Crowd Tracks: Sports Fandom

Our Crowd Tracks report is back. This time we’re turning our attention to the global goings-on of sports fandom...

Download the new report here.

Crowd Tracks is our social data series, where we use our Culture At Scale method to highlight and analyse trends at the intersection of brands and culture. At what feels like a watershed moment for supporters of all types of sport, we’re bringing you the latest in fan experience, values and culture. 

In this edition we uncover how fan protests have mobilised on social platforms across the world, analyse Instagram data to track emergent fandom, and explore the rise of new, immersive experiences for fans, featuring 5G stadiums and VR.

So what’s happening in sports fandom around the world?

Sports experience is diversifying globally and fan culture is becoming more complex and inclusive. In the UK we saw a diverse team GB bring home a historic win of golds, silvers and bronzes, providing a balm for a divided nation; while in India eSports has boomed, with fantasy cricket leagues becoming nice little earners for some. Japan’s Naomi Osaka became a style icon on the cover of Vogue after pulling out of the French Open due to mental health concerns. And in rugby: global following of the sport continues to rise, with World Rugby publishing a report stating plans to attract 10% more followers by 2025.

But that’s not to say things can’t get tense out there…

2020-21 saw sport become increasingly embedded within the thorny issues of global politics. Racism and ongoing BLM protests have seen conversation spikes in the US, Europe and around the world. America has been divided by opinions on NFL players taking the knee, as has the UK where racist abuse of black players during the Euros saw widespread condemnation. 

Mental health concerns have been firmly thrust into the foreground in most recent sporting events, with athletes such as Simone Biles speaking out. Indian cricket became highly politicised, getting entwined with farmers’ protests. 

The ethics of sports partnerships have also come under the spotlight, with many calling for a boycott of the T-20 league after what were seen as unethical sponsorships from the Chinese company Vivo. 

What trends are on the rise? 

People want more muscles. While gym culture is a mainstay of IG culture, images of muscular bodies have increased by 45% in the last nine months. Wrestling is up by 70% and Boxing has seen a 55% rise. TikTok has caused dance to quite simply soar. Dancing has risen by a whopping 215% and cheerleading too is up by a similarly impressive 163%. And more young women are skating, the sport’s searches rising by 98%.   

Which brand really pushed the boat out?  

The last year saw the NBA get seriously phygital. They tapped into the emergent interest in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) with Top Shot, a platform that allows fans to buy special, unique digital souvenirs. But it doesn’t just stay in the ether. The NBA are looking at ways of making this physical as well, bringing the digital collectables into the IRL sport experiences.  

What’s the future of fan experience? 

In short – TechnologyTechnology is set to offer new revenue streams for clubs and preserve the stadium experience for decades to come. 69% of fans report the use of emerging technologies has enhanced their viewing experience both inside and outside the stadium. Sports brands need to act fast on this or risk losing out to the ever-dominant tech industry.

And finally: how have fan values changed? 

Fan communities used to be defined by one thing: their shared support. Now, sports fandom – and fandom in general – is built around cultural values beyond the sport itself. Whether it’s a desire for accountability, transparency, or greater representation, fans are now banding together around shared causes, calling on clubs and athletes to use their power for good.

Thanks to social media, fans can share information and mobilise, take issues into their own hands and vocalise what matters. Sporting institutions need to prioritise the voice of the fans, and make smart appointments – such as heads of diversity or culture – to ensure their businesses are run fairly and in line with their fans’ values.

You can download the full Crowd Tracks: Sports Fandom report here

Culture At Scale is a powerful new addition to how Crowd DNA pinpoints and tracks trends. Supported by the advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities of, we tap into the sheer size and incredible pace of the online conversation, presenting future scenarios and defining credible opportunities.


We're looking for a consultant-level addition to our team, working on business development, client management, pitches and project design...

The focus in our commercial team includes external communication of the agency, business development, responding to briefs and understanding client needs, project design, briefing in new commissions to the project teams and having a strategic overview on live work. To help us with our growth, we’re seeking a consultant-level hire with a passion for working at the intersection of brands and culture.

