The Tween Council is a company-wide research project, spanning multiple markets and thousands of participants, with the purpose of better understanding the enigma that is pre-adolescent children. Affectionately assigned the nomenclature ‘tweens’, this demographic is made up of 7 - 12 year olds who exist within the interesting situation of having independent thoughts and opinions, without the freedom or funding to act on them (a fact I’m glad of, otherwise I would currently be caring for a wizened and very expensive pony). To better understand tweens from across the world, we talk to them. We pose questions directly to children of this age group and allow them to voice their understanding of the world as a young person, which provides us the insights we need to advise our clients. These unique insights lend incredible food-for-thought to us jaded adults, fuelling insights and research to come. 


A previous project of the Tween Council was “Food and Me”, 2022, with the purpose of investigating tweens’ approaches to food. Conducted in the latter half of 2022, the Food and Me Tween Council consisted of short research sessions with tweens across seven markets. The result was a detailed and nuanced understanding of tweens' relationship and approach to food, unearthing a plethora of interesting insights regardings behavioural patterns, household spending and next-steps in sustainability. Key highlights include tweens’ approaches to international cuisine, development in food preparation skill and enjoyment, and their surprisingly comprehensive understanding of the relationship between food production and environmental issues. Such insights into tweens’ approaches to food has had useful and practical implications to marketing strategies and content: by incorporating children’s preferences into the household meal plans, highlighting brand sustainability or deciding which markets to enter across the world, brands can snag a tweens interest more effectively.


This time around, our team has tackled the beast that is SPORTS! Capitalised to illustrate its inherent exciting nature, the great breadth and depth of a topic so vague as SPORTS! has led to an interesting research project with many cross-office discussions on the specific economic status associated with yachting, the benefits of team sports’ social nature and more. I myself am an avid rugby fan (I’m very proud of my South African Bokke winning the Rugby World Cup) and am particularly vocal when these discussions take place. With research and marketing strategies constantly evolving to produce multi-industry conversations surrounding children in sports, we wanted to find new ways to approach the SPORTS! beast and bring a new analytic lens to the topic. From investigation into previous research surrounding the topic, we have seen very little representation of tweens from their own perspective, offering little understanding as to what they think about the issue themselves. To supplement this, we talk directly to tweens, in several different markets and about the issues that face them today and in the future. 


Within the process of better understanding tweens’ current sporting practices, we invited a number of external partners to review our research objectives. Enlisting the specialist knowledge of government bodies, professional team managers, academics and more, we ensured the processes and products of our Tween Council 2023 research would be most useful to the industry surrounding sports participation and fandom on a global scale. This highlighted interesting global experiences of promoting and facilitating sports participation and fandom from different markets: targeting schools or private clubs to increase participation, promoting national or global professional competitions, incorporating strategies to produce trendy product designs and so on. Thus, the insights available in our report will be as useful to as many potential clients as possible, tailored to their needs as a result of speaking directly to them in the first place.

To produce useful and actionable insights for clients, we divide the SPORTS! issue into three relevant categories: participation, fandom and spending


One of the key objectives to this research is to grasp a better understanding as to why tweens participate - or don’t - in organised sports. What draws them in and what makes them stay? The potential insights into tweens’ decision making and behavioural patterns may supplement the understanding of where sporting activities take place, why tweens’ choose to dedicate themselves to a particular sport and why they might leave, and what benefits they experience as a result of their participation. From initial analysis, we can see that the main motivator across the globe for tweens engaging in organised sport is that it is fun: tween’s simply enjoy being active and making friends in this way. The more interesting insights will come to the surface only when our final report has been pulled together, showing us exactly what it is that tweens enjoy about organised sports, how that differs across the world and what measures can be taken to promote those aspects.


Another of our key objectives from this research is to understand the ways in which tweens engage with professional sports teams or athletes, if at all. Existing within that overlapping sphere of independent young teenagers and children within the family, we want to understand the motivations tweens might experience to follow and support professional sports teams and athletes, and how they go about doing that. Ranging from attending live sports events to commenting on social media posts, this research provides insights to best understand the channels through which tweens express their fanship and how our clients can most efficiently communicate with them. Our full report will explore the relationship between family sporting affiliations and tweens’ behaviours, as well as tweens sporting participation and the likelihood to support a professional athlete as a result. 



We also investigate the relationship tweens have between their sporting participation and fanship practices, and with spending. To make sure we best understand our audience, and can assist clients in structuring their business models, we seek to understand how tweens’ perceive spending and their perception of money, particularly the importance they assign money to their ability to engage in sports participation and fanship. At this age, tweens have some understanding of money and spending, but also have very little direct influence over it: it is usually up to the parents as to where, on what, when and how much is spent. Here, we take what we know about tweens’ feelings on the SPORTS! issue and how they situate themselves within it and convert it into marketable information directed to include both parents and tweens as an audience.




Already, a number of interesting insights have emerged from this research project. From a participation perspective, we can see that swimming is tied with Basketball as the most attractive sport to tweens, the sport that they most want to participate in but currently do not. For our final report we are unpicking the motivations behind this global feeling and what is currently preventing tweens from participating, as well as relating that to what active swimmers feel about the sport. As a sports fan myself, I am most interested in the fandom perspective, particularly the number of emerging trends between sports participation and fanship amongst tweens; why is it that, tweens that enjoy participating in a particular sport don’t necessarily like to watch others compete in that sport, but will happily watch a different professional sports team or athlete with their friends or family. I am anxiously waiting to uncover what specific motivations and channels of communication exist within tweens' lives to encourage them to become fans of sports teams or athletes and what specifically dictates these behaviours. 


Culminating after months of research across seven markets, including over 4300 children between qualitative and quantitative investigation methods, and encompassing the SPORTS! issue in three categories, this Tween Council 2023 project offers up two reports. The We Are Family team dissects the research to produce insights into participation and fandom independently of each other, providing clear methods of communicating and engaging tweens for the respective areas of industry.