Why focusing on older fans and participants can be beneficial for sports events

By Peter Hubbell

The full article was published in SportMarketing.com on Nov. 9th, 2018.

Read the entire article HERE

The world’s population is ageing, with profound consequences for society and the economy. And yet serving older fans, participants and customers is barely mentioned in conversations within the sports industry. Kevin McCullagh spoke to Peter Hubbell and others to find out why, and what opportunities may be being missed.

Peter Hubbell says that while younger generations must be a big focus for marketers and businesses, any modern brand would be remiss to ignore the huge value of the older generations.

Some pull-quotes from the article:

There were 962 million people in the world over the age of 60 in 2017, according to the United Nations. This will more than double by 2050, to 2.1 billion. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, the total value of consumer spending and taxes among Americans aged over 50 is $7.1tn (€6.3tn) per year. “That makes it larger than [the economies of] Brazil, Russia and India combined,” says Peter Hubbell, former executive vice-president and board director at Saatchi & Saatchi, who now runs BoomAgers, a New York-based agency that specialises in marketing to the over-50s.

Hubbell thinks that some irrational factors and outdated thinking are at play in the sidelining of older people by marketers. “There is tremendous inertia around marketing to the 18-34 and 35-49 cohorts … marketers just reload and keep buying their 18-49,” he says, referring to the acquisition of advertising inventory that targets these age groups.

Hubbell points out that one of the buzz-concepts in modern business, the ‘experience economy’, whilst usually considered a Millennial phenomenon, chimes with the psychology and behaviour of older consumers:

“Boomers are very experiential. Material things don’t seem to matter anymore. You’ve spent your whole life amassing material things … sure, when I was in my 20s I’d have loved to have been driving a Porsche. But [now] I’d rather spend my money on going somewhere and doing something cool.” “There’s another bias here, that is: people of age can’t understand technology,” Hubbell says. ” … Boomers don’t get enough credit for the amount of time that they spend on social media. The Boomers actually spend more time … on Facebook than their Millennial counterparts.” Boomer behaviour on social media is a little different to that of younger users. Hubbell continues: “It’s not always being on, 24/7. It’s not walking out of the subway and checking to see if anyone’s posted anything in the last two minutes when you were offline. The Boomers will have a nice dinner, take a glass of wine upstairs to their computer and … spend two hours on Facebook.”

Live events, Hubbell says, must provide older customers with a streamlined, comfortable experience. “What does the fan experience look like for a person of age and how can I streamline that?

“I went to the NHL Classic game on New Year’s Day here in New York. I sat in traffic in that parking lot for an hour-and-a-half and I was fuming. In my 20s I’d be like ‘Hey, this is cool man, I’m at the Winter Classic. Guess what, I’ve been to enough sports events now, how are you going to make it easier for me? How are you going to make it easy for me to order food? Are you going to have the types of food that I eat?’.” Hubbell points to the Desert Trip rock festival in California in 2016 as a good case study in designing a major event for an older audience. With a line-up featuring the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Roger Waters, the gig was aimed squarely at Boomers. Event design tweaks for the older crowd included food from regional and national restaurants, shaded dining areas, ticketed ‘culinary experiences’, and proper, flushing toilets instead of ‘portaloos’.

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