Survey | Fans weigh in on COVID-19’s impact as sports begin to return

admin

Share this article

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

ANALYSIS:  COVID-19 Wave III Study, Kantar Sports MONITOR
Study details:  3,000 nationally representative respondents, ages 12+; fielded June 8-14

Note:

  • Sports fans” = survey respondents who indicate they either strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “I consider myself to be a sports fan.”
  • Avid fans” = survey respondents who indicate they strongly agree with the statement, “I consider myself to be a sports fan.”
  • Casual fans” = survey respondents who indicate they somewhat agree with the statement, “I consider myself to be a sports fan.”

FOR ANY QUESTIONS: 


Insight #1
Most fans are eager for a return of sports – but are in no rush if doing so means sacrificing the health of players or team employees

After more than three months of living without, more than four-fifths of U.S.-based fans expect they’ll be just as engaged or more engaged with sports upon their return

  • 82% of sports fans expect that they’ll be either more engaged or equally engaged once they return
    • 36% of sports fans expect that they’ll be more engaged in following sports once they return
    • 46% expect they’ll be equally engaged with sports once they return
  • But 18% of sports fans expect that they’ll be less engaged in following sports once they return
    • As one might expect, more casual fans indicate they expect to be less engaged with sports once they return than avid fans:  One-fourth (25%) of casual sports fans indicate they’ll be less engaged vs. just 6% of avid fans who indicated the same

While avid fans want a speedier return than casual fans, most sports fans are willing to wait longer if it’ll mean a safer environment for athletes and team personnel

  • 56% of sports fans agree, “I’m willing to wait longer for sports to return if doing so means athletes and team employees are assuming less risk to their health.”
  • 23% of sports fans agree, “I don’t believe sports should return unless athletes and team employees are assured that their health will not be endangered.”
  • Just 21% of sports fans agree, “I want sports to return as soon as possible even if doing so means athletes and team employees are exposed to some health risks.”
    • In contrast, one-third (32%) of avid fans say they want sports to return as soon as possible even if doing so means athletes and team employees are exposed to some health risks

Given the relative lack of sports programming during COVID-19, relatively few sports fans report watching or engaging in any sports-related activities during the coronavirus pandemic

  • Top sports-related programming engaged in during COVID-19 by sports fans include watching a replay of classic sporting events (37%) and watching sports-related documentaries or movies (29%)
    • Other top fan-related sports activities among sports fans include:  Watching a sporting event without fans in attendance (25%), watching or playing a sports-themed video game (19%), watching an international sporting event like Bundesliga soccer or South Korean baseball (11%), started following an athlete on social media
      (11%), and started discussing sports in an online forum/message board (9%)
  • Yet, 36% of fans haven’t engaged in any of the activities listed above – which rises to nearly half among casual fans (46%).
    • In contrast, one-fifth (19%) of avid fans have not engaged in any of these activities

Sports fans are especially eager to watch televised sports again

  • Among 17 activities that sports fans are looking forward to doing very much, “watching sports on TV” ranks at or near the top
    • 50% of sports fans indicate they’re looking forward to watching sports on TV “very much”; only “celebrating special occasions with friends/family” ranked higher (51%), with “go on vacation” (50%) and “hang out with friends/family” (49%) being comparable
      • Just 5% of sports fans indicate they’re not looking forward to watching sports on TV

If the effects of COVID-19 cancels or indefinitely postpones the return of sports, sports fans will be particularly disappointed by the loss of the NFL season, MLB season, and NCAA football season

  • Percent of sports fans who indicate that they’d be extremely/very disappointed if the following seasons were cancelled:  The NFL season (53%); MLB season (42%), NCAA Football (37%)
  • In contrast, relatively few sports fans expect to be extremely/very disappointed if the Masters golf tournament (19%), Kentucky Derby (17%) or Major League Soccer Playoffs (16%) were indefinitely postponed or cancelled.
  • As might be expected, significant differences exist among the country’s major ethnicities on this front: Just 27% of African American sports fans say they’d be disappointed if the MLB season was cancelled/postponed, compared to 40% of Hispanics and 47% of non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Conversely, just 24% of Whites feel the same about the NBA Playoffs, compared to 44% of Hispanics and 58% of African Americans.

