- Michal Lorenc, Head of Industry – Ticketing and Live Events, Google
On Tuesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions, the final of its three planned webinars for its “Reopening Venues” series. The webinar, a captivating examination into some of the latest trends regarding consumer expectations in sports and entertainment, was led by Mike Lorenc, the Head of Industry for Ticketing and Live Events at Google.
Given the fluid nature of COVID-19, Lorenc emphasized that it is important for athletics departments to make decisions based on current data. In this regard, current data indicates that despite many sports leagues being on pause (until at least later this month), sports fans, at home, still want to be entertained. There have been significant increases, for example, in over-the-top (OTT) and short-form types of media subscriptions. Marketers in athletics departments should also be mindful that people, based on their age, consume media differently. Generation Z (the newest generation), for example, consume more online entertainment, while Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) consume more broadcast television and online press. It is also worth mentioning that according to Google, college football has seen the smallest relative decline in demand (in terms of searches on Google) compared to all other sports.
Despite this pent-up demand for entertainment, many sports fans remain cautious about returning to live sporting events based largely on health and economic concerns. In addition, feelings for returning to live events may be, often times, based upon geography, political affiliations and family situations (for example, households with kids may be more reluctant to attend live events in fear of bringing the virus home); as a result, one-size-fits all should not be a strategy for college sports with respect to reopening venues. Lorenc also highlighted that COVID-19 will accelerate previous trends in entertainment consumption, such as advancing more quickly into a digital future. Live streaming and direct-to-consumer options (such as movies), for example, have been proxies for live in-person experiences. Sports sponsorship will also be impacted, such as sponsors seeking more digital engagement.
So, what is the overall message for LEAD1 athletics departments? Wave now and hug later. Given that consumer expectations change, athletics departments should listen to their fans by surveying (i.e., creating call centers) within their departments to gather information and better understand fan expectations before returning to venues. It is more important to understand the concerns of fans who are undecided on returning to live sporting events than fans more adverse to it. In turn, this can help athletics departments create better marketing strategies to get fans excited to return to live sports. Athletics departments should also invest in content (such as video, social media and other technology) to help fans stay engaged during this uncertain period. In other words, it is important to maintain connection with all fans so when they decide to come back, it will be much easier to reengage them.