Thought Leadership
8 minutes

Big shifts in consumer behavior are very much redefining the way new generations of fans are enjoying events. Millennials are considered to be everyone born between early 1981 and 1996, and they aren’t kids anymore: this generation ranges from 27 to 42 years old and makes up the largest piece of the US workforce.

In Softjourn’s recent survey of ticketing leaders, 66% of respondents answered ‘Millenials’ as the generational user base they would like to better engage with or attract to their services. 

The event industry relies heavily on this generation to play a role in driving the popularity of big concerts, sports events, festivals, and other types of events, yet many ticketing and event companies do not understand the best way to engage this demographic.

When it comes to millennial fans, there are three major factors that separate them from past generations. All three of these factors should greatly influence your strategy to attract millennials to events. 

how to engage millennials

First, their deep connection to technology, as most millennials experienced the jump from home PCs to laptops and smartphones during their adolescent years. Most prefer to receive SMS or DMs rather than phone calls, and are fast to become familiar with new technologies as they emerge.

Second, their access to immense content across various platforms is certainly different to older generations who are familiar with one or two platforms. Many millennials have been flexible enough to quickly adapt to new social media platforms over their lifetime - from Myspace, GooglePlus, and Facebook in the past to TikTok, Threads, Reddit, and Instagram. 

Finally, as a generation that has been unfortunate enough to witness three major recessions, including the great recession of 2008, high unemployment, and a global pandemic, not to mention unimaginable student debt and steep housing costs, this generational group tends to be weary of high prices when it comes to ticket buying.

The traditional methods of attracting event attendees are no longer effective for millennials. A recent report by Caogemini reveals that 69% of fans, particularly the younger generations, prefer to watch sports from outside the actual venue. 

This shift in behavior represents a significant transformation in the sports landscape. However, with the aid of technology, there is potential to discover innovative methods of engaging this audience.

In the current state of affairs, engaging millennials in events has become a crucial challenge. While traditional approaches may not resonate with this generation, read on to discover strategies that can be implemented to ensure millennials have a fulfilling experience before, during, and after an event.

Why Millennials Matter as an Audience

As the largest workforce in the US, some millennials now have the means to spend not just on affordable tickets but also on seasonal tickets, VIP seats, festivals, and tours. This means that all event companies and venues should be trying to cater to a new audience that desires different experiences than past user bases. 

Share of sports fans in the US

Millennials matter significantly as an audience due to their sheer size, influence, and purchasing power. With a population of over 70 million in the United States alone, this generation represents a substantial portion of the consumer market. Their preferences and behaviors profoundly impact industries ranging from technology and fashion to entertainment and travel. 

As digital natives, millennials are highly connected, tech-savvy, and actively engaged in social media and online platforms. Before an event, it is essential to leverage technology and digital platforms to create a buzz and generate anticipation. Utilizing social media, event apps, and online influencers can help build excitement and encourage millennials to participate. Providing exclusive content, such as behind-the-scenes glimpses or interactive challenges, can further engage this demographic.

The sports industry in particular is experiencing a transformative phase driven by emerging technologies and changing entertainment consumption patterns. This shift towards immersive sports allows fans to create their own personalized digital sports reality. Fans want the power to dictate various aspects, including the content they want to see, the timing of access, the channel of viewing, the community they engage with, and the delivery method they prefer.

However, recent research highlights that the preference for live events among millennials and Zoomers (Gen Z) is lower compared to the general fan population. Deloitte's 2023 Sports Fan Insights: The Beginning of the Immersive Sports Era study reveals that while 71% of general fans love live events, only 58% of millennials and Zoomers consider them their favorite type of content. This indicates a shift in preferences among younger generations.

Interestingly, despite the allure of live events, the reality is that most fans spend their time watching sports at home. This is attributed to fewer distractions, lower expenses, and greater control over the viewing experience. In fact, a vast majority (88%) of sports fans surveyed watch live events from home at least once a week. Additionally, around half of their viewing time is spent watching live sports events at home with others, providing a social experience even without being physically present at the venue.

