After years of cracking down on on-field celebrations, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised all of us when he decided to allow end zone dancing, using the football as a prop, and other once-forbidden touchdown celebrations.

Why? Because a new kind of fan wants a new kind of experience.

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s former chief of officiating, said it’s all about “trying to reach the millennial, and this new age of fans, and having more fun…”

Here’s why:

 

  • Sports has a generational divide. Consulting firm L.E.K. surveyed 1,500 American sports fans and found a dramatic split in TV viewing habits and sports preferences between 18-35 (“millennials”) and 35+ audiences, “spelling a potential headache for professional sports teams, leagues, broadcast partners and other stakeholders.”
  • Cable tv drop-off. Cable TV is the number one format for sports consumption, and its experiencing a precipitous decline as more and more consumers switch to internet-based services. ESPN’s subscription rates have fallen more than 11% since 2011, sparking numerous layoffs. Sports, too, are struggling. Ratings for Monday Night Football have contracted sharply.
  • Different content expectations. Media consumption today takes place across a multiplicity of screens. Our media habits coach us into shorter attention spans, characterized by multi-tasking — a far cry from the old days of sitting on the couch and taking in a game.
  • At-home options beat out traveling to games. The breadth and immersion of home consumer entertainment has experience a staggering increase in recent years. Apps like Netflix and Hulu deliver massive content libraries on-demand; streaming services like YouTube and Twitch offer limitless entertainment

Marketers in the sports industry must adapt, or face irrelevance. And the time to adapt is now.