Our marketing intelligence arm, Lancaster Research, has deep proficiencies in sports insights—one of it’s primary offerings is FansVoice. FansVoice gathers data on the fan experience through interactive technology and traditional research. We’re proud to announce that through this experience, Lancaster Research will now be releasing an annual detailed analysis and report, Voice of the American Fan, detailing what it means to be a fan and how to best engage this audience. Here’s a dive into the one topic contained within the report.

Youth Sports Participation Proves to have Positive and Long-standing Effects – For the Youth and for Business

Sports are known for their ability to entertain and provide an unparalleled experience for fans, but they also provide extensive physical, mental and emotional benefits for the participant—especially younger participants. Youth have a natural tendency to enjoy games, competitions and social environments. These tendencies aid in their development of mental and social skills, which can have lifelong positive effects. Due to this positive impact, it’s easy to make the case that youth sports participation and support is equally beneficial for businesses and marketers, and, ultimately, the local community. Through supporting youth sports, business creates goodwill and builds brand loyalty.   

The National Institute of Health (NIH) highlights several benefits that occur as a result of youth sports participation, most notably physical health. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic continues to rage across the U.S., accelerated by adolescents’ increased inactivity due to passive hobbies such as social media, video games and television. In fact, nearly 32% of children are considered to be obese as of 2016, and childhood obesity is known to be a successful predictor of adult obesity. Fortunately, organized sports are known to counteract these tendencies. Sports participation encourages caloric expenditure and decreased unnecessary snacking that is often correlated with a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, sports participation is further correlated with physical health because those who play sports are more likely to consume healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. By encouraging children and young adults to participate in recess games and various sports from a young age, they are more likely to avoid obesity and other ailments in the future—including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and breast cancer—while increasing efficiency of the immune, heart and endocrine systems. Moreover, adolescents who play sports are less likely to engage in harmful acts such as smoking or drug-taking, which can lead to long-term illnesses.

In addition to physical health, sports participation can foster mental health. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) discovered that sports participation can reduce feelings of hopelessness, suicidal tendencies, anxiety and stress. This results from the effects of fellowship and teamwork that takes place in sports. Academic achievement is also known to increase in children who participate in sports because friendly competition during these games provides a setting for learning and trial-and-error opportunities. Multiple studies have revealed that extracurricular activities, including sports, aid in brain development that can improve a child’s time management, goal setting, non-verbal and social intelligence skills. Encouraging children to participate in sports and games during recess increases creativity and critical thinking skills differently than tactics designed for the classroom. By using both elements of learning techniques, a child is more likely to set challenging goals and strive for achievement as he or she continues to grow.

The social benefits children and adolescents gain from participating in sports are extensive. Team sports specifically encourage companionship, teamwork and team success. Participants learn how to appreciate the skills of their peers while discovering their own skills that are valuable to achieve a team goal. Additionally, the social interaction that children and adolescents experience during sports participation as they learn about inclusion and teamwork has a positive impact on their ability to cooperate with others later in life.

We highlight these three benefits—physical, mental, and social—to illustrate that youth benefit greatly from sports, and FansVoice has found that adoption of sports at young age can lead to lifelong fandom. A sampling of self-described “Die-Hard Sports Fans” (DSHF) found that 52% of them began following a given sport under the age of 10 years old. Furthermore, there is a positive correlation between level of interest in sports and currently playing a sport, and the DHSF are most likely to do so. In fact, 59% of DHSF currently play a sport.

Sports organizations, from local to professional, that leave a lasting, positive impact on people at a young age have a significant chance of creating lifelong fandom and brand loyalty. Ideally, creating these lifelong fans also increases the lifetime value and profitability of that fan. DHSFs are unquestionably a key segment for any sports organization. It is important that these effects are consistently communicated by businesses and marketers. Clearly, supporting youth sports activities is good business.