Disability Representation And Gen Z | Engaging The Next Generation Of Sports Fans

Izzy Hall

Sport is an immense part of the entertainment industry – whether it’s fashion, gaming, watching, or playing, it’s inescapable. And with international events such as the Women’s 2022 EUROS and Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive, the sports industry is permeating Gen Z culture across the world. But there are a number of important issues that exist within this sector that need to be addressed. 

It may come as a surprise that Gen Z are less engaged with sports than previous generations, and this in part comes down to a lack of equal and fair representation. In our upcoming Voxburner+ report, Game, Set, Match | Engaging the next generation of sports fans, we take a look at why this is and share how your brand (regardless of sector) can make sport more accessible for young people. 

Disability representation in sport 

Today, we’ll be focusing on one theme of the report: disability representation. As revealed in the Annual Disability and Activity survey 2021-2022, 77% of disabled people would like to be more active, whilst Voxburner’s research reports that approximately 20% of young people do not feel that there’s enough disability representation in sports games. But why is this, and what impact does it have on young people? From a lack of equal facilities to social media and marketing inadequacies (36% of UK Gen Zers watched the 2020 Paralympics, whilst 62% of the disabled Gen Z population tuned into the Games), there are a number of obstacles and solutions for brands that this report will discuss. To quote one focus group participant: “[Brands] may have to swing to an extreme of visibility in order for [disability representation] to become the norm, and that’s a hard thing to do sensitively.” 

What impact does this have on Gen Z? 

So how does this topic impact the lives of your young consumers? It’s all about empowering young disabled people and providing them with the opportunities, spaces and vision to reach their full potential – an immense responsibility that marketing has been bestowed (alongside society as a whole, of course). Unfortunately however, this is currently not the case, with over 40% of Gen Zers believing that there’s a lack of accessibility for disabled people to watch sports. 

In a shocking statistic from My Active Future, only 25% of disabled children say they take part in sports activities all the time at school, compared to 41% of non-disabled children. Voxburner’s report also discusses the role that education and schooling plays within this discourse, with key conversation points including the current circumstances when it comes to disability inclusivity in schools and how/why places of education can take action. 

The intersection of sports representation and youth marketing 

So how does this discussion impact you and your brand, and why is this important for you? Well, amongst other things, 50% of US Gen Zers think there’s a lack of availability to watch sports undertaken by people with a disability (for example, the Paralympics), and a lot of this stems from or is exacerbated by issues within branding, social media and marketing. 

@oliviabreen26 Opening my Bronze Paralympic Medal! 🤩🤩🤩 #Tokyo2020 #ImpossibleToIgnore #disabilityawareness ♬ STAY – The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber

Whilst there are a number of disabled athletes leading the way and creating change (particular shoutouts to Tatyana McFadden and Gen Zer Olivia Breen), the brands championing disability inclusivity in their products are the ones really hitting the mark and resonating with young people. One case study we look at in depth throughout the report is Nike, whose DE&I values are a part of their everyday culture. Take, for example, the Nike Training Club, a site for sharing ‘advice, insight and experience to strengthen the body and mind’ via podcasts, videos and Q&As with athletes, including a number of Paralympians. More on this, as well as additional examples, can be found in the report. 

With exclusive Voxburner+ research and insights from expert contributors and Gen Zers, this report is a must-read for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding into the world of sports and the intersecting communities, as well as how D&I strategies can be improved in order to empower young people and nurture brand-consumer relationships. 

‘Game, Set, Match | Engaging the next generation of sports fans’ will be available on Voxburner+. To access the full report, plus additional content including deep dives and infographics, subscribe now. 


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