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Special Report: Teens: Teen sports fans targeted on-line

For sports marketers, teens are one of their most sought-after audiences. As the number of teens with access to the Internet keeps growing, companies are looking to Web sites as vehicles to reach this group....
September 1, 1996

For sports marketers, teens are one of their most sought-after audiences. As the number of teens with access to the Internet keeps growing, companies are looking to Web sites as vehicles to reach this group.

Teens are a ‘crucial part’ of the target audience for the NBA’s Web site, says Jamie Rosenberg, manager, interactive programming, because they represent ‘the fans of the future.’ He estimates that about a quarter of all visitors to its Web site (www.nba.com) fall between the ages of 12 and 17, of which probably 80 percent are male.

‘They are our most enthusiastic group,’ adds Rosenberg, who describes teens as ‘serious fans’ who collect trading cards, follow the sport closely and have a demand for ‘hard-core basketball information.’ They are also among the most frequent participants in chat sessions and other activities on its site.

For the 1996-97 basketball season, the NBA will be adding such features as ongoing news updates and game scores, as well as interactive elements like games and contests that it expects will appeal to teens.

Fox Sports is confident that its Web site (www.foxsports.com) is hitting the mark with teens, who are a key audience for all Fox programming, not just sports. The tagline ‘The same game. New attitude’ reflects its attempt to interest teens in sports. ‘We treat sports as entertainment because kids have a lot of entertainment choices,’ says Tracy Dolgin, executive vice president, marketing and promotion.

With baseball in particular, the Web site ties in to the weekly, half-hour TV series In the Zone, which airs just after its Saturday morning cartoons and just before the pre-game program. By submitting their baseball wishes-which range from calling a game to playing Wiffle ball with players-on the site, fans have a chance to have their dream come true and broadcast on the show.

Two other sports Web sites, SportsLine USA (www.sportsline.com) and ESPNET SportsZone (espnet.sportszone.com) are preparing efforts for later this fall to reach more teens.

SportsLine USA, which bills itself as ‘the nation’s premier online service’ for sports is planning to launch a separate teen site later this year in recognition of the importance of the teen audience. This group, says vice president of marketing Kenneth Dotson, is particularly attractive to advertisers, its main source of revenue. Teens should have their own site, he adds, because their interests differ from older sports fans.

But marketers must avoid talking down to teens, says Eric Sch’enfeld, senior coordinating producer of ESPNET SportsZone, the Web site of the ESPN sports cable network. While he’s unable to divulge details, Sch’enfeld says new activities are slated for late fall for teens specifically.

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