Kantar Sports MONITOR POV:  While professional and NCAA sports leagues and teams are eager for a return to sports, these results show that sports fans are willing to be patient if it means a safer environment for all. Taking a longer-term approach that puts athlete, team employee, and fan safety first is likely to be rewarded by fans.

INSIGHT #2
Crowd-controlled or not, sports fans remain wary about attending live events — and prioritize hygiene/safety significantly more than non-fans

As pro and college teams prepare for the possible return of sports, nearly three-quarters of fans view going to a sporting event, concerts, or other live events without crowd controls as the least safe activity among 10 measured

  • 71% of sports fans indicate that going to a game without crowd controls would be either extremely (46%) or somewhat unsafe (25%);
    • Just 29% of sports fans indicated it was either extremely (8%) or somewhat safe (21%)
  • Other activities sports fans view as being comparable to a sporting event, concert, or other live event in regard to safety include:  Going to a restaurant or bar without any crowd control measures (70%), Shopping in a store that doesn’t maintain strict social distancing and cleanliness guidelines (68%), and shopping in store while not wearing facemask (62%)

Sports fans view sporting events, concerts, or other live events as safer than the alternative – but more than half still view it as being unsafe

  • 56% of sports fans indicate that going to a sporting event, concert or other live event that limits capacity to ensure social distancing is either extremely (19%) or somewhat unsafe (37%)
    • Important context, however, is that few fans are likely to be aware of the efforts that leagues and teams are enacting to provide the assurance needed

Sports fans indicate a strong commitment to social distancing and prefer businesses that strictly enforce guidelines

  • 83% of sports fans – and 87% of avid fans — indicate that they follow social distancing rules either “completely” or “most of the time” (vs. 79% of non-fans)
  • 77% of sports fans indicate they wear a mask in public “all of the time” or “most of the time” when in public (vs. 72% of non-fans)
  • 90% of sports fans agree, “Businesses that strictly enforce social distancing guidelines in their stores during the coronavirus pandemic make me more likely to shop there” (vs. 84% of non-fans)
  • Just 10% of sports fans agree that “requiring all customers to wear a facemask” to enter a store/business makes them less likely to shop there (vs. 65% who said it would make them more likely to shop there and 25% who said it would make no difference).

More sports fans prioritize cleanliness and sanitation vs. non-fans

  • 82% of sports fans indicate that personal hygiene is very important in strengthening your body’s defense against COVID-19 (87% among avid fans).
  • 59% of sports fans ages 18+ agree, “No matter what the product is, I will pay more if I know it’s clean and sanitized” (vs. 39% of non-sports fans)
    • Avid sports fans (65%) and sports fans in the Millennial generation (67%) are even more likely to agree with the same statement
  • A possible explanation for the difference:  More sports fans know someone who has gotten ill from contracting COVID-19 (31%) vs. non-fans (22%); Additionally, sports fans report feeling more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, with 39% indicating that they’ve either already have it/definitely will get it/probably will get it (vs. 34% of non-fans)

Despite their need for greater health and safety safeguards, sports fans still expect a convenient, easy shopping experience in a post-COVID-19 marketplace

  • Two-thirds (66%) of sports fans (18+) – and 70% of avid fans 18+ – agree, “I expect the shopping experience in stores to be just as convenient as it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Two considerations that venues and retailers are considering out of a desire to provide a more hygienic experience (and save money) have the potential to create fan pushback:  18% of sports fans indicate that “eliminating cashiers in favor of more self-checkout options” and 17% indicate that “eliminating cash as a form of payment in favor of debit or credit cards” would make them LESS likely to shop at a business that made changes due to COVID-19.

Kantar Sports MONITOR’s POV:  Once games can resume with fans, it’s clear that hygiene and safety signaling will be required to deliver the assurance needed to overcome fears of contracting COVID-19. Leagues and teams that deliver a more controlled, safe, ye convenient environment are likely to emerge victorious with sports fans in a post-COVID-19 world.

