Navigate Research

Industry Insights

As the industry leader in evaluating and measuring marketing investments, Navigate has a wealth of knowledge in the sponsorship and marketing space. This blog shares our knowledge and insights on current events in the sports business, marketing and sponsorship worlds.

Gen Z, Millennials & Sports

Navigate Research - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

By Ally Corbin

Who is Gen Z, and why does it matter that we define them?  Why do generations need to be labeled in the first place?

Generations Defined

Before thinking of Gen Z, or any generation, it’s important to understand the value of labeling generations and why we define groups of people in general. 

People are fascinating – we are all creators, consumers, investors, life-long learners, critical (or not so critical) thinkers, and we’ve been doing such activities since the beginning of human existence.  New and advancing technologies have paved the way for how we gather and share information, but at the core of communication, we’re all doing the same thing to varying degrees, and we’ve been doing so for centuries.  Pending the time period in which you grew up, the way you create, consume, learn, and think are different than your predecessors thanks to technological advances, yet the goal or impetus is usually the same (e.g. communicating across distances, keeping yourself occupied, earning money, etc.).  Generations are a means to group people together by birth years to simply understand them as a collective. 

Generations are typically defined by birth years grouped together of 15-20 years; sources vary with exact dates, but the table below helps to establish general time-frames in which we think about modern Western generations.

Generations, Socially Speaking

From a social science perspective, generations are defined as a cohort who experience the same significant events, thus shaping the way you view the world at a given point in time – e.g. new inventions, modern technologies, war, noteworthy crises, etc.  Generations are beneficial to help individuals relate to other human beings, and they’re also beneficial for businesses to make strategic decisions to reach targeted audiences. 

Entrepreneurs, brands and organizations, are usually seeking ways to better understand patterns of people – how people exist, what they like or don’t like, what motivates them, where they can fill gaps or assist pain-points, etc.  These patterns can be simplified into three categories: (1) time (2) talent and (3) treasure.  

Understanding this information helps businesses inform the bottom line.  The way someone spends their time, talent and treasure is dependent upon their age and life experiences.  It important to understand nuances that exist between generations to ensure the bottom line reaches all audiences. 

Without getting specific, it’s clear that Millennials likely navigate life differently than members of the Interbellum Generation.  It gets tricky, however, when generations border one another.  This is where Gen Z comes into play.  We asked ourselves, “How do Millennials differ from Gen Z?”  And since we’re in the sports and entertainment industry, we also wanted to know, “How does Gen Z fit in to the sports landscape?”

Gen Z Interest 
Many people over the age of 45 tend to think anyone under the age of 30 are Millennials.  The term Millennial has taken on more meaning than the true generation definition – there is stigma with the term that relates to “young people” who are “lazy” or who are treated more leniently than the previous generation, and thus their choices, assumptions and behaviors are different (or less than appreciated by older cohorts).  That topic is a good one, but not so much meant for the purpose of this blog.  Our goal of going deep on generations is to understand the emerging workforce cohort, which are Gen Z, who are  different from Millennials.  

There are quite a few details that exist on Gen Z from other research and exploration, but little information exists when it comes to how Gen Z engages and prioritizes sports.  We chose to conduct a Gen Z study to start to peel back the onion on what makes Gen Z unique and proactively understand how our industry can connect and motivate those in Gen Z to consider sports higher on their preference list.

Navigate Gen Z Study Details
Understanding the nuances among a large group of people is a tall feat.  It’s important to understand our Gen Z study is the first of many, with the initial round meant to scrape the surface to inform the next round of investigation.  Our study was designed to gain input from Gen Z and Millennials, focusing on understanding Gen Z  and comparing their behaviors and preferences to Millenials.  Earlier this year (2019) we surveyed 500 members of Gen Z (ages 13-23) in the U.S. as well as 500 Millennials (ages 24-36), posing nearly 40 questions to both groups.  

What Topics Were Measured?
Before diving into sports and asking the burning questions of, “What leagues do you like most?” or “How often do you watch?” we felt it was important to have context with their interests and what grabs their attention in general.  

We asked about...

  • The local connection to the team(s) nearest the city in which they grew up
  • How they identify as a general fan
  • How they became a fan
  • Their overall rankings of leagues, attributes associated with leagues 
  • Watching and attending habits 
  • Sports content engagement (from TV to microsites)
  • Platform preferences
  • Predictions for the future when it comes to watching and attending

We ended the study on a lighthearted note, asking Gen Z to describe their generation to someone in the Millennial cohort, and we ask the same of the Millennial group to share their perspective to Gen Z.

What Did We Find?
We’re excited to unveil our findings over the coming months, including a macro approach of what we found with Gen Z and sports overall, as well as providing details within pro and college specifically and how the conclusions can provide guidance for decision making.  

As a teaser, it is safe to conclude that Gen Z are not as passionate about sports as Millennials, but there is opportunity to increase their focus by integrating elements that are higher on their priority list.  Pro sports come in at the number 5 (out of 12) overall spot among Gen Z interests.  

