Millennials are shaping up to be the largest and most influential generation in American history. Presently, Millennials make up approximately 25% of the US population and that percentage is growing rapidly with 10,000 Americans turning 21 every day. By 2018, the spending power of Millennials will be a staggering $3.39 trillion, making them the most influential generation in terms of spending power. Tech-savvy businesses will likely be the major beneficiaries since Millennials are more receptive to social media outreach, mobile ecommerce and word-of-mouth advertising compared to print or TV marketing.
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The NFL Juggernaut
The NFL (National Football League) is one of the largest and most popular sporting institutions in the US. As such, it commands a massive following across all generations making it a juggernaut of sorts in its own right. In fact, 73% of American men and 55% of American women watch NFL games regularly. In the fall of 2014, NFL games were among the top 20 most-watched TV shows in America. Moreover, 45 out of the 50 most popular shows during that period were NFL games.
At the same time, at least two NFL games were among the week’s most watched TV shows throughout the 16-week NFL season. The average NFL game TV audience increased by 25% from 15.4 million viewers in 2004 to 19.2 million in 2014. Viewership peaked in 2014 during the Cowboys versus Eagles game when 24.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the game. The Redskins versus Cowboys game in week eight of the NFL season that was aired by ESPN was also a massive attraction, drawing in 18.8 million viewers. In fact, this game alone became the most watched Monday Night Football game since 2010 as well as the most watched Monday Night Football game in ESPN history.
Overall, NFL games attracted 202.3 million unique TV viewers throughout the entire 2014 season. Each game averaged 17.6 million viewers making the 2014 season the most successful in terms of TV viewership since 2010 when an average of 17.9 million viewers were recorded. The NFL sports franchise also notched another record in 2014 when an NFL game was the week’s most watched TV show throughout the entire season. In addition, the TV audience for primetime NFL games almost tripled during the same period.
In particular, the Sunday Night Football show hosted by NBC was the most watched primetime TV program for the fifth consecutive year attracting an average of 21.3 million viewers. On the other hand, Thursday Night Football programs simultaneously broadcast on CBS and the NFL Network continued to excel with viewership numbers rising by 53% year-over-year and 69% since 2012. Generally, NFL games ranked as the top 38, and 48 of the 50 most watched most watched TV shows in the US within the 18-49 year old TV audience category. Media houses that benefited greatly are those that air NFL games including ESPN, FOX, NBC, and CBS.
For instance, Fox TV’s Thanksgiving Day game featuring the Eagles versus the Cowboys ranked as the most watched TV show of the entire 2014 fall season attracting 32 million viewers. The day’s average of 28.4 million viewers was the highest Thanksgiving Day average since 1998 when 29.7 million viewers watched the Vikings versus Cowboys and the Steelers versus Lions games. Surprisingly, Millennials who are poised to become the largest consumer demographic in the US are not big fans of the NFL.
The NFL Trust Issues
According to a survey done by Jeetendr Sehdev, American Millennials are not particularly fond of the NFL. In fact, 67% of the 3,000 Millennials polled said they do not trust NFL players. Moreover, 61% said that they believe the NFL is a sleazy organization, which is a damning accusation from a key consumer demographic.
The NFL’s Efforts to Woo Millennials
To avoid losing its TV audience, the NFL is changing the way it interacts with its fan base. To start with, the NFL appointed a chief information officer (CIO) in 2012 to address the communication needs of a tech-savvy fan base and TV audience. Furthermore, the NFL has urged all stadiums where NFL games are played to provide free Wi-Fi access to all fans by 2016. The Sports Authority Field at the Denver Broncos’ Mile High Stadium home ground heeded the NFL’s call and installed 587 wireless access points that can handle as many as 25,000 concurrent connections.
The New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium is also fitted with free wireless access points. During an NFL game, 40% of the 70,000 fans that can fit inside the stadium can access video content simultaneously. Fans can also use the Patriots’ app Patriots Gameday Live, to check game stats or find out how long they have to wait to use the restrooms. According to data released by the Patriots, about 10,000 fans use the app during NFL games. The 49ers have not been left behind and have kitted their Levi Stadium with 10-gigabit wireless access gear, thanks to Comcast.
Appealing To Millennial Players
The average age of players who appear for the Jaguars, Seahawks, Browns, Bills, Packers and Jets is 25 years, meaning they fall within the millennial demographic. The youngest NFL team is the St. Louis Rams with an average age of 24.94 years while the colts are the oldest with an average age of 27.17 years. To keep up with changes in the age of players, the 49ers’ two-hour meetings have been turned into 30-minute sessions interspersed with 10-minute breaks. Players also receive alerts on their mobile devices instead of receiving printed schedules and they can download practice video tapes before meetings as well. Weekly briefings take place via social media and coaches learn about the apps and technologies players are using on a weekly basis.
American Millennials now account for the largest demographic of any generation. Their growing numbers means they will play an increasingly important role in the commerce and sports sectors. As such, the NFL, which is one of the largest sports institutions in the US and accounts for more than 70% of the US TV viewership, must find ways to woo Millennials.
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