Before the San Francisco 49ers try to figure out a way to beat the 12 teams on their schedule, they’ll try to beat the millennials. More accurately, the Niners want to join them.
Millennial is a term that generally describes the 18-to-34 age demographic. With an average roster age of 25.2, the 49ers recognize they’re attempting to reach people that communicate and absorb information in a new way.
Instead of forcing millennials to adapt to old school thinking, the 49ers have altered some of their ways to better suit the sensibilities of their twentysomethings.
“The (experts) are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula told Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal. “I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one’s getting anything?'”
Tomsula has been proactive in his effort to make sure the message is getting through. He attends a weekly meeting learning about new apps and other technologies his players may be involved with. At the annual league meetings, he sat in a panel that primarily focused on youth marketing.
As a result of this millennial realization, the Niners have made a host of changes this spring under their first-year head coach. Some examples include:
» Meetings that frequently lasted two hours or more have now been broken into 30-minute blocks with 10-minute breaks.
» The introduction of enhanced digital playbooks that help more visual learners by including video clips alongside drawn-up plays.
» Sending alerts to players’ calendars instead of distributing a printed schedule. Said Tomsula: “We haven’t handed out a piece of paper to a player this year and they love it.”
These new methods are all designed with the same goal in mind: Connect with young people with shorter attention spans and the preference to do multiple things at once, usually with their phone.
“Our whole lives, we’ve gone with a paper and pad,” Tomsula said. “Next week, a young person’s phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that.”
It’s smart thinking by the Niners, who could become trend-setters in a copy-cat league.