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Socially engaged and TV loyal: inside the mind of the modern football fan

Copa 90's extensive study of 16- to 24-year-old fans across the world unearths some interesting opportunities for brands looking to enhance their football strategies.

Socially engaged and TV loyal: inside the mind of the modern football fan

The modern football fan is socially aware and believes brands and clubs should view the beautiful game as a force for social good, according to research from media network Copa 90. The football media business conducted an extensive study of more than 2000 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK, US, China and Brazil to assess the mentality of today’s football fan.

James Kirkham, chief business officer at COPA90, said: "The Modern Fan report shows young football supporters to be socially aware, culturally conscious and engaged with the moral issues that surround them. They’re calling for their clubs and players to take more action to address problems and, encouragingly, view the game as a potential force for social good and positive change." 

Long live TV

While the debate around young television audiences continues, the respondents to the survey paint a rosy picture for TV. When asked what their main interactions with football were, 60% watched football live on television and 58% followed results on TV, news and the internet.

The preferred platform for consuming football content among all fans globally was live television at 35%. This dropped to 24% for YouTube and 18% for TV on demand, highlighting the continued need to watch live. And when it comes to trusted football-related news, the modern football fan turns to TV news and traditional media first, followed by official club sources and then specialist football websites.

Searching for social safe havens

Empowered young football fans are increasingly turning away from micro-blogging debates on social media platforms, citing toxic environments, and opting instead for "social safe havens", such as WhatsApp. The research shows that 31% of UK fans, 29% in the US, 38% in Brazil and 43% in China turned to online forums and private groups such as WhatsApp to speak to other fans.

The power of positivity

The report also revealed that fans believe the game has a unifying power, with 42% wanting to spread awareness of the current issues within football, and 34% wanting to actively instigate change. The opportunity for brands bold enough to speak out and drive change is evident, with 67% of modern fans saying their teams should be more outspoken about social or political issues. There is also rising interest in clubs and fan groups that take an active role in addressing issues, such as diversity, as fans believe a commitment to a more open-minded society can be achieved through football.

Young fans are shifting support towards brands, businesses, clubs and players that harness the power of positivity, with some 30% of fans believing that sports brands, such as Nike, should take some responsibility to instil positive change. 

The women’s game

The opportunites around the women’s game have never been more prime as the FIFA Women’s World Cup approaches and the appetite to learn more about women’s football is keenly displayed, with more than 50% of young fans wanting to watch and learn more about women’s football. The profile of the game still needs to be raised, with 44% of respondents stating that the women’s game doesn’t feature on their radars frequently enough, and a further 26% unsure of where to access game coverage. Unsurpisingly, then, when asked who could drive change, 58% mentioned football clubs, 51% said female football players and 46% named media brands.

Social connections

The report also highlights the changing media consumption of many young fans. When it comes to football-related news, the landscape has rapidly evolved, with modern fans trusting social media accounts – be it a player’s (for 52% of respondents), a journalist’s account (48%) or a general football-themed account (53%) – more than traditional coverage in newspapers (45%). Clubs have a real opportunity to connect in the UK, with 64% of fans following clubs, against just 12% following individual players.