Age Makes the Difference

My name is Max Beer, and I have written my master's thesis on the ecological sustainability in the Bundesliga. In the context of blog posts, I would like to present key findings of this work. While the investigation and results primarily focus on professional football clubs, they can also be applied to a large extent to professional sports clubs.

Football has the ability and means to build bridges between people of different cultures, religions, ages, and genders. However, age is an essential demographic differentiator that elicits different attitudes toward various topics [1]. Even in the realm of ecological sustainability, it is expected that different generations have different views and perceptions on this subject. It has been demonstrated that generations differ in their lifestyles and, consequently, have internalized different values [2]. Environmental protection is a cross-generational issue, but the younger generation accuses the older generation of neglecting measures for the long-term protection of the environment in the past and believes that they must now make up for it.

In the survey of 414 football fans*, age clusters were formed, allowing for an exploration of differences between the respective clusters. It can be assumed that differences in perception of environmentally sustainable activities by football clubs will emerge. To investigate this, the two clusters with younger participants (18-24; 25-34) and the two clusters with older participants (45-59; 60 and older) were combined and compared. Only those under 18 could not be reached through the online survey. The younger cluster comprises 149 individuals, while the older cluster comprises 175 individuals.

In the survey, participants had to rate their club based on predefined questions regarding ecological sustainability from 1 to 5, resulting in an Ecology Score** for each club. The analysis shows that the mean values of the two clusters in this research field differ significantly. Thus, the hypothesis that there are differences in the perception of ecologically sustainable measures of Bundesliga clubs due to differences in age structure is confirmed.

The younger generation has assigned clubs a significantly lower Ecology Score (3.50) than the older generation (3.82) has. It can be assumed that the younger generation is significantly more critical regarding the environmental commitment of the clubs. Therefore, it is recommended to communicate sustainable measures intensively on channels that target the young audience to increase their perception of the activities. Digital communication channels, especially social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, can be used to communicate with the younger audience through video content about the club's activities. Social media channels can also be used to generate earned media by increasing awareness of the club's actions in the relevant target audience through challenges, hashtags, and other dissemination methods without significant marketing efforts.

*Due to the research design of the master's thesis, fans of six clubs—Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke 04, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and Mainz 05—were surveyed from December 10, 2020, to February 28, 2021.

**Ecology Score [3] | (1 strongly disagree – 5 strongly agree)

  1. I think this club particularly emphasizes environmentally sustainable partnerships and collaborations.
  2. I think this club is internally well-equipped with an environmental team.
  3. I think this club handles the resource of energy particularly responsibly.
  4. I think this club handles the resource of water particularly responsibly.
  5. I think this club actively advocates for recycling and reducing waste compared to other clubs in the Bundesliga.
  6. I think this club strongly supports the theme of biodiversity compared to other clubs in the Bundesliga.
  7. I think this club continually reduces its carbon footprint through active measures.
  8. I think this club supports me in using environmentally friendly mobility solutions for arrival and departure.


[1] Morris, M. G., & Venkatesh, V. (2000). AGE DIFFERENCES IN TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION DECISIONS: IMPLICATIONS FOR A CHANGING WORK FORCE. Personnel Psychology, 53(2), 375–403.

[2] Cho, J. E., & Hu, H. (2009). The effect of service quality on trust and commitment varying across generations. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33(4), 468–476. P. 474

[3] Adapted from Martínez and Rodríguez del Bosque, 2014, p. 253. Sustainability Dimensions: A Source to Enhance Corporate Reputation. Corporate Reputation Review, 17(4).