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Understanding fandoms could be key for streaming and advertising strategies

A hand with a foam finger for sporting events goes through multiple phone screens.

Reagan Hicks / Shutterstock / The Current

If advertisers want to engage more with young people, they should probably get to know their fandoms.

Over half, 58%, of GenZers say that fandom for their favorite music artist is important to their identity, according to a recent survey by Deloitte. Forty-one percent said as much for their favorite video games and 40% for their favorite movie franchise. For millennials, 50% said their favorite music artist is important to their identity; 39% said the same for movie franchises and 35% for games.

Further, one in 10 of the consumers Deloitte surveyed said that their favorite music artist, sports team, TV series, movie franchise and video game are all important to their identities. Deloitte called them “M&E (media and entertainment) super fans.”

Deloitte’s survey, along with other recent studies, suggests that loyal fans and people who shape their identities around their favorite fandom could play a vital role in streaming strategies. And as major streaming platforms build ad businesses, understanding fan behaviors could serve advertisers well, too. But it’s not just streaming; for marketers, there could be benefits in stretching resources across the entertainment ecosystem, from CTV to audio to gaming, especially as these channels increasingly adopt programmatic capabilities to improve relevancy.

“Fan communities are highly valuable. Because they engage intensely both online and offline, they offer a strategic multi-channel opportunity,” Jana Arbanas, vice chair at Deloitte and U.S. leader of its telecommunications, media and entertainment sector, tells The Current.

Fandoms come in all shapes and sizes

Media companies are finding new ways to engage with fans of all kinds, both online and in the real world, which could open opportunities for marketers. Streamers are increasingly scooping up live sports rights or developing sports-related content to satisfy fans in the offseason. Spotify plans to produce live experiences that brands can sponsor. Disney recently invested in Fortnite maker Epic Games to create a “persistent universe,” where fans will be able to engage with their favorite franchises and characters through virtual experiences.

The latter reflects how some fans increasingly see gaming as a “source of personal expression,” says Anthony Iaffaldano, VP of sales marketing and insights at Fandom.

For advertisers, gaming can be tricky to navigate, though there are signs of progress in the space to open ad ecosystems. But as Deloitte’s survey suggested, fans come in all shapes and sizes, and they aren’t necessarily invested in just one medium or genre.

“Fan groups are highly engaged segments of consumers,” Arbanas says. “They are extremely willing to follow their fandom across platforms and ventures.”

For instance, a recent Fandom survey found that the No. 1 activity gamers turn to when they take a pause from video games is watching movies and TV via streaming. That suggests they’re more and more turning away from traditional channels like cable, according to Fandom. Similarly, a recent Samsung Ads report found that gamers spend 25% more time watching streaming TV content than non-gamers.

“You can learn a lot about the motivations of an audience by looking at their entire media consumption,” Iaffaldano says. He adds that the fans that are leaning more into streaming and gaming are “spending more time with the things they love.”

Broadly, some genres offer high levels of affinity, says Brandon Katz, an entertainment industry strategist at Parrot Analytics. Viewers of procedurals and sitcoms, for instance, may not fall into the category of “super fans” and they may not shape their identity around these genres. But their viewers are still “more likely to continue watching programming from these genres as compared to others.” Shows that fall under this umbrella include network dramas like the NCIS franchise and Blue Bloods.

“This offers a reliably repeatable audience, which is attractive to advertisers,” Katz says.

Community and relevancy are key

So how could media companies and advertisers capitalize on fan enthusiasm?

“Entertainment companies and brands can and do curate unique content collections, themed social media efforts and promotional initiatives in order to try and tap into this audience passion,” Katz says. 

Fostering a community could be key. Bob Mitchell, principal and founder of Mitchell Partnership Alliances and an adjunct professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business, points out that Netflix is launching “Netflix Houses” next year, where fans will be able to immerse themselves in worlds from their favorite shows.

Mitchell also observes that shoppable ads are on the rise in the connected TV (CTV) space, which could better connect fans with merchandise expanding on their favorite content: “If you’ve already brought fandom down the funnel, that’s a no-brainer.”

Further, programmatic advertising ecosystems open advertisers up to consumer data that could be essential for delivering relevant ads to super fans across platforms.

“Advertising is about strategic reach and brand executives know that eyeballs are important, but getting their ads in front of the right audiences is even more crucial,” Katz says.