35% of Gen Z consider themselves ‘interested to very interested’ in pro sports compared to 48% of Millennials.  We have theories as to why the differences exist, including sports playing history, influence (or lack thereof) by their parents, and increased avenues that can/do grab attention of ‘kids these days’.  Additionally, as much as Gen Z are different from Millennials, there are several overlaps and subtleties that make the groups tricky to differentiate.  

Stay tuned for more insights from our Gen Z study as well as a guest blog post from our Gen Z Consultant, Grace Masback (rising Junior at Princeton University). 

Navigate Research Welcomes Al Connor as Head of Strategic Partnerships

Navigate Research - Tuesday, April 02, 2019


Navigate Research has announced that Al Connor has joined the company as Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships.  Connor comes to Navigate with 20+ years of sales experience in the sports and media industries.  

As SVP of Strategic Partnerships, Connor will lead Navigate's property sales and naming rights division which has successfully helped secure deals for properties such as the University of Washington – at the time, the largest naming rights deal in college sports – and most recently the Chicago Fire and their jersey partnership with Motorola.

"I have long admired the best-in-class research, data and analytics that Navigate brings to the partnership space and am thrilled to be able to help them achieve success with some of the biggest deals in the industry," said Connor.

Prior to joining Navigate, Connor was Vice President of National Sales at Learfield, where he worked with top-tier college sports properties across the country selling their major entitlements and sponsorships to national brands such as State Farm and AT&T.  Connor also enjoyed a long and successful sales career in the Television business serving in executive leadership positions with CBS, WGN, and KRON-TV in San Francisco.

About Navigate Research

Navigate Research is a trusted advisor to leading brands and organizations in sports and entertainment.  We are experts in applying business intelligence – through research, data, and analytics – to measure and value marketing investments and guide major strategies and decisions. 

Based in Chicago, Navigate helps clients determine the value of their partnerships and understand how they are performing. Navigate has measured the impact and ROI of hundreds of sponsorship deals and has valued billions of dollars in sponsorship transactions on behalf of brands, properties, universities and agencies.

Impact of Sports Betting & Tech Companies

Navigate Research - Friday, May 18, 2018

The legalization of sports betting is massive news for the sports industry because essentially every party benefits, except maybe Las Vegas. 

  • More people will be interested in watching and attending games for longer, which will increase attendance and TV viewership and the associated revenue streams for teams and media rights holders. 
  • Companies providing sports betting services will be spending marketing and sponsorship dollars to differentiate themselves, which will also flow to teams and media rights holders. 

Those things are obvious. 

What I’m most curious about is how companies like Facebook, Amazon and even Yahoo! take advantage of this shift. 

  • Will Facebook be the go-to place that combines community, exclusive live streaming and sports betting apps all on one screen? 
  • Will Amazon do the same with e-commerce? 
  • Will Yahoo! leverage it’s massive fantasy sports following?
Time will tell, but I’m betting on one of these other technology companies capitalizing potentially even more than the obvious players.  

Matt Balvanz


Navigate Research - Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Navigate Research, a trusted advisor to leading brands and organizations in sports, today announced Jeff Nelson has been named President.  As President, Nelson will lead the company’s operating business across North America.  In addition to operations, Nelson will oversee consulting/client strategy, research, sales, and marketing. He will report to CEO and Founder AJ Maestas.

“I am very excited about the future of Navigate under Jeff's leadership.  During his eight years at Navigate, he has proven to be an invaluable asset to our clients and a key leader to our team,” Maestas said.  “Jeff's leadership experience, combined with his strategic thinking, undoubtedly makes him the right person to guide Navigate's future.”

Nelson joined Navigate in 2010, having started as an analytics intern and subsequently holding the roles of Valuation Analyst, Analytics Manager, Director of Analytics, and Vice President of Client Strategy. Nelson has contributed to the development of Navigate’s research methodologies and led the creation of Navigate’s consulting group.

Nelson’s client experience includes work with leagues (NFL), collegiate conferences (Big 12), universities (University of California, Berkeley), domestic teams (Milwaukee Bucks), international teams (Club América), brands (Anheuser-Busch), and media properties (ESPN).

Nelson holds a Master’s in Sports Administration from Northwestern University and BA from George Washington University. 

“Navigate has always strived to be an indispensable resource for our clients and a uniquely fun place to work,” Nelson said. “These continue to be our core principals and I’m excited to lead the future growth of what it means to work with and for Navigate Research.”



Navigate Research is a trusted advisor to leading brands and organizations in sports and entertainment.  We are experts in applying business intelligence – through research, data, and analytics – to measure and value marketing investments and guide major strategies and decisions. 

Based in Chicago, Navigate helps clients determine the value of their partnerships and understand how they are performing. Navigate has measured the impact and ROI of hundreds of sponsorship deals and has valued billions of dollars in sponsorships on behalf of brands, properties, universities and agencies.

Clients include Anheuser-Busch, Enterprise Holdings, ESPN, Los Angeles Lakers, NFL, Oakland A’s, Red Bull, University of Washington, Visa and more.

 For more information, visit and @Navigate_Res.