Power of Optimism Shows Value Of Sports Fans

In the February 2023 column for Media Post, SLRG’s Last speaks to new research showing how optimists are driving the actualization and spending that defies the current sense of gloom in America.

We’ve found some unprecedented and intriguing dynamics in recent research. One insight that has been captivating me of late is what on the surface appears to be a contradiction.  Americans are continuing to question and doubt the state and short-term future of the macro economy, with more than half considering themselves to be more budget-conscious today than they were two years ago, and a similar percentage strongly believing that the economy is currently in recession.

Yet, concurrently, we are seeing a bullishness toward leisure spending, particularly in the travel and sports verticals.  That’s great to hear as marketers, but what is driving this trend, and just as importantly, who is personifying it?

Certainly sports have consistently benefited by delivering an escape from the stresses of daily life.  Much as I personally dislike the overemphasis the industry has placed on creating outsized stars at the expense of building affinity for a team or property itself, the star-focused strategy is clearly working with younger generations, aligning with an aspirational fascination with super heroes also evident at the movie box office.

But sports are also delivering due to their promise for future success and achievement.  As baseball moves into spring training, “hope springs eternal” every season, and as fans our sense of collective FOMO makes us want to jump onboard at the onset.  Even as I watched another Super Bowl that didn’t include my beloved Tennessee Titans, I couldn’t help but dream of the ultimate day when they will be there.

Sports drives and attracts optimism at several junctures.  We will ultimately win that championship, and our fantasy league, or that parlay bet, has now, with the continued proliferation of legal sports wagering, layered on another way to participate in sports success.

We’ve recently completed significant analysis on the role of optimism and how it drives consumer behavior in a post-pandemic, yet still-divided nation.  It seems the optimists are driving the actualization and spending that defies the concurrent sense of gloom about what’s going on in America.

Analyzing this correlation between optimism and consumer behavior in the leisure and sports space has shown that those demonstrating optimism are significantly more likely to engage as consumers, and similarly more purchase-motivated.  For example, those demonstrating optimism through a series of attitudinal statements are 48% more likelyto have attended a sporting event in the past month, and 62% are more likely to believe it’s important to consistently seek out new experiences.

These optimists are among the most valued consumers to pursue, and the venue of sports remains fertile ground to captivate their aspirations.