Next generation competition is coming not from your industry but your arena. A competitive landscape in which different players address the same needs or compete for the same money, time and attention as you.

In this series, we shift from conventional sector analysis to arena thinking. We focus on human needs – to Play, Move, Connect, and more – and explore the competitive battles at the edge of culture, business and innovation.

Brought to you by global arena experts from within and beyond our network, these reports reflect the new ways in which Interbrand Group is helping clients make iconic moves and drive extraordinary business results.

Episode 1: Play.

Play is the beating heart
of a cultural revolution.

In sports, gaming and entertainment the only hard edge is time. Rapid convergence and fluid boundaries are driving cross-category growth at a blistering pace.

At the nexus of this cultural and commercial revolution is an insatiable human instinct to play, made possible by faster tech, deeper experiences and a diminishing reliance on proximity.

With consumers’ attention the must-win battle, competition now comes from any business or category that can command it. Attention might be easily won – but it’s getting harder and harder to hold.

In Play, we explore what’s next in this arena by considering the human truths at the heart of play, hunting for weak signals, and looking to the peripheries for opportunity in change.

The biggest cultural shift
in 580 years is happening
in your living room.

The decade of possibility is rapidly spawning new ways to connect, socialise, learn, create, watch, listen to music, experience art, spend and more.

Within this, the biggest shift is in the spaces we occupy, the places we spend and the ways we engage. Physical presence and mental presence are no longer one and the same.

Think about it: When your kids are sitting there on the sofa, are they in the room with you – or are they hanging out with their friends in Battle Royale?

Where is the primacy of their attention? Where are they really living? Moreover, where are they spending? How many Robux is it for a gallon of milk these days?*

*1 gallon of milk is equivalent to 350 Robux which will buy you one Doge Hat, your passport to internet culture.

Remember when it was cool to hang out at the mall?

Consumer culture is changing right before our eyes.

Increasingly the malls, cinemas, sports fields and fast-food chains that once characterized youth culture lack relevance.

That’s a $600 billion dollar problem.

Because as the focus of youth culture shifts, so does the focus of spending power.

Now, just 40% of US teens think the mall is a cool place to hang out, yet 50% say they use Fortnite primarily to socialize with friends.

Which matters because Generation Z is one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today. Their buying power is $44 billion, (or $600 billion if you factor in the influence they have on their parents’ spending).

Dropped the ball?

A single American generation has seen a 24% decline in sports fans.

Today, just 53% of American Gen Z consider themselves sports fans (vs 67% millennials).

The 2021 Super Bowl saw its lowest ever audience in 15 years. There’s been a 12.5% decline in NFL ratings over seven years and youth participation in Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Soccer has now decreased every year for 15 years.

Does the data point to a terminal decline?


Participation is shifting: 67% of American under 16s play Roblox every day – an increase of 85% in 12 months.

While the company expects some post-pandemic normalization of subscriptions, Roblox’ underlying trends are what investors called “phenomenal”. The basis of this loss-making business’ successful IPO? It’s bet on the ‘metaverse’.

$1.24 billion

Total money spent on Robux in 2020.

4x stock market multiple (Roblox vs Mattel).

27 million

Attended Travis Scott’s five concerts on Fortnite (2020)

2.5 million

Attended Beyonce’s record-breaking, 49-concert, world-tour “Formation” (2019)

Culture evolves. Customer expectation is moving faster than ever before.

Someone is already rethinking your category.

Read more.

1

the human truth of play

Gamers, streamers, fans and dreamers.

Bill Alberti
Managing Partner, Human Truths

Franco Bonadio​
Managing Partner, Human Truths

Me, mostly.

A handful of ordinary, extraordinary consumers helped us uncover the human desires that drive people to play. Here’s what we heard:

Play helps us connect.  To my self.  To others.  To ground us in who we really are.  And lift us up to where we can go, together. While we can, of course, connect in lots of different ways, we can’t Play without connecting…to our imagination; with others; to the physical objects around us; with something bigger than ourselves. Connection helps explain why gaming has taken off…and a lack of connection helps explain why baseball is falling further into a time past.  Connection is the need that could be better met.​

Ultimately, Play is all about Freedom.  The freedom for people to see and be their real and best selves.  The people we were as kids.  The people we still are as adults…but who have let the stressors and the expectations and the worries get in the way.  The people we are in moments of play – where we connect to our most-me-selves and to others who let us be them – are who we are at our most free.