What we’re looking for in more detail:

– There’s some flexibility over the seniority of the role (with pay and expectations to match), but this is most likely for someone with between 18 months and four years of agency experience

– We say ‘agency experience’, as while you might be working in the insight field, there’s scope for hiring someone with a background in a different type of agency (creative, strategy, media etc)

– We want someone who demonstrates an interest in insight, strategy work and trends, but who also comes equipped with a particularly commercial brain; if you can show previous experience in something business development-related, that’s a plus

– Evidence of/enthusiasm for helping solve brand challenges and interpret business objectives

– You’ll need to be seriously pro-active, super-quick at taking on new challenges and not short on confidence (we’ll want to get you speaking with clients ASAP; you’ll be expected to collaborate with director-level staff)

– First rate communication skills (both verbal and how you get ideas down on paper and in presentations) is absolutely key

The role comes with a salary of £32,000-£38,000, clear paths to promotion and to new opportunities, as well as great benefits (bonus and pension schemes, generous parental leave policy, flexi hours/wfh, betterment scheme, training, paid sabbatical after five years, company lunches, days out, 30 days ‘work from anywhere’ scheme each year etc).

It’s an entrepreneurial and energised environment, fast paced and collaborative. If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson, providing a covering letter and CV in the first instance.

Human After All

It’s easy to forget the importance of empathy in the face of new technology but, as Crowd DNA director Paul White explains, for cultural insights, it will always be the star of the show...

In the world of research and insight, it’s easy to be tempted by new methods, new delivery systems and new technologies. And while staying current is really important, delivering great results always comes back to the core skill of qualitative work: empathy. 

Nursing scholar, Theresa Wiseman, breaks empathy down into four key attributes:  

 1. Seeing the world the way others see it

2. Beginning from a non-judgemental space

3. Understanding another person’s feelings

4. Communicating your understanding of that person’s feelings back to them.

A perfect place to start, but we like to think there’s a fifth step to this process in cultural insight work, and that is: Communicating people’s feelings honestly and objectively to the client that commissioned the research.

So, if empathy is the cornerstone of our industry, why is it so easy to forget? Short answer: we unknowingly participate in systems that push it out of the conversation. Consider the chat you might have with a food stall trader compared to a targeted ad telling you the latest lunch deals. Both are marketing the same thing, but feel very different. We can’t change the current model of communication, but it has pushed us further away from IRL interaction. Short-termism then compounds this with quarterly targets and the need to make quick wins. So we all stay on the treadmill, often unable to take a long enough view to address larger human needs and do something truly empathetic.

This perspective is intensified by a tendency to focus on the newest, slickest methods – because, honestly, suggesting we’ll talk to some people and build recommendations on what they said (yet again) doesn’t sound as exciting as whatever the latest method might be. In our opinion, as long as your methodology is answering the problem you’re trying to solve, you’re on the right track. No need to get starstruck by the latest eye-tracking, VR gadgets or neuroimaging if it takes you away from the initial problem – a problem which is almost always a human one anyway.   

Next, if we know empathy is in short supply, how do we build it in? It starts by remembering our own humanity. At Crowd, we treat our colleagues and clients like humans and create space for people to bring themselves into their work and interactions with participants. By being present and using active listening, we are able to develop deeper connections and quickly bypass the researcher/respondent relationship. There is always insight to be found by truly listening, seeking to understand and not being scared to ask why. 

Don’t be afraid to advocate for human beings. All of us (even global heads of marketing and CEOs) happen to be people – and looking for commonalities between yourself and your customers is key. When we make business decisions in boardrooms (or Zoom calls) with little view of the outside world, the people at the end of the process can be easily forgotten. Instead, bring real people into the room in any way possible. This could be audience immersion work, insightful videos to build empathy or literally inviting your living, breathing customers into your process. 

We must stop reducing people to their ability to consume products. It’s a false shortcut that does no one any good. People are consumers some of the time – but they’re people all of the time. They have lives, worries, families, goals and dreams. It’s only by being more empathetic as professionals and companies that we are able to realise this, and harness the power of cultural insight to add true value to people’s lives.

Join Our Culture Club

We love the work we do and we're pretty lucky to get to do it. If cultural insights and strategy interests you too, applying for an internship at Crowd DNA London is a great way to get started. Culture Club kicks off again now...

