How has the meaning of “fandom” changed in recent years—and what does it mean to have influence today? To answer these questions, Comedy Central recently executed a major international study.

The resulting project, “Fandom,”unveils a whole new world of passionate young people who see being self-professed experts as their key defining characteristic.

Young people today are a passionate generation with a wide range of interests, according to previous Comedy Central research. “Fandom” goes deeper into these interests to understand the extremes of their passions and what being a fan means to them. The more comprehensive meaning of fandom that evolves from this study also illustrates how Comedy Central and its partner brands can appeal to audiences even

Here are a couple of key insights on the changing meaning of fandom:

The social stigma of fandom has evaporated.
In the past, being a fan was seen as geeky, the province of a few super dedicated (and probably single!) people with nothing better to do. The
only ‘cool’ things to be a fan of were the big pop or rock bands, or your local football team.

In a geek-chic world, fandom is cool.
Today, geek is chic, technology rules, and young people want to be seen as experts. Three in four of them think that being really passionate about a brand or product is, in fact, cool. Eighty percent agree that you can be a fan of not just sports and celebrities, like previous generations, but things like fashion, television, food – and brands. Young people classify themselves as passionate experts in an average of 5 categories, and the top categories are all about entertainment content – music, movies and TV. And four in five agree that being a fan now is different from their parents’ generation. They are more willing than ever to ‘own’ their Fandoms.

Comedy Central believes that understanding this new era of Fandom is the key to connecting with the most influential, passionate and vocal young people out there. Future blog posts from this series will cover the power of fans, the segment of influencers that brands need to be talking to, and what young people want from brands.