There is no secret that sports leagues, including soccer and the World Cup, have a Gen Z problem. Those born between 1997 and 2012 are much less involved in sports compared to other age groups. This includes both playing and being interested in watching games on TV.

The statistics show that younger Gen Z kids, in particular, are becoming more stagnant and less interested in sports. Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory University, suggests only 38% of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 currently play team sports. This number is down from 45% a decade prior.

Even if some of these kids are playing sports, it also seems like a chunk of them are still not interested in the activities. Just last year 28% of parents with children in team sports claimed that their kids were not even interested in actually playing the sport. That was a nine percent increase on the year before.

Also, only around 23% of Gen Z said that they were passionate sports fans. Compare this to 42% for millennials, 33% of Gen X, and 31% of baby boomers that considered themselves passionate about sports.

As far as soccer in concerned, the FIFA video game series has been a major part of many kid’s childhoods. 68% of Gen Z also says that gaming is a core part of their identity. FIFA 22 reportedly sold nine million copies within the first two months of its release. Nevertheless, the leap from video games to actually playing sports appears to be a Carl Lewis level long jump.

World Cup brands look to break into Gen Z

Brands are, however, making an attempt to lure Gen Z to team sports. Soccer media company Footballco recently partnered with Overtime ahead of the World Cup. Overtime, a digital sports brand, specifically targets a Gen Z audience.

Adidas even recently used influencers to help reveal new World Cup jerseys. The campaign allowed fans, targeted toward Gen Z, to essentially uncover the new designs rather than presenting the ideas in a more traditional sense.

One aspect that brands could be set to capitalize on is the fact that the World Cup occurs around the holiday season. Gen Z spending is on the rise and there is almost always an uptick in holiday shopping. Brands will have to figure out a way to reach these fans during the tournament.

The upcoming World Cup could be a vital moment on these issues. Brands will have to be creative when coming up with new marketing schemes. Player personalities at the competition could become a major factor in recruiting new fans. And, of course, competitive games would also potentially boost Gen Z interest.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Richard Wareham