MBPT Spotlight: It’s A Small(er) Global World, After All

Q: What do you call someone who speaks only one language?
A: An American.

It’s an old joke—and thankfully it’s getting older all the time. One in five respondents to a recent survey of U.S. consumers now speaks another language at home in addition to English.

That survey was conducted by Frank N. Magid & Associates for One World Sports, a sports network with events from around the globe. The findings are informative for marketers and others looking to connect with the all-important millennial demographic.

The broad demographic shifts in the U.S. population are no doubt already familiar, but some of the particulars still can be striking. To wit: as of 2011, the majority of all U.S. newborns were members of an ethnic or racial minority—which in and of itself obviates the meaning of that outdated term, “minority.” For the first time in U.S. history, the total births of Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and other ethnic groups outnumbered Caucasian births.

The findings of the Magid survey—involving 2,800 U.S. consumers age 18-70—reflect this growing diversity and reveal some new and surprising insights about the mindset of an increasingly multicultural audience, especially millennials who are inherently multicultural in their ethnic composition. Compared to their baby boomer parents, millennials have a perspective that is much more worldly.

Almost 90% of the survey’s millennial (defined here as 18-34) participants are interested in following news, cultural events and trends from other parts of the world. Two in three have traveled or lived outside the United States, a number that is unexpectedly high and exceeds that of 35-to-54-year-olds. Despite their young years, this generation’s playground is the globe. It’s a group that overwhelmingly considers themselves internationalists and multiculturalists.

No doubt we’ve seen all these patterns manifested in political trends, but it also holds some relevance for TV-viewing trends and, more directly in the case of this survey, in sports-consumption trends.

Half of consumers consider themselves avid sports fans, but that rises to 65% of men and 60% when measuring those aged 18-34. (You might ask what is meant by avid? Upwards of eight on a scale of 1 to 10, which translates into avidity from my point of view.) And more than half of all male survey respondents expressed interest in watching sporting events from other parts of the world, with 60% of those 18-to-34 expressing interest in global sports.

It’s a Generational Thing
The generational and multicultural shift in the globalization of sports interest is made clear with the recent research. In the Magid survey, 18-to-34-year-olds index 140% among self-identified global sports fans. This drops to 108% among 35-to-44-years-olds and 79% among 45-to-54-year-olds, with further under-indexing at the higher age ranges. Among all age groups, African-American respondents and Hispanic respondents each index 124% among global sports fans; Asian-Americans index 148.

More specifically to TV consumption patterns, global sports fans index at 110% among pay-TV subscribers (those subscribing to digital cable, satellite or telco-TV/IPTV); those with a college degree at 120% and those with incomes greater than $200,000 at 189%. Six in 10 consumers report watching the 24-hour sports networks in a typical week; that rises to two-thirds among those with pay-TV services. We also learned that live competitions constitute by far the main reason consumers give for watching 24-hour sports networks. Sports news, sports talk and other formats are of much narrower interest.

Given the booming popularity of soccer (or “football” outside of the United States and Canada), it may not come as a big surprise that 22% of all respondents and 42% of those identifying themselves as global sports fans expressed interest in watching English Premier League soccer. But would you believe that the table tennis and badminton world championship games weren’t far behind?

Or maybe these findings shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The vast majority of adults in our survey have participated in sports by playing or coaching, with 44% expressing an interest in watching the sports they have actually played.

And age makes another fascinating statement about interest in special international sports. When you drill down on the data by age group, the graphical representation of interest in specific global sporting events is a consistent negative slope: as the respondents age, one’s global sports interest wanes. For the EPL club channel that the survey tested, 18-to-34-year-olds were twice as likely to watch as 45-to-65-year-olds and three times as those 55+.

We found interest also in watching overseas counterparts to dominant U.S. sports. Hardcore sports enthusiasts seem intrigued by Japanese baseball and Chinese basketball; they may be watching some of the next recruits to MLB and the NBA.

A Digital Connection
Millennials are of course known for their rapid adoption of digital and social media; their sports-video consumption is no exception, and we found a further nexus with global sports in these areas.

Most consumers (68%) in our survey watch some sports in a typical month; a majority (55%) watch on the major broadcasters. While a minority view sports online—with PCs still the leading platform, even among tablet users—we found online viewing is much higher on every device among those age 18-34.

About 8 in 10 consumers (81%) in our survey use some form of social media, with Facebook dominant (74%) and Twitter a distant second (27%). Social media use is higher among global sports fans (89% vs. 81%), with the biggest difference being for Twitter (38% vs. 27%).

And according to a report from Twitter, globally popular sports rank among the most-tweeted events. Spain’s Euro 2012 cup victory stands as the No. 2 TV event (behind President Obama’s second inauguration) of any kind in terms of tweets per second (at 15,000), outdistancing the London Olympics. Japan’s defeat of the USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup was among the most-tweeted TV events of 2011 (7,200 tweets per second), according to SmartSavvySocial.

The trends are fairly clear: Americans increasingly are multilingual, multicultural and globally interested. More to the point, tech-savvy, sports-enthused millennials seem to be following a new drummer.

The old saying “Go West, young man” has been replaced by “Go global, young man.”