Generation Z or Gen Z. Homelanders. The Founders Generation. Vacants. iGens. Plurals. Teenagers. Whatever the nom du jour, for youth marketing pros, the generation of people born after 1995 are a valuable bunch.
Gen Z already commands $44 billion in purchasing power. They make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population – more than the Millennials. And, by 2020, they will account for 40 percent of all U.S. consumers.
Valuable as they are, Generation Z characteristics make them the hardest group for brands to reach. Near-infinite choice, the innate ability to connect to and access anything anywhere, and eight-second average attention spans have made them hyper-aware and ultra-discerning. With the world, literally, at their fingertips, a recommendation, a song, new shoes, or a friend is only a click, tap, or swipe away. As a result, they have a zero-tolerance policy for the inauthentic, the irrelevant, the trying-too-hard.
The good news for brands: there are opportunities to build trust and make authentic connections with this new consumer group. And one of the best ways to do that is by attaching to what Gen Z cares about, through sponsorship marketing. Here are three reasons why sponsorships are a youth marketer’s playground.
1. Anything worth sponsoring is already a conversation on social
Youth Marketers must keep in mind that Gen Z is uber-social. According to Pew Research Center, 71 percent of teens use more than one social network site, and 92 percent say they go online every day (including 24 percent who say they’re online “almost constantly”).
Brands that leverage social sponsorships for youth marketing campaigns – and do so seamlessly, without coming off as phony or forced (à la Noah’s Arcade in Wayne’s World) – have a unique opportunity to be “viral” in Gen Z’s world; to become an organic “friend” within their social networks.
One example is Invisalign, who in 2014 sponsored a program as part of the social-media-star-studded concerts and festivals known as DigiTour. Teens could win VIP tickets to “Digi” by watching for announcements on the brand’s Instagram and Tumblr. And those attending the show could swing by the Invisalign Teen “selfie station” to enter for the chance to win free Invisalign treatment by tagging their pics with the hashtag #BeYourSelfieSweeps.
2. Aligning with content that’s already popular with Gen Z
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but Gen Z doesn’t think brands are cool. What they are cool with are brands that support the content they think is cool and that they care about. Blogs, podcasts, music, concerts, fanboy events, sports, videos – all are ripe for sponsorship in Gen Z Contentland.
Youth marketers are finding success sponsoring content where Gen Z hangs out. And that’s usually YouTube; 85 percent of Gen Zers visit it more than any other social media site. While YouTube videos are longer than, say, a Vine, and last in perpetuity (unlike, say, a Snap), young fans don’t mind so long as what they’re watching is awesome.
Consider that 77 percent of teens find YouTube videos sponsored or created by a brand appealing, and more than half enjoy connecting with their favorite social media stars. Stars, for example, like beauty vlogger and YouTube-lebrity Zoella. Several of her videos, which rack up millions of views, have been sponsored by fashion and beauty brands. Or the “trick shot” quintet Dude Perfect, who have been sponsored by Hasbro’s Nerf, Southwest Airlines, Nike, Gatorade, and Make-a-Wish Foundation, just to name a few. The Nerf partnership alone has led to millions of views, a TV ad, a new line of Dude Perfect-inspired Nerf toys, and more than 180,000 Nerf-related fan vids. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.
3. Sponsorships are about connecting tribes
Above all, Gen Z wants to connect with like-minded people – their tribes. Not all of this connecting happens online. Whether it’s a group of eSports fans rooting for their favorite gamer in a movie theater (brought to you by Coca-Cola), or fashionistas across the U.S. turning out for blogger Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Road Trip (sponsored by Urban Outfitters), Generation Z is addicted to bonding with others who share their tastes and values.
Brands that can enrich and facilitate those experiences, those connections, through sponsorship marketing will win over today’s teens and tweens. It’s about meeting them where they are, always being authentic, and aligning your brand strategy with Generation Z characteristics. Youth marketing pros who succeed will be rewarded with a backstage pass to Gen Z’s world – deepening brand engagement, building advocacy, and creating loyalty.
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