Let me be the first to tell you that I’m getting sick of writing about COVID and sports. But after staring at a blank screen for the better part of an hour, I simply just couldn’t think of a worthwhile topic that doesn’t concern the pandemic and its effect on the sports world.
So … what’s next? I mean, how does this playout? The answer is more positive than you may think.
I liken this time in sports as being very similar to a historically bad drought. Ever watch National Geographic where all the animals on the African savannah are just struggling to survive with blazing heat and no rain?
That’s pretty much what it feels like right now working in sports. As much as I hate to say it, the current strain on professional and collegiate sports is going to ultimately be a positive.
All aspects of the game from sponsorship to ticket sales to fan experience will be improved.
The WHY in all this gets back to where the industry was when this all started. In the “good ol days” it was easy for pretty much everyone to make big money with marginal leadership, an OK fan experience, and a half empty stadium.
A global pandemic that eliminates the fan as well as all the revenue associated with said fan, will spurn the sports industry to evolve and in so doing, improve.
Here’s what I think you’ll see in a post pandemic sports world.
Rights deals will expand to include tech forward entities capable of providing an exceptional VR experience to the fan. (Want to sit courtside at a Suns game? Now EVERYONE can!) Ticket prices will moderate as teams look to incent people to actually come to the game. Lines will dissipate as entire stadiums transition to non touch, digital ordering/payment as well as in seat concessions delivery.
Some, maybe not all, of the people who are not super great at their jobs … whether they be in leadership, sales, activation or otherwise, will be let go. That’s inevitable, and in many cases, long overdue. Like it or not the sports industry suffers from hubris and a shake up of this magnitude will help to move average and less than average sports professionals on to other careers.
Sports will undoubtedly survive and those that can most readily adapt, think dynamically, and embrace the effort it takes for positive change will endure. As the watering hole turns to mud you’ll also need to watch out for the alligators, but in the end the smart ones will survive and thrive when things get back to “normal” … whatever that may look like.
About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.