Brands can help people feel free through play.  Not to aspire to unrealistic versions of someone else, but the freedom to see and be the best version of me. ​

Play is the freedom to be yourself, to do your favorite things while having a full heart and happy mindset.

It’s the fun part in my life where I don’t have to worry about my responsibilities.

©Davide Bignotti

It slows my heart beat down because there is no stress when playing. Adrenaline pumping.

©Mayleen Yang

A pause in the normal stress of life. Keeps my mind occupied so I don’t think of all the shit the world sends us.

©Vanessa Esquivel

After working 40 hours a week in a highly stressful environment my social time is for me to be free and be me.

I am me and I don’t have to pretend.

Turbulence Upstream

Jessica DeVlieger
CEO

Christina Stahlkopf
PhD

One of the surprising losers of the pandemic – according to consumers – is Netflix.

Beyond great content, Netflix used to provide customers with conversational capital at the water-cooler. So what happens when the water-cooler disappears from customers lives?

-3%

Market share lost to Disney+ by Netflix when the “water cooler” disappeared from customers’ lives.


Let’s play a game. Can you define which Play brands help consumers switch “off” or “on”?

We asked more than 500 consumers around the world, whether they use specific brands to connect or disconnect. The results were surprising.
Play against real customers to see who guesses right!

Choose "on" or "off" (below) to play!

You might imagine Fender is all about becoming a rock star, but the company’s own data led to a surprising discovery: 72 per cent play to gain a life skill or improve themselves; 61 per cent want to learn to play alone. Does Fender compete with meditation apps like Headspace?

(Source: Financial Times)

Whilst there is a very compelling battle mode in Minecraft, consumers say that much of the emotional reward comes from Story Mode, in which players create wondrous, intricate structures, gadgets, and worlds.

(Source: Screenrant)

Peleton looks like a brand built which for “Type A personalities” to compete at home. But Peloton customers talk most about the supportive nature of the community. According to The Financial Times, in-home community-based exercise “meets deep human needs, especially during the pandemic: “moving with another human being is something we are all hard-wired for”.”

If Disneyland is “the happiest place on earth”, we could expect Disney+ to be the happiest streaming service. Disney+ tapped into key cultural moments in order to content into consumers’ real lives to create meaning.

2

THE HUMAN TRUTH OF PLAY

The Expert View

“Play taps into something deeply innate … Whenever you’re doing something that’s gamified, you’re inherently you. That’s an opportunity for brands.”—Americus Reed II, Identity Theorist 

“Let me start by establishing my Bro Credentials. I’ve spent my entire adult life in gyms of various kinds – grungy, dimly lit places that catered to powerlifters, echoing with the clangs of dropped iron; slick and way-too-expensive athletic clubs, where they got mad if you dropped your weights.”—Patrick Wyman, Podcaster, Archaeologist and Observer of Contemporary American Culture

The narrative around gaming is that of a modern day moral outrage. Good games engage players in a way that meets basic psychological needs as humans: they give you a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.—Dr Rachel Kowert

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Next Level Growth

How Big
is Your Appetite
for Growth?

$7.1 trillion

Estimated total arena value

3,242,616,000 hours

Daily hours spent on play by Americans every day

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE

Jason Lake, CEO Complexity Gaming

The Soccer Club
That Hit the Runway

Soccer’s reach is unmatched by most other aspects of culture; yet new audiences (and new revenue opportunities) remain untapped. Accessing them requires tapping into a whole new mindset.

How Juventus stretched its brand into fashion.

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE

Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing and Communications Formula 1

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE

Elle McCarthy, Vice President Brand at Electronic Arts (EA)

Work

Our Experience