Blog Feb 25, 2022

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

Generation Z is the elephant in the room of the sports industry. We have already acknowledged how important Gen Z fan engagement is – but we are like those men who try to conceptualize the entire shape of an elephant just by touching parts of it. Meanwhile, if you want to know how to seize Gen Z, you need to have a full overview of how to do that. So let’s see the whole picture, shall we?

And that’s where Tisa’s holistic problem-solving steps in. 

In each TISA Think Tank episode,  join our experts while they brainstorm on the hottest topic in the world of sports. We find solutions to the most pressing matters applying a multi-disciplinary perspective — from strategy and business to products and technology. In this interactive experience, we also invite you to voice your opinions.

This time, we look into Gen Z fan engagement, and find out:

  1. Who are your Gen Z fans?
  2. Why have Netflix and EA Sports FIFA become some of your greatest threats?
  3. How will you benefit from transforming sports clubs into reality shows?

Basically, we are giving you bananas to lure your elephant (aka Gen Z) right on your sports field. Join our experts in their discussion and lead your club to digital transformation!

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?


Step Up Your Game With Gen Z Engagement

NINA PANCZOS-LOPEZ (Content and Engagement Strategist): Start by analysing your goals and needs. What do I want to achieve or improve? If you aim at engaging Gen Z fans, you have to understand them. Find the balance between what’s important for you and what attracts your fans. It’s way more than just knowing who they are. You need to explore their mindset.

MARIA MIREK (Chief Marketing Officer at TISA Group): I believe that sport is a very traditional industry, which is still carried out conventionally. In most cases, the domineering mindset is relatively conservative and long-established. Often, clients mistakingly do not distinguish Generation Z and do not identify their needs. As a result, sports organisations frequently lack a unique product or service to satisfy Gen Z’s needs.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

MARIA:  The time when fan engagement just happened with fathers bringing their children – or grandfathers bringing their grandchildren – to the stadium is long gone. Now, it’s just one of your resources to increase the potential influx of fans. Conclusion? In this day and age, you need to earn it.

NINA: Fan engagement has a different model today than it did 20 years ago. The content that was sufficient for a committed Boomer fan won’t be enough for a Generation Z fan. Building engagement revolves around shared values with your audience. And by that, I mean a shared sense of priorities, aesthetics, interests… The list goes on and on.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

Why Americans Thrive At Sports Entertainment

MARIA: Americans noticed all these Gen Z related changes very quickly. Whereas in Poland, as we had talked with handball and volleyball clubs (their problems are precisely the same as in football) we discovered that there is even less understanding of why fans are leaving. More than that! There is no influx of new fans at all. 

MATEUSZ LENTOWCZYK (CEO of TISA Group): Let’s pay attention to the fact that we have a European model and an American model of conducting a sports event. The American model is very long, 80% is purely entertainment for the masses, and about 20% is the sports aspect. The European model assumes 90 minutes of a football game, where the result and sports matter the most, and after the game, the fans grab a beer at the pub. It turns out that your Gen Z fan is more attracted to the entertainment part of sports and consider the matches too long. 

American sports entertainment model is completely different from the European sports model

DAWID MAROSZEK (UX Designer): From my own experience, I can see that fewer and fewer Generation Z fans (6 up to 15 percentage points of decrease note ed.) actively engage in sports. They don’t cheer “around the clock” but focus only during more significant events. I was an active supporter myself five years ago, but that changed over time. Younger fans do not focus on one sports discipline. Our interests extend to many other fields. At the same time, our clients want to have a 24/7 fan presence and this is why we need to talk some new solutions through.

ROBERT SKOLIMOWSKI (Product Owner of TISA products UMPIRE and BRISK): The challenge with Gen Z fan engagement comes down to wide availability and a plethora of different types of content and channels. Gen Z fans simply don’t have the time (or will) to spend 90 minutes watching a football game focused. The current formula of sports events has run out. The new model of watching and participating in a sporting event consists of much more than just a fan and a match, live or from the couch.

MICHAŁ WAPIŃSKI (Innovation Product Manager, Gen Z representative): According to our #GenZChallenge research, it’s not like we “don’t want to”. Gen Z’s are still very engaged by the game itself. Our attention span is shorter indeed, however, altering attention increases. We are watching the match and simultaneously interacting and commenting on social media. This is what we call “dual-screening”. Two tasks at the same time. The key here is the sense of being part of a larger community. That’s why matches are still so important.

MATEUSZ: These expectations may be radically different from the way of thinking of the management of a conventional sports club. Club managers collide with a commercial club model that assumes clubs as brands that need to earn revenue.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

MICHAŁ: Sure thing, some of European most renowned clubs have existed for a hundred years or so and their ways of brand management are simply outdated. Right now you need to give more than just sports content. It’s about fighting in the field of entertainment and lifestyle.

Since you got a taste of what fan engagement in Gen Z is, you can really become a part of our discussion.

 Why is Generation Z a serious challenge for your market? What does Gen Z expect from sports? How can you grab Gen Z’s attention?

How Did Netflix And EA Sports FIFA Change Your Fans?

DAWID: One of the most difficult aspects of Gen Z fan engagement is the lack of a so-called magnet that keeps pulling them back to being present with the team.

MATEUSZ: Sports organisations struggle from outdated business models, lack of engaging and always available content. That means no entertainment in sports. Simultaneously clubs are losing revenue and must compete not only on the football pitch with other clubs but also with other entertainment hubs, such as Netflix, HBO GO, Amazon Prime.

NINA: Gen Z has been brought up with more abundant and faster information available. So yes, I agree that in acquiring followers sports organisations compete not only with rival organisations but also with the entire entertainment industry. Your younger fans are used to instant entertainment, which is available anytime, anywhere. It’s always within their hands’ reach.