In the same Deloitte study, it is found that millennials are inclined towards multitasking while watching live or televised sports. They engage in activities such as checking real-time statistics, making game predictions or bets, and sharing results, images, and videos with friends and family through social media. 

What fans want

The study indicates that millennials lead the pack when it comes to streaming sports, as 46% of them have subscribed to a streaming video service to watch sports in the past 12 months. Additionally, simplicity is highly valued by fans, as 80% of millennials express a willingness to pay extra for a streaming service that offers all the sports they want to watch in one place.

Considering the accessibility of sports content through various devices, the question arises: what can attending a live event offer this generation? 

Integrating Technology That Supports a Better Fan Experience

The millennial generation, born between the early 1980s and 1996, has grown up in an era of rapid technological advancements. Their reliance on technology and digital platforms has significantly shaped their preferences and expectations, even when it comes to attending events. This is precisely why integrating technology into events is crucial for improving the fan experience for millennials.

Technologies for fan experiences

Every Event Starts with an App

By providing robust event applications, organizers can ensure that millennials have all the necessary details, such as event schedules, artist lineups, and venue maps, readily available. This empowers millennials to plan their attendance and make informed decisions, enhancing their overall experience.

Chatbots and detailed and easy-to-find information about an event help this user base avoid calling the venue or sending an email when key information is missing from the app or website.

Some of the app features that have become an expected standard for most millennials and fans in general include: 

  • Access control apps: Smartphone users appreciate a venue entrance with easily downloadable digital tickets with dynamic QR codes, especially those that allow easy ticket transfers and smart re-entry. It’s important that they don’t have to download a separate app to have access to their tickets.
  • Venue mapping tools: The ability to choose seats in the application is a perk, especially for group seating, different pricing areas, and the display of accessible seating for people with disabilities.
  • Dynamic pricing: Price-conscious users enjoy seeing discounts for purchasing multiple tickets or seasonal tickets.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Millennials crave immersive experiences that go beyond just being passive spectators. Incorporating technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) allows event organizers to provide unique and interactive experiences. 

Whether it's allowing fans to virtually explore event spaces, see statistics on players, or participate in interactive games and challenges, VR and AR technology add an extra layer of excitement and engagement that resonates with the millennial generation. 

Here’s how VR and AR can be used for fan engagement

  • AR filters. Creating AR filters in collaboration with musicians or athletes is a fun way for fans to post selfies and videos with their favorite player or artist on social media, boosting social media engagement and providing “free marketing” for future events. At concerts, offering a live stream of the artist up-close is a cool perk for attendees who have far-away seats.
  • AR venue maps. Similar to Google street view, fans can use GPS and AR maps to guide themselves through the venue to find their seats, favorite food spots, bathrooms, and more.
  • Extra information about the game. Offer VR layers with information about the team’s performance, points, and specific information about how the match is going. 
  • Hawkeye on the ball. This is a technology that allows tracking the ball’s exact trajectory and can make all the difference in sports like baseball, tennis, rugby, and volleyball, making them more interesting to watch, especially for fans whose seats are far away.

It’s About the Overall Experience

An interesting thing about millennials at events: they are more focused on the overall experience than the particular team or game. Integrating technology into events allows millennial attendees to better enjoy the experience as a whole.

What fans what at the event

When teams and venues create a unique event experience, they can build a fan culture around their brand and retain fans easier. For example, many millennial attendees love to get dressed up on theme for certain festivals or concerts, such as Coachella or the recent Taylor Swift Eras Tour. 

To make all of this happen, venues need to invest a lot in the technology that will make all of this possible. In order to create buzz for an event through user-generated content, fans will need to have free wifi, available filters to use on social media, and recognizable and catchy hashtags. 

