Why Brands Should Prepare for the Rise of Super Fans

Data reveals a growing number of consumers are basing their identity on movies, music and video games

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There’s nothing new about people showing great enthusiasm for their favorite books, movies and musical acts. Songs and stories shape society. Life imitates art.

At the same time, culture is not static. Things change. Smartphones, social media, streaming platforms and investors looking to make more money from the intellectual property through various adaptations have helped fuel the rise of so-called super fans—consumers who dedicate enough time and energy toward enjoying celebrities and fictional characters that the activity becomes part of their identity.

A decline in more conventional indicators of selfhood, such as religion or the importance of where someone was born, also plays a role in cultivating the trend.

Today, for instance, younger generations are more likely than older generations to say their favorite movies, musicians and video games influence how they see themselves, according to new research from professional services firm Deloitte.

Jana Arbanas, vice chair and U.S. leader of Deloitte’s telecom, media and entertainment sector, noted these young consumers are devoted to “aligning their identity with their passions.”

And, again, rather than a passing phase of youth, the phenomenon appears to be more permanent.

Arbanas, who co-authored the report, explained that when she was young, access to her favorite musician was limited to a song playing on the radio. Maybe, if she was lucky, she could see the person perform live at a local venue.

In 2024, access to athletes and artists is pervasive. Media companies release behind-the-scenes footage regularly. Sometimes famous figures respond to fans by liking their comments and sharing their photos on Instagram.

“People feel like they know these people,” said Arbanas, who called Gen Z the harbingers of the future. “There’s some engagement and interaction that just didn’t exist previously.”

Last year, statistics from Stagwell’s National Research Group pointed in the same direction. The global insights and strategy agency found that 56% of Gen Z and 63% of Millennials believe the brands they like are a strong reflection of their personhood.

Super fans are valuable to companies because they’re eager to spend on everything from merchandise and endorsed products to live events and cross-channel collaborations. They’re also more likely to talk about their treasured TV show or video game with friends and strangers alike.

Given the many benefits of these dedicated consumers, Deloitte’s report advises brands to set aside some resources and marketing budgets to focus on this burgeoning segment of the population. Appealing to mass audiences is still important, of course, but building a strategy to address these committed communities will become more crucial in the years ahead as the media landscape continues to fracture into a growing number of channels and platforms.

As Arbanas put it: “It’s a mistake for companies not to contemplate the super fan.”

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