When it comes to changing traditional norms, Millennials represent a revolutionary consumer group. They were at the forefront of the digital revolution, which fundamentally transformed many traditional industries and created app-driven alternatives to nearly every part of everyone’s lives.
Through this shift Millennials have shown that they have a predilection toward changing norms in order to make them their own. How they consume sports and their attitudes towards dining out are two examples of this shift. For them, watching a football game or choosing the right restaurant is not just about seeing a favorite team notch another win, or feeling satiated after a good meal. Instead, both experiences are about how they reflect upon the individual.
In other words, sitting in the stands and watching the game, or ordering off the menu and waiting for the food to arrive is not enough. Instead, this generation wants to customize the experience. They want to understand the story behind the action and walk away with an experience that is unique and reflects upon them.
In sports we see this through the lens of how Millennials watch the game and what they demand from the live experience. Having a second device open and active during the event is critical, according to a recent McKinsey report. Watching the event live via Twitter or YouTube, or using those platforms, among others, to follow/post commentary, check updates, or share photos, is now part of the drama, which doesn’t stop during commercial breaks.
If they are in the stands and not just watching on a screen, Millennials are seeking “add-on” events that go beyond what is happening on the field. More than half (54%), for example, purchased tickets to Major League Soccer games for reasons other than the sport. That is one key reason why sports stadiums have transformed themselves into entertainment complexes offering dining options, craft beers, cocktails, gaming, and music.
Just as Millennials want to get a full experience via their mobile device, they want to customize the in-stadium experience through what they drink, eat, and interact with. For them, the takeaway needs to be bigger and more memorable than even the game itself.
Similar factors are at play in dining. Millennials are most interested in menu innovations regarding ethnic cuisine and they are most open to food customization. For them, food is a cultural journey and they want to absorb as much information to make the journey as rich and as adventuresome as possible. They see ethnic cuisine as opportunities to travel without getting on a plane, or as a learning opportunity that differentiates themselves from others who may see food as merely consumption.
Millennials don’t just experiment with different food choices, they expect access to global ingredients on their menus. They are flavor friendly. And because they now expect customization in all their lifestyle choices, they are most open to fusion in the kitchen.
Millennials are also interested in the origin story of ingredients — How they are sourced, their nutritional benefit, and more. In other words, this emerging generational group is willing to experiment with their food, which means they are likely most open to messaging that talks directly to the provenance of the cuisine.
Where do sports and dining intersect most for Millennial consumers? In the ballpark or stadium where menus have gone far beyond hamburgers and hot dogs. Now, most sports stadiums offer an array of spirits and craft beer while some sports organizations even offer unexpected fare like churros (Chicago White Sox) lobster poutine steak (Boston Red Sox), Cuban sandwich (Tampa Bay Rays), churro poutine (Toronto Blue Jays), Grecian fries (Detroit Tigers), pork patty melt (Kansas City Royals), ahi poke tacos (Oakland Athletics), toasted grasshoppers (Seattle Mariners), lechon pork nachos (Miami Marlins), and elote (Los Angeles Dodgers).
To reach Millennials, marketers must go where this generational group is heading. In the case of live sports and dining, that means beyond the playing field and into the kitchen. It also means delivering experiences that are rich, dynamic, and designed for creating memories.
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