Show Your Fans More Backstage Content

MATEUSZ: The times when a fan got involved in sports by coming to the stadium or reading an article in a sports newspaper are long gone. Gen Z is attracted by short visual content that doesn’t just focus on sports but shows the lifestyle of particular players. Or, even better, the behind-the-scenes of a team.

MARIA: Speaking of content, the balance of sports and the rest is essential. Clubs must offer a combination of sports and something of a reality show. By that, I mean showing realistic, lifestyle, more humane content that larger groups of fans can engage in.

MATEUSZ: Also, you might consider upgrading the personal branding of a given player. In America, sports clubs understand that their players have to become celebrities or at least role models.

NINA: Traditional media have access to your sports club up to a certain point (i.e. match reports, interviews). You draw the line between what is allowed to be seen by the others and what remains hidden. Meanwhile, your fans are dying to know what happens behind closed doors. That is why backstage content is the most exciting one – it’s like peeking through a keyhole. It builds closeness, it’s different…  And just like that, it becomes more readable or watchable. Powerful emotions are so much more attractive for monetisation. Your content must be based on a mix of audio-visual forms using technologies that allow you to observe the club and build a relationship.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

Hit The Jackpot With OTT

MICHAŁ: Let’s touch upon OTT (over-the-top viewing). Video remains the most attractive content, as seen on Tik Tok, which has become the most popular platform amongst younger Gen Z’s. As the attention span of this generation is shorter, they struggle to remain focused. Since you can see your team when nobody else does, you have access to exclusive new content. Just remember to keep it short and riveting.

NINA: Okay, so what is “old” and what is “new”? I consider match transmissions or highlights outdated in many ways. A mobile camera (i.e. GoPro), however, is portable and you can take it anywhere, even to your club’s cafeteria or training. You can also monetise it, and we brainstorm on this topic in Episode 2 of our brainstorm. So stay tuned, you all!

MATEUSZ: On the other hand, everybody wants OTT nowadays! You need to remember that it’s way more than just the implementation of technology. Incorporating this idea makes you some sort of broadcasting station and you need to produce gripping content. And that is not easy at all. To succeed, you need to get your fans’ needs right. Those factors combined make for a huge amount of titanic work for you to start harvesting the fruits of your labour. Unsupported implementation of OTT will throw your money down the drain.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

Fight For The Entire Entertainment Market

NINA: I can also see that the future lies in voice technology. The way I see it, it might become one of the greatest trends in communication. Podcasts are experiencing their renaissance right now and create a vast number of listeners around them.

MICHAŁ: We all agree that the world has changed, and now, if you want to fight for the entertainment market, you have to go beyond sports. You have to create clothing brands. You have to cooperate with other sponsors to create a catch-all identification for fans. Many sports clubs in Western Europe have well-known Esports sections. With proper development, such e-teams can achieve a value of several million euros as a brand and attract e-gamers (e.g. first-person shooter games) who have never played or been engaged in physical sports like football or basketball.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

MATEUSZ: A club does not necessarily have to be just a sports club. Building a brand can be associated with e-gaming, with merchandise, with building a community around shared values. The resort for a club that wants to reach the younger generation is to understand what attracts these young people.

MARIA: Organisations should generate as many areas as possible where they can build fan engagement with specific values or interests while remaining authentic. I do believe that the way to go is partnerships with automotive brands or the music industry.

You are one step closer to getting it right. To take another one, please think about the following matters:

How to get the most out of your marketing to build fan-club relationships? Are there any potential partners who can boost your Gen Z's engagement (e.g. e-gamer influencers, clothing brands)? What sort of values will build up your community?


Fan Engagement Equals Being a Part Of The Club

MICHAŁ: Gen Z greatly appreciates communicating values ​​that are important to them. We do not like someone being bland. Instead, we want someone presenting merits ​​that we agree with. Generation Z wants to be heard and feel like they can interact with a club or sports organisation. So, the point is: if you want to build strong relationships, they must be like partnerships and not one-way communication.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

NINA: Let’s sum it up. On the one hand, a successful content strategy mixes entertainment, content and broadly understood lifestyle. On the other hand, sports organisations should emphasise more backstage content, or behind the scenes, that show club’s activities from the inside out. A thoughtful content strategy gives Gen Z the feeling of being a part of the club.

ROBERT: We can help you at the strategic level to understand or define who a Gen Z fan is. We as TISA have the main goal of helping sports organizations understand that they no longer function only in the field of sports. They go beyond that and step into the entertainment, lifestyle and Esports market. We make clubs aware that you need to change your business model to attract fans and keep their attention. Afterwards, the next step is to use technological tools that suit the club’s needs.

TISA Think Tank: How to Increase Gen Z Engagement?

You already know that your business is no longer just about sports. You have to spice it up with a little bit of entertainment and lifestyle. Now, take your time to think about your current communication.

What tools or technologies can support your fan engagement? How can you adapt your content to meet the needs of Generation Z? What will make a Gen Z fan feel like they are a part of your team?


Gen Z engagement forces us to switch perspectives from a conventional way of thinking to a ground-breaking one. We brainstormed on how to create engaging and well-thought-through content to build up a fan base amongst Gen Z. It’s way more than a simple list of do’s and don’ts – it’s about complexity, multi-disciplinary approach and diversified methods.

To stay in the game, you might want to keep up with the times and adapt your perspective to the viewpoint of your younger fans. So, take a deep dive into the mindset of Generation Z and ask yourself: is my business model outdated?

Thank you for joining us in this TISA Think Tank’s brainstorming. Check out more articles on tech in sports on our blog and stay tuned to learn how to thrive in the digital world with TISA. If you haven’t already, please be sure to read our episode where we will tell you exactly how to lead your company to the Golden Age of digital transformation.