On the 29th of August the famous Tour de France started with 2 months of delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, to face this unprecedented issue with innovation, the organizers worked with the cyclism gaming firm Zwift to create the Virtual Tour de France for professionals that couldn’t travel to France and amateurs dreaming to ride next to their idols on French roads. That digital strategy and many others in different sport communities since the pandemic, might have opened new paths for the sport industry, and maybe, close some.

Two Circles data driven sports marketing

The sports entertainment industry is clearly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. According to a study from the Two Circles group, pre-covid expected revenues from the sport industry in 2020 was about 135 billion dollars, and it felt down to 73 billion dollars after the covid-19 consequences on the industry. Indeed, organizations and clubs have faced a tremendous loss in revenues in stadiums attendance and consumption of souvenirs and clothes with lockdown measures. So that is why small-to-middle sized clubs might face difficult financial times. Also, giant events such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games have been rescheduled to 2021 without any guaranty to exists, or other global championships like the World Surf League have been obligated to reschedule all their events to 2021 leaving them with a drastic loss of revenues for the year of 2020. And some “surviving” competitions like the NBA or the US Open have bet on a bubble strategy where players and staffs are isolated during the competition with daily covid tests, to keep the tournament safe. But these strategies aren’t free, at all… The NBA bubble cost 170 million dollars in order to turn Orlando Disney World into a giant basketball tournament facility.

However, the sports industry was already facing challenges before 2020. According to a study from the American sports channel ESPN, NFL stadium attendance is dwindling since 2016 when digital options are skyrocketing. The health crisis has only catalyzed the process of more sports consumption at home than in real life.


Kyoshi Ota

“In the near future, fans will be able to have a better experience from their home almost as authentic as in a stadium.”

Nevertheless, there are no reasons to be pessimistic about the industry! Covid-19 has just been an accelerator of many new opportunities. Let’s take the example of the NBA, a league that is historically attached to its fans and that always try to create an unforgettable fan experience in arenas. The organization has made with Microsoft a digital system with fans on big screens around the courts, watching and reacting in live to the games. They also strated to put new cameras at the same height as the players, giving a new vision of the game closer to the players viewers. In the future, that could give a better fan experience for people at home that want to live an authentic game of basketball at home.

Kevin C. Kox: USA Today

Because today, people want to stay and watch sports at home. In fact, physical attendance to a game at a Stadium isn’t representing the real majority of sport consumers. For instance, in the US according to USC Annenberg study in 2016, 64% of fans live far from their favorite team. Thus, digital solutions are the future of the industry and covid-19 didn’t help to stop the shifting. OTT (Over the Top platforms) like Netflix, Hulu, NBA TV, NBC Sports are booming with their ability to offer to consumers a large and personalized choice of content that they can pay with flexibility.

Statista study 2019

Statista study 2019

Statista study 2019

This study made after the lockdown period emphasizes how consuming specialized content and pay for it is becoming a norm for households. And particularly for young consumers that tend to be the future of sports entertainment consumption. Millennials and Gen Z are not similar to previous generations in terms of consumption. A digital access on smart devices is essential when they spend more time than anybody on apps or internet and rarely on Tv.

Nielsen Company Study 2019

The Covid-19 has also created a new way to communicate and connect fans to their favorite sports. The lockdown period showed a new aspect of professional players, living normal lives and respecting like their fans these unprecedented health measures. This allowed people to feel closer to their idols. For instance, the Bayern Munich Football Club uploaded videos of players working out at home. Adidas has created a “fit from home challenge” where people could use their Training App freely and train like Adidas athletes during the lockdown. Same initiative for Nike with the Living Room Cup where you could Watch Cristiano Ronaldo sculpt his six pack!


Cristiano Ronaldo Abs Challenge

All those examples are proving that fans need new ways to connect with athlete and receive more personal and original content than a simple video on the tv or a real-life autograph. As a reminder, young consumers want more authenticity and truth in advertising communication. And using these new ways to advertise with players using normal life platforms such as Youtube and Instagram or TikTok can really give to sports marketing a future on digital platforms. Football, Basketball, NFL players started during the lockdown to create tournaments on number one streaming platform named Twitch during the lockdown where people could see their favorite players play video games and chat with them during their games. These new methods show disruptive ways for brands to communicate and advertise towards young targets, with athletes off the stadium and the spotlights but closer to the consumer.

Antoine Griezmann Playing video games on Twitch

Partnership between the video game Call of Duty and the football player JujuSmith-Schuster on Twitch

It is clear that the future of the sport industry is in the digital world. The covid-19 crisis challenged old ways to create a great user experience as a fan and to advertise. But the pandemic has proven that the sport user experience can thrive on the digital world, with original, creative and personalized ways to watch sport events with even more proximity

than in real life. And you’ll see that the e-sport sector will dominate on that reshaped industry, but we will dig deeper about the subject on our next Sport Trend article!


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