s my question: what happens when these kids grow up?
From what I’ve seen, the method of targeting children does work – load of people my age are fans of a certain club because that club came to their school when they were younger and that’s what they remember. It’s especially effective if their parent’s don’t already have a team. If their parents or relatives are already avid supporters of a certain club, it’s pretty tough to get them to change. While not an all-encompassing evaluation of these efforts, it seems to be a worthwhile endeavour.
The thing is that it’s not just about obtaining the fans – it should also be about retaining them. What worries me is what happens after these kids leave primary school. These projects seem to peter out as they get older. If you’re not playing footy as a teen, there are fewer things done to encourage involvement and fan dedication, particularly if you’re female. There seems to be a gap in options and focus from primary school and adulthood. School visits start to decrease, fewer local teams are visited by the professionals, and the activation at games isn’t directed at the too-cool-for-school teens (except for me, of course – I always have been a sucker for a temporary tattoo).
A lot of teams go from teaching physical education to 10 years olds to trying to get them to spend a hundred bucks (at least) on a membership once they have disposable income. There is no in-between. Am I missing something? Are teams assuming that they can leave these kids alone for 15 years and expect that they’ll still be fans? I’m sure it works for some people… but I can’t imagine it works for enough.
If I were CEO… I’d lessen the focus on kids (go from say… 10 programs to 6) and increase the focus on teens. There needs to be continuity in these lives, otherwise these borderline fans will fall to the wayside and you’ll never get their money. Sounds a bit corporate… but that’s the point, isn’t it?