“You gotta start them young.” This saying applies to a broad spectrum of things; dental hygiene, learning an instrument, or good manners. It also applies to a team that is encouraging fandom. This isn’t to say that older audiences shouldn’t be targeted by a marketing team that’s trying to bulk up a fanbase, but the fact remains that kids who become devoted fans from a young age have a higher potential lifetime value for the organization.
For a hockey team or any other sports team, considering lifetime value when deciding who to target means looking beyond the potential for single-game ticket sales in a prospective fan, and considering the value that each potential marketing target can bring to the organization throughout the entire course of their fandom. This, of course, means there is a higher value that comes with high retention, but it also means that value has a higher value potential the more years they have ahead of them to be a fan.
This is part of why it is so important for marketing efforts to be targeted toward kids. They will beg their parents to take them to a game. The will later save up their allowance or mow lawns to buy game tickets. Later still they may section off a portion of their first jobs to get nosebleed season tickets. When they have kids, they will, in turn, bring them to games. All of this is only possible if fandom is encouraged early.
The Florida Panthers have a fantastic program that encourages kids to make positive associations with the Panthers organization and the game of hockey in South Florida. The Learn to Play Program allows kids to learn the game in the same practice facility as the Panthers do, sometimes with surprise appearances from players themselves. This builds up excitement and fun for them, all while wearing the jersey they are provided with by the program, of course with the Panthers logo on it.
This is an excellent example of being proactive about bringing young fans into the team fandom, and it increases the potential lifetime value of each fan to the team. I should reiterate that potential fans of all ages should be marketed to, but making kids a priority is a smart move. After all, children are the future.