Home > NewsRelease > COVID-19 is ratcheting up consumer anxiety about future events, but there are silver linings for the sports and entertainment industry
COVID-19 is ratcheting up consumer anxiety about future events, but there are silver linings for the sports and entertainment industry
Performance Research --  Jed Pearsall, Ed.D. Performance Research -- Jed Pearsall, Ed.D.
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Newport, RI
Friday, March 27, 2020


All industries have been impactedby the coronavirus’s spread, but live sports and entertainment events have absorbeda large portion of the impact of social distancing orders.

As empty stadiums, canceledtours and postponements of Olympic proportions continue to make headlines, sportsand entertainment industry stakeholders are left wondering: what does thefuture of events look like? What should it look like?

Performance Research, aleading sports and event research, insights and consulting firm, has introducedthe first wave of its Impact of COVID-19 on Live Events Study, conductedwith national online sampling partner Full Circle Research Co.

The study surveyed over 1,000representative U.S. consumers from Full Circle’s research panel between March23 and March 26 and includes findings on how consumer perceptions of thepandemic will impact engagement with live sports and entertainment events.

Results indicate that aftersocial distancing restrictions have been loosened and events are cleared assafe to attend, event stakeholders should expect dips in attendance figures –at least initially. When respondentswere asked if they will attend “Fewer,” “About The Same Number” or “More”events once they are safe to attend, the highest percentage (44%) predictedthey will attend fewer, while 38% reported their attendance won’t be impacted;the remaining 18% indicated they will attend more events.

In terms of how long itmight take consumers to feel comfortable attending events again after they’vebeen deemed safe, results were mixed, with about half of consumers indicatingthey would return to events right away or within a few weeks, and the otherhalf reporting it would take them a few months or longer. Indoor events were more likely to cause trepidation,with 51% saying it would take them a few months or longer to return to indoorsports or concert venues, while 44% reported the same for outdoor venues. Similarly,33% indicated they will likely attend indoor sports or concert venues lessoften post-pandemic, while just 26% reported the same for outdoor venues.

Eventgoers typically holdsome concerns about events and safety, but results indicate this pandemicexperience will rachet up concerns around health and sanitation at events inthe future.  A majority (63%) indicatedevent health safety will be a higher concern for them than it was in the past,and almost half (47%) indicated that the idea of attending a “big public eventwill scare them for a long time.” Two thirds (66%) indicated that they “Expectthere to be wide scale changes in the way we attend major public events andvenues in the future.”  More specifically,two-thirds claimed they will be more worried about cleanliness/sanitation ofthe venue overall (66%), cleanliness of the restrooms (66%), and cleanliness ofthe food service area (65%). A majority (59%) reported their concern aboutcrowding or close contact with strangers will be higher than it was pre-pandemic.These health and sanitation issues were much more likely to be of higherconcern in the future than other event safety issues such as violence or shootings,theft, drunk and rowdy crowds, or ticket scams, which remained essentially unchanged.

While attendance may decline and anxieties around health safety will likely increase post-pandemic, consumers currently show high trust in event stakeholders’ response to the pandemic, and a majority believe the response has been the right one. Over 40% reported a ”Somewhat” or “Very High” trust in organizers of pro sports, college sports, and the Olympic Games, and fewer than 20% indicated a “Low trust’ for any of these organizations.  By comparison, President Trump fared much worse, with a 46% “Low trust” mark.  Two-thirds believe that the response to the Coronavirus from Pro Sports (66%), College Sports (68%) and Olympics (64%) has been “About right.”

The economic impact ofevent cancellations and postponements has been staggering (see our COVID-19 economic impact analysis studyhere), but social distancing measures could strengthen consumers’ appreciationof events in the long run. Nearlyhalf of consumers (46%) say they will value events more than they used to dueto their experience with the pandemic and social distancing, and 53% agreedthat they will have a pent-up desire to return to the events they loved oncethe pandemic has passed.

Perception of corporate sponsorship of events remains strong, but with a new emphasis on “doing good”.  While 30% agreed with a statement that sponsors should “Conduct business as usual”, a majority (56%) reported they now expect more out of brands and corporations in terms of how “socially good” they are.

According to Jed Pearsall, founderof Performance Research, “The results of this study, conducted in what maybe the height of anxiety regrading the pandemic, show that event goers will comeback, albeit with reservations and a limited sense of urgency. When consideringall the barriers to event attendance, perhaps nothing can be more personal andemotional than health and safety.”

Bill Doyle, vice president ofPerformance Research stated, “There will be some shift in attention fromwhat is happening on the field or stage to what is seen with the venue itself.  Expectations for new ways of protecting publichealth will be high, and this is a chance sports and entertainment propertiesto take a leadership role in setting new standards.”   


About PerformanceResearch: With more than 30years of focus and experience, Performance Research is the industry leader forworldwide consumer research and evaluation in the event, sponsorship andexperiential marketing industry.

Performance Research’sexperience covers an array of quantitative, qualitative and economic impact studiesfocused on sports events and fan festivals, as well as in-depth experience withactivation testing at music and cultural festivals and pop-up brand experiences.


Jed Pearsall:  jed@performancereseach.com  

Bill Doyle:  bill@performanceresarch.com

About Full CircleResearch:
Twice-named on Inc. 5000’s list ofFastest-Growing Companies in America (2017, 2019), Full Circle Research was thefirst and only U.S.-based, online consumer sample provider to earn ISO 26362 certification,is currently ISO 20252-certified and remains the only company tooffer HoNoR (Holistic Next-level Research™)—a marriage of advancedtechnology and industry-leading quality controls that gives businessdecision-makers immediate access to the purest data in the industry


Nate Lynch:  NateL@ilovefullcircle.com

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Name: Tyler Patricia Arment
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