We’re tackling the big sports membership myths in our next three posts. First up, we look at whether lifelong membership loyalty is as big a driver as it’s often thought to be

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Matt Arthur | Published Thu Aug 4 2016

Mighty Sports Membership Myths #1: Got them by five years old, got them for life

Fortunately, this isn’t true. Because if it was we’d all be unemployed! There would be an endless stream of supporters being born, dying – and all teams’ memberships would stay the same size. A quick look at membership figures for top sporting clubs over the last decade tells you it’s a myth that supporters are rusted on by the time they lose their baby teeth.

Yes, for most of us picking a sports team happens young. We often do it at primary school to avoid social isolation! And there’s plenty of research showing converting children to fans means you have got them for life. That’s why so many clubs have strategies to get kids on board and keep them there. But it’s important to remember that not all parents get to choose their children’s team. Some parents try and learn the hard way they’ve got a rebel who wants to make their own choice (or many different choices in some cases, leaving parents with a huge merchandise bill!)

Our relationship with fandom changes through life. Some of us never really get started, some of us abandon it when we go to uni, and some of us come back with a vengeance later in life. But not all of us return to the same club. After the tooth fairy has finished with us, there are a lot of factors impacting our membership choices:

  • who we can see on TV;
  • who our friends support (and who takes us to a game);
  • which club has the easiest games to attend (location, price, parking and public transport);
  • which clubs are winning; and
  • who has the lowest barrier to experience.

That last point refers to access (low barriers to attendance), experience (positive experience at game) and ego (aligning with winners). The simple formula: great teams/players, easy attendance and great experiences = new fans. On top of that, the clubs that have seen the most membership growth recently are those that:

  • have aimed for segments that may not have teams and don’t expect everyone to have a team;
  • are aiming for different communities and locations; and
  • are tweaking their purchasing and game day experience for first-timers.

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