Trends Briefing: The Age of Political Fans

Thursday 30th November 2023


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“I 100% believe in climate change… [the cause is] a history defining moment.”

In itself, that’s not a particularly surprising thing to hear from a nineteen year old. But it was a bit surprising to hear nineteen year-old Coco Gauff be quite so sanguine about the climate change protesters who caused a lengthy delay in here US Open Semi Final tennis match a couple of months ago. She went on to say:

“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going. But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”

This episode at Flushing Meadows is a perfect encapsulation of the intersection of sport and politics. It also shines a light on a new phenomenon that is lending some urgency to our Political Brands trend: younger cohorts have high expectations for the sportspeople and celebrities they follow. New data, collected by Trajectory this year, finds that 44% of people aged 18-26 (falling into the Gen Z cohort) say that it is important to them that the sportspeople they follow share their point of view. Only 26% of the population as a whole would say the same, and barely anyone aged 60 or over.

The Political Brands trend has seen many brands charge headfirst into the bullets of the culture war and political controversy over the past decade – some willingly, some much less so. The much-missed stationery retailer Paperchase didn’t know they were picking a fight when they gave away free wrapping paper with the Daily Mail, but Nike very much did when they launched their Colin Kaepernick fronted campaign back in 2017.

Political Fans offers a new dimension to this trend. How much should we expect celebrities, sportspeople and influencers to take a side on the conflicts and controversies of the day? How much of this is authentic – and does authenticity matter? Is there a risk for brands in associating with outspoken celebrities? And will the younger cohorts of today change their views as they get older, separate the art from the artist and care less about the worldviews of the celebrities they follow?

Join us for the next in our webinar series on 30th November as we explore the way in which fans are getting more political. As ever, our analysis will be informed by robust data and come with implications for businesses.

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