Tip of the Iceberg: The Impact of Millennials on Sponsorship

By Lesa Ukman Aug 21, 2015

Tip of the Iceberg: The Impact of Millennials on Sponsorship

Gen C—a term Google coined to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection and community—has been out in force this summer.

Gen C is an attitude and mindset, not an age group, although it applies to 80 percent of Millennials, according to Google. And that cohort of people born after 1982—whether you want to call them Millennials, Generation We, the Net Generation or the Global Generation—is the fastest growing age group on the planet, the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and represent what the future looks like.

Gen C behaviors include:

  • Advertising avoidance
  • Sharing of experiences, both good and bad
  • Higher expectations of businesses

Evidence that Gen C is everywhere and having a major cultural influence:

  • Ticket sales at summer festivals, live events and concerts in North America have hit record levels.
    • After record years in 2014, both amphitheaters and arenas are having their strongest year ever in 2015, reports Billboard.
    • Nashville’s CMA Fest set a new attendance record and 11 months before the 2016 event had already sold 62 percent of its tickets.
    • “Millennials prefer to spend discretionary income on experiences rather than consumer goods,” says Jeff Rabhan, chairman of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.
  • Traditional television viewing is down, replaced by watching on demand programming, online and mobile video.
  • Video is becoming pervasive in social too, think Meerkat and Periscope.
  • The TV viewership exception? Sports. Broadcast events are attracting the most live viewers in history. Was soccer’s Women’s World Cup the most overlooked sponsorship opportunity ever? The final was watched by 23 million in the U.S. alone, generating an estimated nine billion tweets worldwide. Live events are richer in possibilities than ever: They are one of the few things we watch together, while social media generates unprecedented excitement in real time. 
  • Video gaming (participation) is now bigger than the movie industry (passive consumption).

And it’s been a banner year in sponsorship, too.

  • Just one example: Earnings at Live Nation for the quarter that ended June 30 rose 12 percent. Its sponsorship and advertising division—the biggest contributor to its Q2 P&L—had revenue of $85.4 million, up 20 percent, and an operating profit of $57.9 million, up 23 percent.

The confluence of Gen C’s cultural impact and sponsorship can be seen in the dramatically changing nature of activation. Brands now have the ability to optimize creativity with data, and are meeting the demands of Gen C by using technology to make communications more relevant, personal and engaging.

For example, event sponsors are no longer relegating their involvements to the time frame of the event, but building it out to the surrounding six months.

If we focus on doing what has worked previously—for example, selling digital and social audiences as media rather than people—we will be passed up by people and organizations now investing in the market and marketing transformations of these new communities.


Digital Marketing digital media trends activation



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