YPulse’s recent Sports and Athletics report shows that the vast majority (71%) of Gen Z and Millennials consider themselves sports fans. And that means that all brands, not just sports-focused ones, can use this key interest to their advantage when attracting young consumers. From athletics apparel to social media content to creating opportunities for young people to play themselves, brands can take part in sports marketing and partnerships in a way that feels authentic to their purpose. We’ve rounded up some of the most recent and successful examples of brands tapping young people’s love for sports, showing the variety of possibilities there are:
The UFC is continuing their relationship with TikTok after massively increasing their followers
YPulse’s most recent data shows 27% of young people say they follow the UFC league. And TikTok is, as our data continually proves, Gen Z’s favorite social media platform. So, the two originally signed a deal back in 2021 to provide TikTok-exclusive livestreams, pre- and post-fight footage, behind the scenes access, fighter engagement, and more. This year, they’ve announced plans to continue their partnership after building a substantial following across all their accounts. The UFC’s TikTok accounts (@UFC, @UFCEspanol, @UFCBrasil, @UFCEurope, and @UFCANZ) have amassed 23M followers and generated nearly 5B views across the board and is now the “third most-followed sports league on the platform.” The fight between YouTube’s Jake Paul and Love Island’s Tommy Fury recently went viral, giving even more exposure to the sport and showing that featuring Gen Z faves are key to reaching young viewers.
Sport streaming platform Fubo is rebranding—starting with new social media campaigns
Fubo (formerly Fubo TV) is rebranding and running ads across Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram that feature a new logo—all in time for Major League Baseball’s return. To target Gen Z and Millennials, they’re starting their new chapter with a social media marketing campaign, one part of which is a partnership with YouTube personality Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien (1.7M subscribers), who talked “about the new Fubo rebrand during his live stream on opening day.” They’re also rolling out a campaign made in collaboration with Ryan Reynolds’ production company Maximum Effort, featuring “NBA champion and Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett…and former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez, with the tagline, ‘If Sports Fans Built a Streaming Service.’”
As it is, Fubo reports seeing most of their awareness come from YouTube, and our data shows more young sports fans are watching sports through streaming than live cable TV. Plus, the company is posting content in real-time on its social channels during games. YPulse data shows 28% of Gen Z and Millennials say they follow Major League Baseball, but on top of their specific interest in baseball, 25% of all sports fans say they watch the league / sport they follow on social media—showing it’s not a space to be neglected for sports streaming.
Walmart is teaming up with racket sports booking platform Break the Love
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. right now. But it’s long had a “country club barrier,” making it an exclusive hobby. However, with the sport’s popularity taking off among Gen Z and Millennials, Walmart wants to give its young consumers, Walmart+ members, and store associates easier playing access. So, the partnership is offering 125K free reservations at pickleball venues across the country. When players book a pickleball reservation they’ll have access to “short-form videos, including beginner tips, and 25 planned community events” as well as access to curated pickleball gear. As the sport has picked up popularity, we know the demand for pickleball apparel is growing and YPulse data shows athleticwear is a top fashion trend among young consumers—so even non-players could sport the look, too.
Honda and Acura are targeting Gen Z and Millennials with a Topgolf partnership
Young consumers are the driving force behind Topgolf’s success: the company reportedly draws “more than 30 million players every year — nearly half of whom are [Mi]llennial and Gen Z buyers.” Both Honda and Acura have partnered with sports companies in the past, “including Honda’s longtime relationship with the NHL, Acura’s presence during the NCAA’s March Madness tournament, and both brands’ initiatives around motorsports.” Now, their status as the official vehicles of Topgolf is set to engage their huge Gen Z and Millennial player base. New Topgolf player activations will feature special game play offers and additional elements like “Honda and Acura vehicle test drives, vehicle displays and sweepstakes.” YPulse data shows that as well as being avid fans, the vast majority of young people play sports in some capacity on their own time, and doing so with friends is the top way they engage.
PlayStation launched an esports hub highlighting the field of competitive gaming
YPulse’s Sports and Athletics report data shows more than half of young sports fans agree they are avid followers of esports, too. Already being a leader in the gaming world, PlayStation just launched PlayStation Esports, their official YouTube channel, and is set to “offer highlights and coverage from across the landscape of competitive gaming.” So far, the channel has uploaded several videos (besides the trailer), one of which serves as a “guide for gamers who want to play competitively on their PS5 consoles.” The video gives players a step-by-step introduction, showing them how to get into the world of competitive gaming. YPulse’s Gaming report shows Gen Z and Millennials are no strangers to PlayStation or streaming esports: half of young consumers who play video games on consoles tell us they game on a PlayStation (making it their top console of choice) and of the 56% of young people who watch esports, YouTube is the number one place they go to watch.