The psyche of a sports subscriber is a complicated but important area for Sports brands to consider in 2021 – to build stronger relationships with their customers and an experience that goes beyond just sports content. 

So, what psychological factors make sports fans desperate to subscribe? Or leave? Consider this blog to be your very own Psychology 101 guide covering the five psychological drives that have both positive and negative impacts on sports subscribers….and their OTT brands. 



Watching sports has that magical ability to make us feel connected to others, without needing to be physically together! When you watch live sports you just know that many others are watching with you, at the same time, no matter where they are or which continent they are watching from.

Freedom is about that ecstatic feeling of being in the throes of a game when the heat is on and the energy is intense. Sports brands provide subscribers with the ability to ride out this intensity ‘live’ and indulge oneself without remorse. 

Note however, that these two core drives for Freedom and Connection are being fulfilled by the sport itself and not by the brand. This is a key point and sadly means the many brands simply become a vehicle or a channel for fulfilment of core needs causing subscribers to be fickle and less loyal.



We all need to know who we are, to have a sense of ‘identity’ to feel that we belong in this world, that we have something to contribute. The ability to conveying a strong identity helps us all to establish boundaries as well as to negotiate and to make our own decisions and stand by them. 

Getting serious about sports, as a hobby or even a career, is crucial to help humans establishing a sense of identity within a wider group of family, friends and acquaintances. 

Therefore, being a follower of a sport gives social leverage and caters to that inner need to belong and Sports brands could do much more to encourage and enhance this sense of shared identity among subscribers e.g. pioneering tools like Formula 1 real-time telemetry, personalised content, live stats, team interviews and behind the scenes stories. 



We have all had a chat with a friend about the ‘game last night’. But did you know that there is a psychological pressure sports fans feel to stay up to date about their favourite sport or team?!

In a sense, individuals become like unpaid reporters, who must prove that they’re in the know and can give a good argument. Being in the know about a particular player or sport gives individuals a role to play and something to contribute to conversations, be those with a peer group of sports fans, or with an equally awkward guest at a wedding where there’s a need to find common ground!  

If you do not know who scored, who was sent off, who played how etc. then you have nothing to contribute in a conversation, and this brings anxiety since your place in the group is put into jeopardy. Sports brands help subscribers stay up to date in a fun easy way, since watching is passive and knowledge can be absorbed from the comfort of one’s own home. This can take the pressure off, since there’s less need to ask around, google, read, or do anything except watch and learn.  



When it comes to sports subscriptions, subscribers feel a certain permission to watch a match or game for hours on end, every week or even every day. This is largely due to the fact that sports subscriptions evoke more positive energy in subscribers, since there is more movement, escapism and connection with others. Other subscriptions geared towards a more passive form of entertainment, such as Netflix or Disney+, do not enjoy this social acceptability, as watching a movie for hours every day would often be viewed as a bit extreme or very lazy. 

Also, watching sports gives us ample permission to express any emotion that is usually suppressed in the viewer! Emotions like frustration, anger, denial, rage, sadness, etc. all have a place in sports spectatorship. Could you imagine the funny looks you would get if you were screaming and shouting at the TV whilst watching a soap or childrens’ programme instead?!



Sports subscriptions tend to be a selfish purchase in any household and there is an incredible strong desire for fans to subscribe due to the many psychological factors mentioned already.

However, subscribers feel that sports brands ‘know the situation’, so often feel taken advantage of when brands charge high prices or frequently hiking them up without explanation.

Exclusive rights deals allow ample room for arrogance by sports brands and a rather egotistical approach to subscriber management, but once a competitor comes into the market, it all comes down to brand experience. If there is no longer exclusivity, subscribers will remember how brands treated them and will favour the underdog who can offer a better experience at a lower price.



Ultimately, all Sports OTT brands need to recognise the power of what they are providing to their customers –  freedom, connection, identity, social inclusion and control – and then enhance these benefits to build emotional connections with their subscribers.

Find out more about the Psychology of a Subscriber – download a copy of the report here.