Internships have always been good at Crowd DNA, but they just got better. Culture Club is a carefully designed four month programme that brings more rigour and quality to what we can offer those seeking experience in insight and strategy work.

This time, we’re particularly seeking candidates to join our Crowd Numbers quantitative team, working with surveys, data and analytics – alongside all of cultural analysis and story-shaping techniques that are so core to the Crowd DNA approach.

Shaped from observations, conversations and an ambition to truly meet with contemporary needs, Culture Club comes in four stages:

Culture Relevance: immersion in Crowd DNA’s training modules on what we mean by culture, how it manifests and why it matters to brands

How We Work With Culture: exploring the methods and frameworks that we use at Crowd DNA to get close to culture and then to derive strategic meaning from it

Practical Application: theory’s all good, but you learn so much from getting involved; at Culture Club you’ll get to work (in a meaningful fashion) on a number of projects, and at various point along the timeline

Culture Wrap: we don’t just wave you away with a thank you card. Concluding the programme, there’s a coaching session with a senior member of the Crowd DNA team, including recommendations on next steps, what to learn more about etc. We want you to leave us primed and excited for what’s next.

In fact, we don’t necessarily want you to leave us. We offer permanent roles to circa 25% of those who come on board for an internship at Crowd DNA. And even when we’re not able to offer this, the vast majority of those who spend time with us end up some place very exciting, in fields such as insight, advertising, media and beyond.

No intern is left just making coffee at Crowd DNA. We encourage cultural curiosity and the opportunity to experience myriad aspects of our work. Importantly, we also hope to imprint on those who join us the importance of adaptability (one of our values is Everything Is Changing, after all) in the future workplace.

Our internships pay London Living Wage and we’re committed to offering an inclusive and exciting place to work.

How To Apply…

We’re not asking for CVs and we absolutely do not require you to come to Culture Club armed with a degree (though they’re of course good, too!), nor to be the loudest person in the room. But we do expect to see evidence that, in your own way, you have an active interest in culture and brands, and where they intersect (we can teach you the insight and strategy bits). Given this internship is in our Crowd Numbers team, demonstrating an aptitude for data (whether through formal education or otherwise) will be advantageous, too.

For starters, please complete this form and we’ll pick up on the conversation from there.

Here’s some feedback from some of our former Culture Club recruits

“On my first day of Culture Club, I was out on the streets interviewing young athletes. It’s a real crash course in the world of insight and strategy, and Crowd is the sort of place where you can put your hand up for anything and get involved. As someone who had a real interest in culture, but no idea of what sort of career that could give me, Culture Club was a great launchpad – and I’m still here 14 months later!”

“I discovered Crowd when I was studying for my masters. I wanted a career change after working in education management and I thought that insight would be ideal for me. I like meeting new people, exploring ideas and being creative. But to get into a new industry, I knew I would need experience (both for my CV and for myself), so I thought an internship was a good way to go. On my first day at the Hoxton Square office, everyone was friendly, open and super smart. I got stuck in and started working with some huge brands from the get-go. In my first month, I worked on an online community, conducted interviews and even went on fieldwork. I was completely trusted, and that’s what I liked about the internship: I wasn’t treated like an intern at all. I was part of the team. Now that I’m a consultant, I take a lead role on projects for major clients, receive regular training and feel supported in all areas of my progression. Interning at Crowd was a great choice for me at a crucial turning point in my career.”

“I wasn’t made to feel like an intern at all during my internship at Crowd, I felt a lot of trust from the other team members and got stuck into lots of different tasks from day one. Everyone is really nice and supportive and there’s a great team spirit.”

“Interning at Crowd was a really fun and rewarding experience. Over the course of the internship, I was able to try out loads of different skills, from vox pops to qualitative and quantitative analysis. I gained hands-on experience of the different research methods and how they inform cultural strategy. After my internship, I moved into the Crowd Numbers team as an executive.”

