A recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal showed that 40% of Americans say they would encourage their children to play a different sport than football due to concerns about concussions.
Football will remain king at the high school, college and NFL level (at least in my lifetime), but for the first time the sport has vulnerability at the youth level.
To understand this better, we need to look at the changing dynamic of how decisions are made in the household. In the sport of swimming for example, mom and the child are driving sport decisions together. Dads are involved also but to a lesser extent. According to research conducted by Nickelodeon, 72% of family decisions are made by parents and their children vs. parents alone.
These joint decisions mean that parents, mom in particular, have more of a voice in kids’ activities. Will that translate to more families choosing tennis, swimming, rowing, track & field or basketball? I think it’s a safe bet that they enter the conversation more often.
Risk is a part of sports and just waking up each day. No sport is immune to injury and each has its share of breaks, bruises and torn ACLs. But no other injury has captured families’ attention like concussions. My own daughter has taken a nearly season-long break from skiing due a concussion last year. The sport that is winning out in her life is basketball.
On the positive side, that same NBC/WSJ poll showed that most Americans feel the NFL is taking meaningful steps to remedy the issue. USA Football is creating great programs such as Heads Up that have put this issue on the public agenda more than ever. The sport is re-teaching the fundamentals of the game at the youngest level. Entire leagues are even built around the Heads Up concept.
As parents, it’s important to get these discussions going in our homes. I am a fan of football and enjoy Super Bowl Sunday like so many others, but this year the living room conversation will be about more than just football and funny TV commercials.
As sports marketers we have to wake up to this family dynamic and joint-decision making process. It’s not enough to get kids excited about a sport. We have to pitch mom too.