While no business is immune to the effects of the pandemic, perhaps no other industry has been forced to change quite like live sports and entertainment. When your entire purpose is bringing people together for a live event, a lot is lost when that can’t happen. But what is gained? What have we learned?
In March 2020, live sports and global touring came to a screeching halt. The events and entertainment industry was faced with a now-or-never moment: get creative and think outside the box during unprecedented times, or risk losing your business. Within weeks, Confirmed360 began to mastermind the Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul mega boxing match which took place a year later on June 6, 2021, in front of a sold-out crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. In what was a homecoming for live events, the fight was one of the first stadium events that took place with fans while also being the top-selling PPV event of 2021.
Let’s face it. The immediate impact of the global pandemic was major revenue loss and a total halt for many businesses, but what emerged was a complete rethinking of how businesses can adapt and prosper. Here are ten ways COVID-19 changed the live sports and events industries and what businesses need to do moving forward into 2022.
1. The acceleration of digital trends
Pre-pandemic, trends such as mobile ticketing were already in motion, but COVID created a now-or-never moment for digital trends. Not only did we see the broad acceptance of touchless tickets, digital restaurant menus, and mobile booking, but we saw the acceleration of digital content. When the entire world suddenly spends months on their devices, brands are forced to place much more emphasis on brand awareness and content creation. With social media and streaming hours skyrocketing, product flexibility with things such as digital collectibles and video were essential to meeting consumers where they are.
2. Consumers are more intentional with their time
Consumers have become much more selective, and we’ve seen a sharp decrease in interest and attendance in “less important” games and events. Many are saving their time and money for marquee events resulting in much higher demand than ever before.
3. Fan Game Day experience is more of a focus than ever
When health and safety are on the line you can’t just assume fans will show up. The smallest scare or discomfort will keep people home. Businesses have had to completely rethink their day-of-event experience for attendees. Are there freebies? Are there surprises? The main event can no longer be the only event.
4. All-inclusive experiences gaining momentum
Perhaps coming as a surprise to the luxury market, all-inclusive events are booming. Consumers are anxious to get back to normal life but they need it to feel safe, and without all the complicated logistics. People who are used to booking their own events, piecing together their travel, and researching their meals are looking to juggle less and just show up. This is requiring companies to rethink many of the operational aspects of their business because you are now entertaining people who will be spending more time at your venue or on your property.
5. Booking in advance is the new normal
With travel restrictions and COVID variants constantly changing, consumers are purchasing further in advance than usual. Businesses need to be ready to offer incentives to early purchasers just as they have been to last-minute bookers.
6. Don’t rely solely on “taking orders”
Businesses need to be proactive about building out offerings that appeal to their audience and actively introduce them to those opportunities. Rather than assuming customers are planning events for themselves, businesses should surface experiences that customers may now know they have access to.
7. Partner, partner, partner
Partnering with like-minded companies is not only a way to generate streams of new revenue during uncertain times but it’s a way to differentiate your brand to appeal to more selective consumers. Focus on creating strategic partnerships that enhance your experience offerings and level of service.
8. Diversify your offerings
Businesses that once relied on bringing people together in person can no longer rely on just that. In order to survive mandates, shutdowns, and tepid consumer attendance you need to diversify. Can you sell luxury goods, new fan merchandise, or create all-inclusive experiences?
9. Invest in enhancing marketing operations
Marketing strategy cannot focus solely on brand awareness. Now more than ever you must invest in CRM tools to support demand generation programs, year around outbound marketing campaigns, and marketing operations that can read and make use of your data insights. The details are in the data. Don’t overlook what your data is telling you about how trends are changing, and consumers are re-approaching events in 2022.
10. Build your own events engine
If you’re a concierge service or venue, consider building out an in-house events team. Bridge the gap between the consumers you host and the talent you book. Having a dedicated team onsite will allow you to quickly jump on new ideas and offerings to differentiate your brand.
The live sports and entertainment industries have always required a level of flexibility to deal with everything from weather to security to canceled events, but COVID-19 required businesses to pivot like never before. Over the past nearly two years we’ve weathered a crisis by thinking creatively outside of our traditional business offerings and emerged stronger than ever before. The changes we’ve shared here can help your organization navigate a post-pandemic world while strengthening your business for the future.
Matt Ampolsky is CEO & founder of Confirmed360, a global event and entertainment service that unlocks insider access to high-demand experiences and live events.