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Sport’s share of leisure time grows 22 per cent in a decade, says Two Circles report

People are spending 22 per cent more of their leisure time watching sport than they were a decade ago, according to research from international sports marketing agency Two Circles.

The increase is almost double the rate of growth of overall leisure time, which stands at 12 per cent, and is indicative of “sport’s growing cultural relevance”, says the research.

Using data insights from its relationships with over 100 of the world’s biggest rights-holders, Two Circles has found that the average amount of time spent watching, playing or following sport globally will reach one hour, 46 minutes in 2019 – up from one hour, 26 minutes in 2009.

Two Circles suggests that the successful international growth strategies of leagues such as the NFL and NBA, alongside the continued strength of the Premier League, have been major contributing factors to sport’s dominance. An increased focus on fitness and well-being, particular among younger generations, is likely to be another factor. 

Additionally, sport has maintained its status as ‘appointment-viewing’, whereas other leisure activities have decreased in relevance as people’s lives become increasingly digitally-focused. 

“Many areas of the global economy have benefited from population growth, rising wealth and technological innovation,” says Gareth Balch, Two Circles’ chief executive. “However, sport’s cultural significance, contribution to physical and mental well-being, and unique positioning as the last bastion in appointment-to-watch viewing, mean the role sport plays in peoples’ lives has grown consistently across the last decade.”

Two Circles predicts that by 2029, the average proportion of leisure time spent watching, playing or following sport will reach 34 per cent, passing the 100-hours-a-year mark in 2023. 

Balch adds: “In a world of shorter attention spans and greater leisure time, sport – largely through its ability to deliver unrivalled levels of live content – is winning the fight for relevance. And with almost every area of life and human interaction becoming digital-first, our data analysis shows that sport is primed to be the fastest growing sector of the leisure industry in the next decade.

“This growth will be driven primarily by the fast-growing digital consumption of sport, and we project a rise in the amount of live long-form event coverage available online – and a greater emphasis on ‘outside the ropes’ content away from matchday action – will accelerate the amount of time spent engaging with sport relative to other leisure pursuits.”

Gareth Balch will be a speaker at next week’s Sports Decision Makers Summit, hosted by SportBusiness in association with Sportel, at London’s Rosewood Hotel. For more information, see here.