Pokémon Go, eSports, Spring Break: Teen and Young Adult Insights

Matt Hay

March 2017

Pokémon Go, eSports, Spring Break:
Teen and Young Adult Insights

Pokémon Go is Not a Fad

In the ever-changing landscape of pop culture, it’s often compulsory for brands to discern between fads and long-term, behavioral shifts. When something as immense and sudden as the Pokémon GO craze of the summer of 2016 arrives, it’s easy to dismiss it as a fleeting mania. Now nearly a year later, it appears that Poké Balls, the Pokédex, and Combat Power are going to be around for a while.

It all started on July 6, 2016, when Pokémon GO launched. By July 13, it had 28 million “trainers” (aka daily users). As expected, after its initial explosive growth, those numbers steadily declined. But now Pokémon GO has leveled off and found its core user base. According to comScore, Pokémon GO is averaging about 5 million trainers daily. A second version was just released that includes 80 new monsters and a host of retail advertisers who make up the location-based “PokeStops.” At PokeStops, retailers make special offers while trainers hunt Pokémon characters around their businesses.

Consumer research indicates that Pokémon GO is likely to continue its successful run:

  • 40% of teen and millennial consumers who started playing Pokémon GO when it launched still consider themselves fans and play at least occasionally now.
  • Pokémon GO’s success is in part due to its appeal to a broad range of ages; older millennials now in their 30’s reference its nostalgia and often mention its original Nintendo Game Boy format, while younger Gen Z teens love its physical and “active” nature.
  • Over half of the teen and young adult trainers we surveyed have a positive view of the sponsored PokéStops (where they are encouraged to visit), while 35% indicate they regularly visit these locations.

Las Vegas Bets on eSports

Las Vegas has a millennial problem. Now the largest spending consumer segment, millennials have generally shown disinterest in the traditional gambling activities of Las Vegas. While the addition of hotel/casino nightclubs and swimming pool day clubs have been successful, there has been little other innovation for young consumers in recent years.

That was until last month when “ThE Arena” opened. ThE Arena is the first permanent eSports arena in Las Vegas, and one of the few in the country. It’s located on top of the 300,000-square foot Neonopolis. The venue hosts 200 people in stadium-style seating overlooking the main stage, while several hundred more can be accommodated in another area equipped with screens showing live competitions.

eSports draw millions of young fans to their online platforms and competitions at real-world venues, ranging from Madison Square Garden to the Staples Center. Estimates show 323 million people watched eSports in 2016 and the global audience is expected to grow to 385 million this year.

Consumer research indicates that ThE Arena may be an important Millennial pilot program for Las Vegas:

  • 65% of Gen Z teens and millennials report having watched an eSports competition on TV or online.
  • 45% of millennials say they’d be interested watching an eSports competition live at a traditional sports venue.
  • 20% of millennials say they’d be interested in betting on an eSports competition; to put that in perspective, according to reporting by Gallup, ESPN, and others, roughly 18% of Americans bet on professional sports.

A 2,000 Year History of Spring Break

March is traditionally the month when college students from across the country go on Spring Break. While they may consider it a unique phenomenon, Spring Break has been happening more or less for 2,000 years.

“Spring Break” has its roots in ancient Greece with a three-day party teens called “Anthestreria.” According to the Atlantic, “For three days, people would dance, singers would perform, women would deck themselves with flowers, and Greek men would compete to see who could be the fastest to drain a cup of red wine.”

While not his intent, the “modern” Spring Break era was ushered in by Sam Ingram, swim coach at Colgate University, who brought his team to Fort Lauderdale in the 1930s to train. Identifying a marketing opportunity, the city of Fort Lauderdale introduced an event called the “College Coaches’ Swim Forum,” which resulted in college swimmers from across the country traveling to Florida each March. By the mid-1980s, the number of Spring Breakers in Fort Lauderdale had grown to 350,000.

This month, about 55% (11 million) college students, traveled over Spring Break.  In our research this month, we spoke with college students about the Spring Break they just took:

  • Spring Break is not an economic windfall for destination cities – only about 10% of college students spent more than $1,000 total on their Spring Break trip.
  • Students mention “sleeping” and “relaxing” as often as “partying” when asked to describe the best part of Spring Break 2017.
  • Fort Lauderdale and other traditional destinations like Cancun and South Padre Island are still popular, while New Orleans and Austin, TX are new additions to the top Spring Break destinations.