Crowd DNA New York’s Simi Olagundoye explores how reality dating shows misrepresent those of marginalized identities and what they should consider instead…

Dating shows have long been criticized for their lack of representation and regard for contestants from marginalized backgrounds. With race and sexual misrepresentation rife, viewers are ready for a reckoning. But this must be responded to in an educated and intentional manner. Firstly producers need to eliminate racist, homophobic, and sexist tropes from their narratives to positively affect and inform viewers of all backgrounds. They then need to provide ongoing training and therapy for casts and crews to ensure that physical and emotional safety for marginalized identities is achieved.  

Since its start, dating show The Bachelor has been in hot water for racial insensitivity. And recently, conversations reached boiling point. The season involving Matt James, the first Black Bachelor, was revealed to have a history trodden with racism. 

Following an outcry for the franchise to examine its racial insensitivity, longtime host Chris Harrison was removed. Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette, denounced the show. This spawned important conversations around how to create a safe environment for people of color (POC) on reality dating shows. 

‘Can a show that’s built on stereotypes handle race well?’ – Rachel Lindsay, Bachelorette 

Many shows employ colorblind casting, insisting that they ‘don’t see race’. POC, especially Black people, are expected to exist in a raceless space. But we cannot pretend that dating shows are devoid of racism or racial stereotypes. And while colorblind casting means representation might increase, race is rarely being discussed. An exception to this is Netflix’s Love Is Blind. Couples engage in discussions around race in a manner that is both impactful and entertaining. 

These conversations about race are key in creating a safe environment for POC. When broadcasters omit them, they revert to aged racist tropes, feeding into biases. These tropes have the power to influence viewers’ perception of the world. They signal to marginalized communities that they don’t belong. To the non-marginalized, these tropes are a dangerous guide to how others should be treated.

‘I get why they are hesitant to do it, but I don’t think it’s working when they chuck in one bisexual person.’ – Megan Barton-Hanson, Love Island


Built in a heteronormative vacuum, dating shows often get it wrong when it comes to representing sexualities across the spectrum. Love Island executives have expressed challenges placing queer contestants into heterosexual-aligned spaces. But instead of trying to squeeze queer people into straight spaces, networks should place queer communities at the centre. 

In 2007, A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila challenged existing dating show formats by being the first to feature a bisexual lead. However, the show is infamous for a homophobic plot twist, pitting queer women and straight men against each other. This perpetuates the false stigma that bisexuals have to ‘pick’ a gender. 

Season eight of MTV’s Are You The One? exclusively cast sexually fluid contestants and was highly lauded as groundbreaking reality TV. Unfortunately, fans were disappointed that there wasn’t a reunion episode, unlike every other season, reinforcing feelings of exclusion for the queer community. Give queer-focused shows, and queer cast members, the same exposure that their straight counterparts receive. Viewers are acutely aware of tokenism and want to see real action being taken, so they enjoy their guilty pleasures, guilt free. 

Attitudes to the representation of marginalized identities is changing. Viewers expect openness, diversity and a sense of commitment to progressive programming. First comes the conversations, then decisive action. This action must reconfigure broadcasting around the struggles of previously marginalized voices, while providing real and sustained support for any harm caused.

With subscription online streaming now the norm, audiences are increasingly discerning and selective when it comes to the content they watch. People are less passive. They’re done with the couch potato identity. This means that meaningful engagement with the issue of representation will pay off, for TV and across the board.   

We're looking to add to our video and design capabilities, bringing on a creative who's also interested in learning more about insight work...

With Crowd DNA growing fast in APAC – winning amazing projects for fantastic brands – we are looking to add to our team. Specifically, we have identified the need to bring more videographer capabilities in-house, with film work often playing a pivotal role in how we help our clients to relate to trends and empathise with people and culture – in all of its glorious messiness. Ideally, candidates will also be able to bring design skills with them.

So while this role does require those all-important filming, editing, and, ideally, design skills, it’s also at the intersection of insight and strategy work. We therefore are searching for someone who’s passionate about learning more about solving brand challenges through research as well; and collaborating with others in our team.

