I was a “denier” when I was unceremoniously sent home from the PAC12 Men’s basketball tournament in mid-March, as the initial COVID-19 athlete diagnoses and subsequent hysteria shuttered live sports like falling dominoes.Now, some four months later, as our Big Four team sports prepare for an announced resumption of sorts, I question things again.
Don’t get me wrong. I want the return of live sports more than most people. It’s my passion, and a large part of my business is measuring fan attitudes.
But after pulsing consumer and sports fan attitudes through our studies, and after some encouraging initial optimism that grew to see more than half the fans surveyed ready to return to live sports without further assurances — as recently as early June, we’ve seen a major downward shift in these attitudes.
In our latest wave of research, conducted just last week, a majority of sports fans now strongly believe they will not be able to attend their favorite sports for the balance of the year. Just under half believe that despite the best-laid plans of the governing bodies, there will not be a resumption of football, baseball, basketball or hockey, at all.
Amazingly, football, which seemed to be moving forward, impervious to the carnage in other sports, now has 55% of its fans strongly believing that there will be no 2020 season.
It figures. I was counting on a huge year for my beloved Tennessee Titans!
I’ve not met fellow MediaPost columnist Dave Morgan, who was fairly assertive last week when he suggested that we weren’t going to see a resumption of major sports this season. The very fans that covet these sports seem to feel that he is correct.
We’ve been trying to get to the “why” behind the ever-changing sentiment expressed by consumers. Now we are seeing the motivations behind this shift.
Most telling, is fans’ frustration with a lack of clarity and mixed messages about the current pandemic. They place the onus of this mostly on government, but the media is not far behind.
We are also observing across some 13 leisure verticals and other activities that we are measuring, that respondents’ need for personal control of their experience is driving their confidence and likelihood to reengage.
Simply put, fans do not believe that others are being as diligent in their adherence to safety protocols as they are.
In addition, consumers are most willing to be part of activities viewed mostly as “essential.”
All these could be critical guideposts for those properties looking to rebuild trust among the nearly 40% of fans who now claim to be sidelining themselves until there is a medical breakthrough or vaccine.