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Adult members of Generation Z – ages 18-20 – are avid runners and swimmers like their older Millennial counterparts, reports Nielsen in a recent data release. In fact, these activities are enjoyed by almost half (46%) of Gen Z respondents to the Nielsen Scarborough study.

Roughly one-third of 18-20-year-olds also have ridden bikes in the past year, on par with the Millennial population.

Where younger adults differ from their older counterparts (if Millennials can be referred to as “older”…) is in some less-popular sports. For example, 28% of Gen Z respondents play basketball, a rate that’s 33% higher than the Millennial population (21%) and more than twice as high as the population at-large (12%).

Likewise, 16% play soccer, compared to 11% of Millennials and 6% of the general population.

Participation in these activities is reflected in a greater interest in their respective professional leagues, too. The Gen Z population is 14% more likely than the general population to be interested in the National Basketball Association (NBA), per the report, and 49% more likely be interested in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Those professional leagues are enjoying a modest increase in popularity in recent years – perhaps driven by youth. Recent survey data from Gallup indicates that 40% of US adults are fans of professional basketball, up from 37% in 2012. Likewise, 28% are fans of professional soccer, up from 23% in 2012.

While Gallup’s results suggest that youth are more likely than the general population to be fans of professional football, Nielsen’s study indicates that this might not be the case for Gen Z. In fact, 18-20-year-olds are less likely than older adults to be interested in professional football, baseball and golf, per the report.

Using Sports Sponsorships to Influence Gen Z

The research posits that brands could use sports sponsorships to connect with Gen Z. Results from the study indicate that members of Gen Z (29%) are slightly more likely than Millennials (27%) and much more likely than the general population (21%) to agree that a celebrity endorsement may influence them to consider or buy a product.

Previous research has similarly found that members of Gen Z are more likely to value advertising that features celebrities than are Millennials and Gen Xers.

As such, sponsoring star athletes could be beneficial for brands.

Sponsorship spending on sports in the North American market is expected to grow by 4.3% this year to almost $16.4 billion, representing 70% share of all North American sponsorship spending, per ESP Properties.

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