With a little help from Taylor Swift and TikTok-fueled fandom that’s made star players feel like friends, more Gen Z-ers are paying attention to the NFL.

Gen Z’s spending power has been steadily rising, with direct spending power projected to reach $2 trillion by 2030, but reaching them isn’t so simple -- they’re a little bit social, a lot multiscreen and more focused on connection and value than gimmicks.

This year’s Super Bowl is poised to be the first one that’s all about this generation -- but brands that take an obvious approach at capturing their attention could fumble.

More screens than NFL HQ

During the Super Bowl, Gen Z viewers could be SnapChating glam nacho pictures, scrolling the Manning brothers’ X accounts, and watching slow-mo Puppy Bowl hurdles -- all at the same time.

Though the Super Bowl is a highly social experience, for Gen Z, that’s no different from a night out hanging out with friends -- which is often live-streamed, highlighted in Stories, and enjoyed while scrolling TikTok.  According to Roku and Luth’s research, 79% of Gen Z consumers multitask while streaming, typically checking social media or browsing online.

To capture attention from Gen Z during a hyper-stimulating media moment, marketers must consider how to add unique, device and channel-specific moments that enhance their experience.

Memes > Touchdowns

We asked some of our Gen Z staff what would capture their attention from brands during the game, and one perfectly summarized the sentiment of many:

“I’m mostly excited for the memes that will follow ¯\_()_/¯.”

This year’s NFL season was one of the most social media-followed seasons ever, if not the most. Memes aren’t just a byproduct of watching football; they’re more celebrated than points on the board.

Brands that recognize the power of being part of, or better yet, creating authentically meme-able moments are the ones who will profit most from being part of any live event, especially the Super Bowl.

But proceed with caution. Gen Z will quickly spot forced attempts that miss the mark and be labeled quickly in “OK Boomer” territory.

More to Gen Z than TikTok

Growing up with streaming and skippable ads have given Gen Z-ers a nuanced appreciation of ads when they actually watch them. To capitalize on this, brands shouldn’t just repeat Gen Z formats, but rather give them an experience they can’t get on social media that feels memorable and engages their attention in ways that they don’t see on their For You Page.

The right playbook isn’t generational.

Now that we’ve shared the risks, what do we think successful brands will do well?

  • Think of the ad as an extension of the brand, not the big moment to connect to a new audience.
  • Intersect with and make culture, rather than trying to replicate it.
  • Leverage the unique format of TV and use it for what it’s worth, not just make a big TikTok

When an audience is viewed as one-dimensionally as their age, brands will fail.  Brands that stay rooted in their identities and strategies will be the ones to attain success.

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