Future Fans co-founders Michael Gold (L), Mike Schroder (R), and their families. Future Fans co-founders Michael Gold (L), Mike Schroder (R), and their families. (Future Fans.)

A major discussion across many sports is about how to bring in young fans. There’s often lots of talk about sports TV audiences’ older demographics and younger generations’ differing consumption habits. We’ve also seen plenty of discussion on the late start times for many games, the high costs of tickets and stadium food, the prices of cable/MVPD packages and streaming services, and more.

But amidst all that, there are some interesting approaches out there trying to get kids interested in sports. One of those is Future Fans, which has been offering learning activity kits for football and just moved into soccer as well. Their storybook-led kits, aimed at kids aged four to eight, focus on 15-minute sessions, and involve everything from reading to physical activities to tracking what happens in watched games. And they’ve formed relationships with professional teams in the NFL and MLS – including the Cincinnati Bengals and now FC Cincinnati. Players use Future Fans content in the Bengals’ school outreach efforts and FC Cincinnati is selling the kits in the team store at the stadium to start.

FutureFans co-founders Mike Schroder and Michael Gold recently spoke to AA by email about their goals for the product, why it was important to create something combining reading and games, how working with teams has gone, and more. To start with, Schroder said he was motivated to come up with this after his daughter wasn’t enthused with traditional approaches to discussing sports.

“My wife was 9 months pregnant with our third child when the Bengals were making their unexpected run to the Super Bowl a couple years ago,” Schroder said. “I was at the first playoff win against the Raiders and then grounded for the rest of the playoffs. All I wanted was to watch the rest of the games with my oldest daughter Ella (then 5), as it was such a fun and life-changing time for me.

“Despite my best efforts to teach her about football from an early age, she wasn’t interested in watching the games with me – even though she enjoyed the game day traditions and the pageantry. In that moment of frustration I wondered if there was a better way to get young kids engaged as fans, so sports fan parents like me and their children could connect around the shared passion of sports.”

Gold got involved thanks to his previous work with Schroder running a healthcare consultancy together. He said he also related to Schroder’s goal of getting his own kids interested in sports.

“We’ve run our own healthcare consultancy—helping large organizations operate and grow their businesses. So we have that skill set and track record of doing it together. We’re also both sports fan dads and have a shared interest in connecting with our kids around the sports we love. So we had a shared mission and skill set to go out and solve a problem close to our hearts.”

Gold said the published research on dropping interest in sports amongst younger fans helped them realize there was a market here.

“There’s a lot of research out there about the decline in interest in sports among younger generations. For example, 38 percent of Gen Z are sports fans as compared to 48 percent of millennials.”

He said they think their product can help with that, especially with its focus on using more than just reading.

“We believe that understanding a sport is key to unlocking engagement and fandom, and our product helps young kids (ages four to eight) understand a sport. We teach in parallel ways (e.g., bean bag toss game to introduce the concept of downs in football) and everything is embedded into a storybook-led experience.”

Schroder said the idea was to make this entertaining for kids, and the product’s different approaches (including unboxing different elements of it over time) help with that while also boosting the educational side.

“We wanted to provide a learning experience that is fun and gives young kids a baseline understanding of the sport,” he said. “Kids learn through doing things like reading, singing, and playing games.

“And based on our research and testing, they learned even better when concepts are mutually reinforced across those different activities. In our approach, we’re able to introduce the concepts needed to be a fan and do it in a way that’s both fun and effective.”

Gold said football was the logical place to start given its U.S. popularity.

“Football is far and away the most popular sport in the United States, so we wanted to engage the largest possible market for our first product.”

The Future Fans football box.
The Future Fans football box. (Future Fans.)

And Schroder said it’s been great to work with the Bengals in particular, given his fandom there and how that gave him this idea.

“They are part of the inspiration for creating the brand, so it was really cool that we worked together in our first season of Future Fans Football. We’ve learned a ton and are excited to continue working with the Bengals. We also now have a proof point that we’re building on as we work with other teams and leagues.”

Gold said partnering with teams and leagues makes a lot of sense for them, and that can include community programming and more.

“We’re highly aligned to teams’ and leagues’ interests, as our boxes help create new young fans and reinforce the fandom of adults. There are myriad ways (some current, some in progress) we’re discussing working with them – selling our boxes in team stores, activations at on gameday or league tentpole events, and community-based programming.”

Schroder said soccer made sense to go to next given the prominence of youth soccer and the growing interest in the professional ranks, especially ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America.

“There are a number of things to like about the soccer market,” he said. “The fan base is growing, and that will only accelerate with the World Cup being hosted in North America next summer. Additionally, most kids in America play youth soccer at some point, so there’s a lot of exposure to the game at a young age.”

The Future Fans soccer box.
The Future Fans soccer box. (Future Fans.)

And Schroder said Future Fans plans to expand to other sports as well, and perhaps also strike particular licensing partnerships with teams.

“We’re building the preeminent brand for how young kids learn sports. We will be rolling out sport-specific boxes for all major US sports and then digital apps to complement the physical boxes. Also on the roadmap is team licensing, which would be a big unlock for our business as fans would be able to get Future Fans content customized to their favorite teams.”

More on Future Fans can be found on their website. They’re offering a 10 percent discount before Father’s Day with code DADS10.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.