A League of Their Own

By Published on .

They may throw like girls, but young female sports fans present a Super Bowl of an opportunity for marketers.

That's the word from a recent study by Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based The Taylor Research & Consulting Group. Entitled “Generation Next Is Generation Now: Kids, Sports, Media & Technology,� the study shows that girls aged 9 to 18 spend a surprising amount of time playing, watching, reading, talking, and thinking about sports — especially online. “This is the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, so the range of technology and media alternatives — both traditional and nontraditional — is huge,� says Scott Taylor, president of the research firm. “They are opening an entirely new opportunity for sports marketing.�

The Taylor data is the first wave of an ongoing tracking study that looks at the differences in the sporting habits of boys and girls, by age breaks of “younger� (aged 9 to 13) and “older� (aged 14 to 18). Researchers found that overall enjoyment of sports is, unsurprisingly, highest among older boys: 85 percent say they either “love� sports or “like them a lot.� But girls of all ages are bigger fans than most people realize: 75 percent of younger girls and 74 percent of older girls say they too love or like sports. Further, younger girls say they spend an average of 15 hours per week (14 hours for older girls) playing, watching, reading, talking, or thinking about sports.

This new generation of female fans is even more likely than boys to use the Internet as its sports connection. Forty-one percent of girls aged 14 to 18 say they go online to buy tickets to sporting events, compared with 17 percent of boys in that age group, according to the Taylor study. Seventy-eight percent of older girls and 59 percent of younger girls say they use the Internet for other sports-related activities as well. Older girls use it most for watching game highlights, whereas younger girls use it to play sports trivia games. In fact, 77 percent of younger girls spend at least an hour or more per week playing sports-related video games, online and off. That's just five percentage points less than the proportion of older boys who do the same (see chart).

Girls Got Game

Twenty-three percent of younger girls spend at least one hour per week on the Internet chatting with their friends about sports, whereas only 22 percent of younger boys do.

Percentage of each group who do the following activities for one hour or more per week.


(AGED 9 TO 13)


(AGED 14 TO 18)

Play sports/video games 89% 77% 82% 49%
Surf the Internet for

sports-related stuff
42% 38% 66% 39%
Shop for sports games,

clothes, books, etc.
37% 41% 44% 35%
Watch sports on TV 93% 80% 91% 88%
Chat online or share instant

messages with friends about sports
22% 23% 35% 26%
Play/practice for organized sports 68% 65% 69% 53%
Talk about or play sports

for fun with friends
86% 79% 85% 68%
Source: The Taylor Research & Consulting Group, Inc.

Today's girls are taking to the field as well. But they're heading there for different reasons than boys. While teenage males generally relish the competition and the prospect of winning, girls are usually more interested in challenging themselves and being with friends, according to the report. However, when age is taken into consideration, the gender lines and generalizations blur. Younger girls and older boys state “wanting to compete� as their primary reason for participating in sports, whereas older girls and younger boys say they just “want to have fun.�

In fact, the authors note, younger girls are much more likely than older girls to say they want to be pro athletes (19 percent versus 5 percent). Among boys, it's the other way around: 31 percent of older boys want to go pro, compared with 21 percent of younger boys. In fact, 51 percent of younger girls say they “love� playing basketball, a significantly higher percentage than either group of boys: Just 43 percent of younger boys and 42 percent of the older ones say they feel as strongly about playing the sport of basketball.

Younger girls also had the largest percentages for interest in playing soccer (45 percent), in-line skating/rollerblading (54 percent), and tennis (21 percent). “Younger girls today, unlike even girls six years older, are seeing women's role models that are leading them to say, ‘I want to be a pro athlete,’� says Taylor. “The question we still don't know is whether or not this level of interest is generational or a part of a life cycle for these girls. If it is generational, and younger girls truly are different and more interested in sports than other generations, marketers need to pay attention to how they are different and tap into that. If it is a life cycle, marketers need to pay attention to the older girls to understand how the younger girls' behaviors and attitudes about sports are likely to change.�

For more information, visit www.thetaylorgroup.com or call (603) 422-7600.

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