The Future of Gen Alpha and Sports Lies in the Metaverse

Tips for brands looking to play ball

Sometimes collectively referred to as screenagers, Gen Alpha is hooked on digital everything, even when it comes to sports and fitness. As a sports or fitness brand today, it's time to start building your metaverse strategy now so you're prepared for the rise of Gen Alpha.

They play with friends and pay for sports apparel in digital games.

As a co-founder of Current Forward, an audience research and brand strategy consultancy, I've spent countless hours interviewing kids born in 2010 or after, otherwise known as members of Gen Alpha. To put that in perspective, these are kids who were introduced to the world at the same time as or after Instagram and the iPad. During these interviews, three things came up again and again: Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite.

Fueled in part by social distancing measures, Gen Alphas turned to these popular digital games as a place to meet up with friends. Today, they not only play at school and nearby parks, but they also head to the metaverse to socialize and have fun. In addition to shifting the way kids play, digital games have changed how they shop, with spending in digital games reaching $127 billion across mobile, PC and console in 2020. Owning digital assets is commonplace, and they  love receiving digital currency gift cards from family and friends. One of the many things they spend digital currency like Robux on is sports and fitness apparel. Big brands already offer Gen Alphas the opportunity to buy Nike, Adidas and Under Armour-branded "skins" for their characters inside these digital worlds. 

Social media influencers are the sports celebrities of tomorrow.

Wondering what celebrities Gen Alpha looks up to? Well, they're not actors, musicians or athletes they've seen on television. Most of these screenagers will cite popular influencers from TikTok and YouTube as their favorites. With an internet-powered land of choice at their fingertips, Gen Alpha's interests reach far beyond the mainstream sports of today, like football, basketball, baseball and soccer. They can just as easily watch someone show them how to excel at esports, yoga, bouldering or archery as they can the popular sports you grew up with.

The trend of turning to social media for sports and fitness inspiration is destined to increase in the future. With the NCAA now allowing college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses, it's likely more up-and-coming athletes will turn to social media to start building their brands. Gen Alpha will be more able to connect with their favorite college athletes in the ways they are already used to engaging. Why go to a summer camp to learn from these athletes when you can discover more about them from the comfort of your own home? 

They can get almost anything on demand—except live sports.

The Washington Post and many other publications have pointed to sports having a Gen Z problem for a while now, and Axios reports that Gen Alpha is carrying on that trend of declining sports fandom.

While there isn't evidence to definitively declare causality, it's possible that a decline in sports viewership is in part because of the absence of professional sports in the way Gen Alpha typically consumes content. Few professional sports leagues make it easy to stream all games, especially local games, from a simple, affordable, convenient service, despite 79 percent of sports fans wanting to watch on a streaming platform if they could.

Streaming might not be the only issue with sports delivery for Gen Alpha. Their media consumption patterns include much shorter snippets of content, making sitting through a multi-hour live event perhaps seem tedious. Delivering the top highlights from every game could be a preferred viewing experience for this generation.

Give Gen Alpha sports the way they want them—marketer takeaways.

Sports and fitness brands looking to future-proof their marketing strategies need to start thinking about how to reach Gen Alpha where they already are—in the metaverse. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Create product extensions that are digital game-ready
  • Partner with social influencer athletes 
  • Deliver digital content in snackable, on-demand formats
What's next.

Given Gen Alpha's anticipated influence, they will be setting the terms for what sports brands must deliver in terms of product innovation, marketing ingenuity and platform engagement.  

This influence may already be on the radar of traditional youth-focused categories such as fashion, beauty and entertainment, and the sports brand marketer also has a unique opportunity to pay attention to this generation. 

Digital fluency, social adaptability and the ability to pivot to meet this new consumer will help sports companies as they learn to play ball with Gen Alpha.

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Ashley Lapin
Ashley Lapin is co-founder and partner, creative strategy, at Current Forward.

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