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Mindset and future consumer behaviour: zoom on THE SPOT 2023 fishbowl

During THE SPOT 2023, mindset and future consumer behaviour was the focus of discussions during one of the event’s highly interactive “fishbowl” sessions. Addressing the need for more sustainable thinking and reflecting on the consumer changes observed following the global pandemic, a panel of industry experts from across sectors exchanged on resulting shifts in mindsets and in business models to meet the evolving needs and expectations of partners and consumers today, and tomorrow.

Moderated by three-time Olympian Ana Jelusic Black and Innovation strategist Todd Harple, the panel featured perspectives and insights from Stephane Fillastre, FIA Head of Brand, Licensing & Retail; Thierry Kunz, Nidecker Group CMO & Board Member; Lee McEwan, Publicis Sport & Entertainment Head of Strategy and Planning; Martino Roghi, AC Milan CSR & Sustainability Manager; and Tom Waller, adidas Senior Vice President of Innovation.

So, how do businesses, individuals and technologies need to adapt to influence future consumer behaviour or meet existing consumer demand? We summarised some of the key take-aways from the panel.

1. Thinking sustainably: not a choice anymore but an imperative

Across the board, there was group consensus that sustainability is not an added “cost”, a fad, or a nice-to-have feature but an imperative for both businesses and consumers. Moving forward, organisations need to be sustainable by design to remain relevant and sustainable thinking must influence how we can change our behaviours and adapt our lifestyles in favour of a more durable approach to preserve our planet, and humanity.

As emphasised by the speakers, it is important to understand that this generation of digital natives is fully conscious of the climate emergency and the critical and conflicted state of the world. Consequently, for these consumers of tomorrow, sustainability is simply not a choice anymore. They want brands and organisations to represent them and reflect their concerns around this topic and social issues more broadly.

2. Value-matching: an expectation that organisations take position

Sustainability is increasingly the measure by which consumers, partners, and investors judge brands and organisations. This was exemplified to an extent by Martino Roghi from AC Milan who attested to seeing a growing demand from sponsors and partners “for the club to position itself in a clear way on key social issues” and to exploring more and more new branches of business beyond football as potential complementary partners. “Brand values between partners must match”, he said. “We look for partners not only in a monetary way but also in terms of positioning.”

Speaking of the Italian football club’s social media platforms, Roghi explained that at the heart of its content strategy is a desire to “make fans proud of AC Milan”, in what it is doing both on and off the pitch. That means going beyond football scores and integrating social responsibility topics in the content mix – even if the leadership expresses reluctancy. As he shared, AC Milan accounts for +500 million social media followers: “with such a large following comes responsibility, but it is also a huge opportunity if you spread the right message”.

3. Digital platforms: critical for engagement and growth

In this digital era social media, dedicated digital platforms, simulations and esports can all play an incremental role in increasing the attractiveness, accessibility, and interest in a sport, as Stephane Fillastre (FIA) demonstrated was the case with motorsport. Investing in their existing digital media channels during lockdown and developing the narrative behind the sport helped grow interest in motorsport, and that interest has converted into new audiences and record attendance rates at their sport events in a post-covid world.

Lauding social media’s value as a critical platform for attracting and engaging new audiences, especially as digital natives make up the consumers of tomorrow, the panel also cautioned about its potential pitfalls. Both successes and failures are dramatically amplified by social media. In an era when reactions are instant, where a post can go viral – and not always for the desired reasons – or one can be accused of greenwashing, sportwashing, or even be ‘cancelled’, organisations and brands need to be thoughtful about what they say and do on social, and how they cultivate culture and ideas that resonate.

4. Shifting dynamics: meeting culture with sport and understanding people

There was a time when brands and organisations dictated consumer behaviours, what consumers needed to do, or have, to be on trend, adopting a one-way “broadcast” style of communication. However, today, the relationship between organisations and consumer is far more conversational and interactive thanks to an array of digital tools, opening a valuable opportunity for businesses to better understand their consumers, and consequently empathise with them. 

To stay relevant, organisations must be consumer-orientated and really focus on what people want, as Lee McEwan (Publicis Sport & Entertainment) emphasised. It’s also important to consider that culture and tech move at different speeds. While social media responses come at the touch of a keyboard – changing culture, mindsets, and values take longer. Progress happens then in two different gears and organisations need to bridge that gap.

Watch Lee McEwan speak on this shift of dynamics and what organisations should be thinking about.

Another interesting development observed by Tom Waller (adidas) is the cross-over “where sport starts to meet culture”, a sweet spot critical to increasing participation. “It’s easy to get distracted by the latest trends and news”, but he urged organisations to “stay focused” and true to who they are while managing their relationship to the outside world and adapting to different consumers from across the globe. After all, no one size fits all.

5. Less is more: offer sustainable, consumer-centric, and convenient solutions

Consumers today have more access to everything – from knowledge to consumer goods – and have both the capacity and appetite to do lots of different activities. Keeping them engaged in one sport has become challenging and puts into question the traditional ownership model of sporting goods.

“There is a shift in how consumers want to own products”, explained Thierry Kunz (Nidecker Group), highlighting that consumers cannot own every sporting equipment to do all the activities they want. Sharing how Equip, a sports company from the Nidecker Group, sets out to facilitate access to sport through self-service solutions, he emphasized that offering convenience, accessibility, and sustainability was central to this solution and wherever possible, companies should look at how they can innovate, and offer more eco-responsible options.

Debating the subscription model as a way forward, experts were left divided as they acknowledged it is not appliable to all. Waller instead reiterated that it is best to start by understanding if, and what, is the consumer need, and then help solve that problem by offering a solution that meets that need or consumer behaviour rather than enforce a new business model that is not sustainable.

Watch Tom Waller speak about why sport is part of the solution to the world’s problems.


The trend is clear – consumers of all ages are increasingly leaning toward sustainability and the health of our planet depends on it. They expect that the products they buy, the clubs they support, and the events they attend are doing their best to be sustainable. At the same time, organisations now more than ever have the tools to both drive empathy with their fans via technology-facilitated two-way conversations and to be thought leaders for their fans in bringing them to better behaviours and ideas about sustainability topics. Those organisations with board members and stakeholder alignment will have more success being thought leaders in influencing their fans and supporters. And sports, as an industry, can be a catalyst to educating and inspiring consumers to act, as well as being part of the solution.