Here’s what we’re looking for in more detail:

– 1-3 years of work experience

– Good film and photography skills, including shooting video using Canon film kit and filming interview/documentary-style content

– Equally hot editing skills, with a mastery of the Adobe Creative Suite (especially Premiere Pro; bonus points for After Effects knowledge)

– Some experience in design – specifically editorial/report formats, and using InDesign

– An aptitude for project management, and an ability to manage the delivery of work in an efficient and effective manner

– Keen to bring ideas to the table – including testing and developing new formats for socialising trends and insights across businesses, and for Crowd DNA’s own thought leadership material in APAC

– Enthusiasm for working alongside a team of researchers, strategists, semioticians and data experts

–  Editorial and copywriting skills a bonus!

– Similarly, to be able to demonstrate an enthusiasm for cultural insight and strategy work will be a plus

We’re open to candidates searching for a permanent role or interested in a shorter term contract (six months or a year). Ideally Sydney-based but open to other locations (within a similar timezone!). 

The role comes with a competitive salary. Benefits include: 10am-6pm hours (also flexi time); flexible WFH/WFO policy; paid sabbatical after five years; 30 days ‘work from anywhere’; company awards, days out, betterment scheme; training sessions and guest speakers; health scheme and generous gender neutral parental leave policy.

If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, please get in touch with Elyse Pigram, providing a covering letter and CV/portfolio in the first instance.

We’re seeking a head of people to join our amazing (and growing!) team. Read on for more details...

Based in London, but working across our offices, this role will collaborate with our senior management in finding the best people to join us; across our specialisms and pinpointing those with a clear passion for working at the intersection of brands and culture. This will role will also manage the employee journey, helping us to maximise the sense of reward and satisfaction our team get from working at Crowd DNA. This is an exciting addition to the Crowd DNA team as we look to meet our ambitious plans for 2022 and beyond.

Here’s what we’re looking for in more detail:

– 5 + years experience in recruitment or human resources 

– An aptitude for finding talent who match Crowd DNA’s values and who truly understand what drives the type of work we do 

– Building and maintaining an employer brand that attracts the very best talent and means they stay to develop their careers  

– Managing and developing a first rate benefits package, monitoring its effectiveness and making improvements 

– Designing and managing onboarding processes through to staff reviews, compensation structure and promotions 

– Knowledge of HR and employment law 

– Experience of HR across different markets a plus 

– Ensuring diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our talent acquisition/retention strategy and deploying approaches to drive this 

– Using creative approaches to finding great talent, and looking beyond standard metrics of who to hire and where to find them 

– Solutions-oriented and comfortable dealing with changing priorities 

– Experience in an agency/consultancy environment, and enthusiastic to learn about how work – and thus the talent we need

The role comes with a competitive salary of £57,000-65,000. We’re open to those wanting to work a full week or reduced hours. Benefits include: 10am-6pm hours (also flexi time); flexible WFH/WFO policy; paid sabbatical after five years; 30 days ‘work from anywhere’; company awards, days out, betterment scheme; training sessions and guest speakers; cycle to work scheme; Westfield Health benefits; pension scheme and generous gender neutral parental leave policy.

If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson, providing a covering letter and CV in the first instance.

Every Wednesday morning we turn off our emails, set an out of office message and create three to four hours where we can focus on deep work. Here’s why...

If you’ve landed on this, the chances are you’ve received one of our out of office messages that let you know we dedicate every Wednesday morning to what we call Deep Work Wednesday. Not the most original name, but it does the job. So, in the spirit of deep work, we thought it best to quickly explain our thinking, so that you can get back to some deep work of your own.

Why deep work?

It was hard enough to maintain focus prior to Covid-19 upending the way we live and work. Now, video calls get booked up against each other with barely a bathroom break in between. Our calendars fill up before we know it. We’re sure you can relate to the feeling of coming to the end of a working day and wondering what you truly achieved. Our hope is that, by carving out these hours once a week, it will allow us the time to switch off, think and really sink our teeth into the complex problems that our clients come to us to help solve.

Where can I learn more about deep work?

We love this TED Talk by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called Flow, The Secret To Happiness. Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, is a great resource too. If you’d like to learn more about Zoom fatigue, we suggest this article summarising a piece of research by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab highlighting why it can be so tiring to be in video calls all day.

When will you get back to me?

We come back online at 1pm every Wednesday and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Promise!