It's no secret that sports culture influences young fans, and vice versa. But the National Basketball Association is interacting with members of Gen-Z in new ways that speak to that young fanbase's focus on social justice issues and communications on social media. That was a topic of conversation during a MediaVillage Advancing Diversity Week session powered by WarnerMedia. Bleacher Report host Taylor Rooks moderated a panel that featured Kelley Walton, Vice President of Marketing at the NBA, and Tina Shah, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Turner Sports. (You can watch the panel in its entirety in the video above.)
Walton shared insights about the Gen-Z fanbase. "If you look historically, you've seen over time that new movements and new cultural trends start with us," she said, referring to younger generations. "If you look at Gen-Z in particular, they're willing to [socialize] in ways that maybe older generations have not. We see that with the NBA, younger fans really are interested in watching games and watching all the amazing content across many different platforms."
Shah pointed out that this younger generation is more motivated in terms of social justice than any generation that preceded them. "[It] is the most diverse of any generation, and so with that comes a level of social consciousness and awareness," she said. "Whether it's sports fandom or social change, you see the speed with which you can effectuate change, like no other time in our history. So, those two trends lead towards a youth-fueled, social-change movement."
When it comes to the sports world, fans are more connected than ever before, primarily thanks to the ever-growing emergence of social media. Although it has its challenges for both media and sports organizations, there are also a lot of benefits for companies looking to learn more about their consumers, especially younger ones. Users' shared opinions do not go unnoticed as they influence the perception of what is good or bad about certain products, services or sports teams.
"[Social media] really gives us an opportunity to connect with fans in a way that is so different than we've ever had, and that is what excites me," Shah said. "When you are able to engage with this diversity of fans at this speed, then you also get the feedback quickly. Now you know in milliseconds what's resonating and what's not, and you can adapt and change quickly." In fact, companies react to Gen-Z comments with greater frequency than they do those from older generations.
"It's so, so, so exciting from the speed of feedback from fans," Walton agreed. "This now becomes a dialogue with fans and a real true interaction. The conversation used to be a lot more one-way from a league like the NBA out to our fans. Now, we can have real-time interaction with them."
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