From The ‘Me’ Generation To The ‘Pay Attention to Me’ Generation

In his October, 2014 Media Post column, SLRG President Jon Last speaks to some cross generational similarities between baby boomers and millenials and the implications for sports marketers.

Last month in this space, I spoke to a need for sports marketers to think about multi-generational approaches in their brand development and communications strategies. Noting that the sheer size of Boomers and Millennials have created an almost singular focus on these two generations, at vastly different life stages, I drew parallels across them, culled from some of our recent fan and consumer research. Subsequently, in framing remarks for a recent conference presentation, I’ve thought further about how, what on the surface appears to be dichotomous generational values, may actually be quite complementary. Let me illustrate.

On the morning of the launch of the i-Phone 6, I happened across some television banter between two talking heads, while retrieving my early caffeine jolt in our office break room. The younger of the two commentators was raving about the new iPhone’s introduction of various interactive health features. He enthusiastically gushed about I6’s ability to measure and share his morning work-out and his breakfast. His older cohort shuddered at the thought and incredulously posited why anyone in their right mind would want the world to know his heart rate or the number of calories that he had ingested. And from there, I began to connect the dots between these two different reactions.

So, Where are we today?

We often generalize about Boomers as the “Me” generation … the stereotyped flag-burning, iconoclastic and self-absorbed Xixties children, who danced to the beat of their own drummer, before becoming, first, yuppies and now those redefining retirement as a continuing pursuit of their own individuality through the collection of new experiences. Fast-forward to today’s leading-edge Millennials, on the cusp of consumerism, but in many instances held back by underemployment and a return to the nest.

They seek their own form of individualism and self expression through social media and the expanded viral and virtual communities that they can live in outside of the confines of an often underwhelming entrance into a workplace that doesn’t necessarily value them as they feel it should. Boomers initially dreaded the prospects of working for “the man.” Millennials feel that they should be running the company by age 30, because the “dinosaurs” that they work for just don’t get how things are these days. They grew up in the cocoon of helicopter parents, lavishing them with participation trophies, abundant praise and the pretext that the go-go ’90s would never end.

Yesterday’s “me” generation has bred today’s “pay attention to me” generation. They seek to be heard, and dive head first into incessant sharing and citizen journalism that provides a forum to be heard, as the rallies and protests of the Sixties and early-’70s did for their parents and grandparents.

The Payoff for Sports Marketers

And both generations are ripe for much of what we as sports marketers have to offer. From fantasy camps to fantasy football, we satisfy the needs of boomers to remain relevant and vibrant, to continue to actualize because they are living longer and maintain a desire to complete their bucket lists and continue a lifelong pursuit of individualism and experiences. Their younger cohorts can also embrace all things “fantasy.” The classic teams of Strat-O-Matic Baseball have evolved to creating yourself as major leaguer in MLB the Show.

This is at the core of providing a forum for self expression, preservation of the notion that anything is possible and a platform to bring others in their various circles along for the ride. “Pay attention to me” and a comfort level with sharing plays into the brand community concept that I have spoken about previously, in this space. These figurative and literal communities are also a perfect manifestation of sports, where one can embrace those people and brands that share a common affinity for a team or a recreational pursuit. They provide a conceptual foundation of what some of our golf research has shown to be central to “the country club of the future.” They fuel the power of the most effective in game marketing activation and the partnership of sports and branded cause marketing.

The “me” generation really does share similar values with the “pay attention to me” generation. Lifestage predicates spending power, and media channel proliferation necessitates broader cross-platform activation strategies. But at the end of the day, sports properties remain fertile delivery mechanisms for two generations that both value self fulfilling experiences.