Eddie Segura # 4 of Los Angeles FC defends against Sergio Santos # 17 of Philadelphia Union during the MLS game at Banc of California Stadium on March 8, 2020 in Los Angeles.
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US professional football and basketball have a future, baseball needs help, and global football, including major league soccer, is rising rapidly among a new generation, according to a new survey.
Morning Consult spoke to parents of Generation Alpha (born after 2013) and compared the results with a survey of Generation Z (13-23 years old) last year.
“It makes sense,” said Alex Silverman, who analyzes exercise studies for Morning Consult. “Football has been called the sport of the future in the US for a while now, but it takes time for that to manifest itself.”
The company spoke to more than 2,000 parents and focused on teenagers no older than 8 years. In connection with the question of who Alphas are, the company referred to Apple’s first iPad, released in 2010, and a device that the Alphas were supposed to operate.
Morning Consult found that football is number 1 in sports and number 2 in fandom for Alphas. And 73% of parents encourage their kids to play sports, while 65% encourage them to be sports fans.
“Young adults see more interest in football internationally and to some extent. Because this first generation of American-born football fanatics has children, they can steer them in that direction,” said Silverman.
In a 2020 survey, Morning Consult found that Gen Z’s interest in exercise had waned. The National Basketball Association was the only league that the age group followed more than the general public. The study found that 53% of Gen Z were identified as sports fans, versus the previous generation, Millennials, who surveyed 69% on the topic.
In the poll released Monday, the company wanted to know whether Gen Alpha, the children of millennials, “are more looking for their parents or are following in the footsteps of Gen Z and moving away from the sport,” Silverman said, suggesting that Alphas mimic Gen Z might behave when it comes to sports fandom.
“I would say I wouldn’t expect there to be a decline, which is good news as there has been a decline between Millennials and Gen Z,” Silverman said.
The disturbing signs come courtesy of Covid-19. According to Morning Consult, 35% of parents said that Alphas lost interest in exercising during the pandemic. This month has been a year since the NBA led U.S. professional athletes to suspend games due to Covid-19.
“This is something that sports must reckon with when fans get back indoors and indoors again from a youthful sports perspective,” Silverman said, adding that 48% of parents found their children didn’t have the attention span to watch sports on TV compared to 37% of Gen Z.
New Orleans Saints # 9 Drew Brees # 9 dives into the end zone to score a one-yard touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 10, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana .
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NFL experiment with children is popular
Morning Consult interviewed parents about the NFL’s Nickelodeon game during the playoffs. The parents were shown a one-minute clip of highlights to give them a taste of ViacomCBS’s simulcast for children.
The New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears drew around 30 million viewers. The children’s version of the NFL on Nickelodeon drew approximately 2 million and became Nickelodeon’s “most-viewed program among total viewers in nearly four years,” the network said in January.
The company said more than 70% of parents said they saw such a game with children, and two-thirds said Alphas enjoyed the show more than the traditional version.
“It worked very well with these alpha parents,” said Silverman. He added that the NFL has been well surveyed as the top spectator sport and that 62% of Gen Alpha parents say exercise is essential to their family.
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts # 50 safely slips past Tampa Bay Rays Mike Zunino # 10 and scores a run on an outfield choice series made by Corey Seager (not pictured) at Globe in the sixth inning of the sixth game of MLB World 2020 Life Field on October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas.
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The Issue of Baseball and the Future of Professional Gaming
But America’s favorite pastime hurts.
The poll found that Major League Baseball continues to do low polling among younger generations. Silverman said parents of the last two generations said they grew up seeing baseball fall significantly in the Gen Z poll and stay low among alpha parents.
“Baseball from the three major sports is seeing the most worrying trend,” said Silverman. “It’s gotten very noticeable or homerun-oriented.”
According to the Associated Press, MLB plans to suppress baseball to reduce the number of home races given a record 6,776 hits in the 2019 season. The thought is getting more balls into play could also help MLB play faster to help with short fan attention spans.
Morning Consult shared its findings with the MLB, saying the league could look to ways to improve connection points with younger children, including encouraging more wiffelball to attract teens to the sport.
And when it comes to future sport, sport is lurking.
“You see a continuation of the excitement for gaming in the future,” said Silverman. He found that esports stars are closer to the Gen Z and Alphas age bracket and build fan bases by interacting with the gaming audience.