Sep 14 2020
This weekend, the NFL started their season, and as with so many things in 2020, it’s going to be a markedly different year of football. With no pre-season, few fans in the stands to start, and the league’s social justice efforts playing out on a very public stage, unsurprisingly there is already a fair amount of controversy over the season. #BoycottNFL was all over social media, with commentors from both sides of the anthem/anti-racism protest debate calling for boycotts. Of course the pandemic brings its own challenges, with 66 players opting out of the season because of COVID-19 concerns, and those playing facing fines for breaking with pandemic safety protocols.
So, in the face of a season full of obstacles, will young viewers tune in? To see what they’re feeling right now, we used YPulse’s on-demand research tool PULSE to ask 16-34-year-old Gen Z and Millennials about their NFL viewing plans, and what the seasons may hold. Here’s what we found out:
According to our PULSE survey, as of today nearly half of 16-34-year-olds plan to watch the NFL this season. Our sports survey in April of this year found that 54% of 13-39-year-olds usually follow the NFL to moderately to intently – so this lines up pretty closely with the number of potential NFL viewers our research has shown previously, though does indicate the league could be facing a small decline in youth viewership.
That said, it’s still a significant number of young consumers who plan to watch, considering the obstacles the league is facing this season. And our follow-up questions to those potential viewers show that there is opportunity for brands here as well:
Not surprisingly, potential NFL viewers this season are far more likely to plan to watch from their homes than out at bars restaurants and tailgating is unlikely. While that’s not great news for bars, it could be a major win for brands that can help fans make the most of game day in their own living rooms and yards. Two in five report that they will buy food and snacks specifically for watching games this season, and nearly one in five even say they’ll be hosting or attending a football watching gathering. Restaurants that usually cater to football fans should make game day menus available for delivery, and CPG and beverage brands should be leaning into this homebody season with suggestions on how to safely tailgate at home.
But what about the 53% of young consumers who tell us they don’t plan to watch the NFL this season? We found that the majority of that group were not viewers in the past as well:
Nearly nine in ten 16-34-year-olds who don’t plan to watch the NFL this season didn’t usually watch NFL games in the past, so it’s not that they’re sitting out this season in particular. Of course, this does clearly show that the league needs to better appeal to young viewers in general.
As to the controversies and problems surrounding this season, 14% of those who won’t be watching tell us that they usually watch the NFL but won’t this year. But their reasons might surprise you:
Among those who won’t be watching the NFL this season, the majority say it is because they don’t usually watch NFL games. But the second top reasons are pandemic-related, with 19% saying it’s because the season shouldn’t be played because of COVID and 13% saying they won’t watch because the season will probably be cancelled mid-way. A small number of respondents told us that they won’t be watching because of anti-racism protests, with 7% saying it’s because the NFL are supporting Black Lives Matter/anti-racism protesting and 7% because the NFL hasn’t supported Black Lives Matter/anti-racism protesting. In other words, the #BoycottNFL divisions playing out on social media are present here, but neither side is representative of the majority of non-viewers.
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