That’s why stadiums and arenas can work on providing better event experiences for all audiences, and here are some of the ways they can do it: 

  • In-seat food and drink ordering: Fans can order food and drinks to be delivered to their seat or pick them up once they arrive at the venue. 
  • Outside-the-box food options: Millennials tend to have higher rates of dietary restrictions than past generations, for example, vegetarianism, gluten-free, veganism, and lactose intolerant. Make sure you offer delicious food options outside of the usual stadium hotdogs and nachos.
  • Venue loyalty programs and discounts: Venues can use fan engagement apps to allow fans to collect points and earn valuable discounts.
  • Freebie perks and giveaways: This generation can be engaged through fun giveaways, such as contests to get cheaper tickets, better seats, complimentary food or drinks, and free merch.
  • Unique experiences: Concerts can offer personalized playlists or interactive wristbands that sync with the music, enhancing the sense of immersion. 

Building a Perfect Experience at Home

Watching a game from home is a different experience from going to a sporting event. Millennials watch a lot of games at home, but that often makes them less focused on the outcome of the game. 

What to do while watching

Deloitte’s research shows that millennial fans tend to look at statistics, use social media, or watch a game while streaming another game. Streaming providers have started offering options to keep viewers watching, like interactive replay, advanced analytics in real-time, co-watching abilities, and integration with betting platforms.

Another approach to make fans more engaged at home is the use of a fan club engagement application, ensuring fans get the latest news, updates, information about players, and exclusive material wherever they are. Using the club application can build a community around each event and ensure millennials eagerly await the next match, concert, or event. 

According to Pete Giorgio, Global and US Sports Practice Leader at Deloitte:

"Whether a fan is watching at home, in person, or on the go, the actual sporting event is going to be mediated, personalized, and shared through a variety of digital channels for a customized experience that meets the needs of each individual fan. That's immersive sports. Two or three different fans could be watching the same sporting event, but they will have their own personalized sports reality."

Your Strategy to Engage Millenials

To summarize the findings and recommendations above, in three concise strategies to engage millenials:

Technologies in sport

Embrace immersive technologies to greatly enhance millennials' engagement at events. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can transport attendees to unique and interactive virtual environments, providing them with a thrilling and immersive experience. 

For instance, sports events can offer VR experiences that allow fans to virtually stand on the field or participate in interactive games. Concerts can utilize AR to project captivating visual effects onto the stage or allow fans to virtually meet and interact with their favorite artists. By integrating these technologies, events can offer millennials a novel and memorable experience that aligns with their tech-savvy mindset.

Digitize the event experience by creating a social and interactive atmosphere that appeals to millennials. Incorporating features that encourage social interaction, gamification, and networking can significantly enhance their enjoyment. 

Event and venue-specific mobile apps can provide a platform for attendees to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences, and participate in real-time polls or contests. Additionally, interactive installations or photo booths that incorporate social media sharing functionalities can incentivize millennials to capture and share their experiences online, amplifying the event's reach and fostering a sense of community among attendees.

Personalize the fan experience at the venue and at home to help millennials enjoy the overall event experience. Through customizable options, events can cater to their individual preferences and create a sense of ownership for fans. For example, sports events can provide personalized digital ticketing options, allow attendees to choose their seating preferences, or offer exclusive content on an engagement app. 

Providing tailored experiences makes fans feel valued and encourages them to become enthusiastic brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth and social media posts, thus attracting more attendees in the future.

Final Word

Incorporating technology into events is essential for catering to the millennial generation. By leveraging technology in ticketing, you can offer interactive experiences, provide better information, facilitate social sharing, and improve the fan experience for millennials. 

By recognizing the importance of the overall experience to one of the biggest fan bases, venues can focus on providing top-notch entertainment and quality food, drinks, and amenities to create a memorable event atmosphere and all that is possible through fan engagement applications. 

Are you ready to revolutionize your ticketing process and enhance the way you manage events or ticketing? Discover the cutting-edge software solutions developed by our ticketing experts that empower clients to create seamless event experiences, engage large audiences, and boost ticket sales for all demographics. Contact us to learn more!