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Could the Phillies’ World Series run attract younger fans to baseball?

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Fans celebrate near Broad and Sansom streets in Philadelphia after the Phillies defeated the Padres to move on to the World Series on Sunday.

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The story has been repeating itself for years: baseball has a youth problem.

The sport’s fanbase is ageing, experts say, and the game is too slow to appeal to today’s youngsters, especially those in Gen Z, who are between 10 and 25 and likely grew up on a diet. regular social media and screen. time.

But as an energetic Phillies team secured their first trip to the World Series before some Gen Zers were born, youngsters were among the celebrating crowds at Citizens Bank Park and on the streets and lampposts of the city.

The memories teens and young adults have made over the past few weeks may be more than a passing Phillies fad. Gen Z experts say experiences — whether inside the ballpark, watching games with family and friends, or simply taking “Dancing on My Own” mash-ups and looping Miles Teller videos — could translate to a stronger fandom for years or even decades to come.

“Gen Zers are in their most formative years, whether they are teenage Gen Zers, college Gen Zers, or adult Gen Zers,” said Mark Beal, assistant professor at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information who has wrote three books about Gen Z. “Things happening in their lives now could have a lasting impact, including the fact that as Gen Zer, my hometown team had an unlikely run to the Worlds. series.”

“It’s important that they have a core World Series to remember,” said Joel Maxcy, head of sports and general affairs at Drexel University. “They’ll say, ‘That was the year I remember what I was doing. “”

Across the country, Gen Zers were less likely than previous generations to call themselves fans of any sport.

Just over half of Gen Z respondents to a 2020 Morning Consult survey said they would consider themselves casual sports fans, compared to 69% of Gen Y, 66% of Gen X and 61% baby boomers.

Even fewer have followed MLB, according to the survey, with just 32% of Gen Zers identifying as casual or avid fans of professional baseball, compared to 50% of all adults.

Beal said he was unaware of more recent polls of Gen Z fans, but he cautioned against the generation being written off and their fondness for baseball. In 2020, when he delivered the Major League Baseball Speaker Series keynote, he shared his Gen Z expertise with more than 100 league executives and all 30 teams.

In the years since, the league and its teams have shared more content on social media sites favored by Gen Z such as TikTok, he said, and invited them into the fold with campaigns. such as an influencer contest launched in 2021. time, Beal noted, the expansion of legal online sports betting – whose popularity skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic – led to more young fans getting involved. invest in games.

“This generation can’t sit and watch a Phillies game televised for more than three hours,” Beal said, adding with a laugh, “In fact, they probably won’t.”

However, they can connect if they have placed even a small bet on the outcome, he said. They can also follow the team through YouTube highlight videos, he said, or be drawn to viral videos or content shared by friends.

For Gen Zers attending games or celebrations, they value an “Instagram experience” that “goes beyond winning and losing,” Beal said.

“In fact,” he added, “most of the content that drives engagement is off-camera, street-celebratory content,” the photos and videos of which inspire other young people to do. part of the celebration next time.

Maxcy said he thinks baseball might not be so unpopular among young people, especially in Philadelphia. His Drexel students were buzzing about the Phillies, he said, with excitement similar to student reactions when the Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl.

Students who grew up in the area have a special fondness for the Phillies, with some getting hooked when they went to games as kids, he said. For families and students, regular season tickets are also affordable — at least compared to Eagles tickets, he noted.

“The Phillies and anyone else have done a great job of wooing and understanding this younger generation,” Maxcy said.

During this playoff series, the Phillies posted more content to the team’s TikTok page, and hundreds of thousands of people shared those clips. This charismatic young team and their storybook hit from behind made it easy to capture moments fans want to relive.

“A World Series run was unplanned and because it wasn’t planned, it’s so organic. It engages this movement of fans and future fans who maybe weren’t following the season so closely. regular or didn’t share their fandom,” Beal said. “Winning the World Series would just take it to another level.”

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