INSIGHT #3
Sports fans are navigating the financial impact of the coronavirus relatively well – but concerns about a recession and the future of the country may impede near-term discretionary spending on sports

Sports fans are maintaining a positive personal financial outlook, with relatively few having experienced negative financial conditions related to the coronavirus

  • 33% of sports fans indicate that they’re earning less due to COVID-19’s impact on their job (vs. 33% of non-fans); 15% indicate they’re earning more money (vs. 7% of non-fans)
  • 54% of sports fans 18+ agree, “I am financially comfortable” (with 38% indicating “I have just enough to get by” and 8% agreeing “I am having financial difficulties)
    • In contrast, 43% of non-sports fans 18+ agree, “I am financially comfortable” (with 48% indicating “I have just enough to get by” and 9% agreeing, “I am having financial difficulties”)
  • 76% of sports fans 18+ agree, “I feel I am in control of my financial future” (vs. 61% of non-sports fans 18+)

Despite positive personal financial situation, a negative outlook about the national economy and future trajectory of the country is leading sports fans to cut back on spending

  • 71% of sports fans 18+ expect an economic recession in the next 12 months (vs. 69% of non-fans)
    • 48% of sports fans expect a recession and have changed their spending and saving habits; 23% expect a recession, but have not changed their spending and saving habits
  • 54% of sports fans indicate that “thinking about the future of the country” causes a great deal of stress (vs. 52% of non-fans); this ranks #1 among sports fans on a list of 15 potential stressors (like paying bills, balancing work and free time, etc.)
  • More than two-thirds of sports fans (69%) indicate they’re cutting back their spending due to the coronavirus – with a plurality saying they’re cutting back “slightly”
    • 48% of sports fans agree, “I am trying to spend slightly less and cut back on less necessary items
    • 21% of sports fans agree, “I am trying to spend as little as possible and not buy anything beyond what’s needed
    • 28% of sports fans agree, “I am not trying to make any changes to my spending.”
    • Just 4% of sports fans agree, “I am spending more or am open to spending more if the opportunity is right.”

The result is that a majority of sports fans doubt their ability to afford to go to a sporting event in the near future

  • 61% of sports fans agree, “I don’t expect I’ll be able to afford to go to a sporting event anytime soon (57% among avid fans, 63% among casual fans)
    • Among sports fans with a household income under $75,000/year, 71% agreed with the same statement

Kantar Sports MONITOR’s POV:  While financial stress is less of a pressing concern among sports fans (18+) than non-fans, worries about the future and expectations about an economic downturn will mean sports-related brand marketers must work harder to source demand in the next 6-12 months than they did prior to COVID-19.

INSIGHT #4
Sports fans have adopted a variety of different lifestyles and habits during the coronavirus pandemic – some of which are likely to accelerate even after the a vaccine for the coronavirus is discovered

Sports fans are leading a slower, simpler lifestyle during the coronavirus – and most are enjoying it

  • 76% of sports fans indicate that they have more free time on their hands since the pandemic began, with 44% saying they have “a lot more time” and 32% indicating they have “a little more time” (vs. 63% of non-fans)Top activities sports fans are doing more of since the coronavirus came to the U.S. include:  Doing nothing/relaxing (#1; 39%); eating comfort foods (#2; 27%); Sleeping/napping (#3; 29%)
  • 63% of sports fans – and 73% of Millennial sports fans – agree, “I am enjoying a slower pace of life that I would like to keep even after the coronavirus is over.”
  • 90% of sports fans report that their experience working more from home has been very (41%) or mostly positive (49%) – only asked among those sports fans who can work from home (71% of sports fans)

Sports fans are appreciating the experience of online shopping, buying, and entertainment during the coronavirus

  • 81% of sports fans agree, “I enjoy the experience of shopping online” (vs. 72% of non-sports fans)
  • 60% of 18+ sports fans agree,“Because of the coronavirus, I am buying things online that I would normally buy in the store” (vs. 50% of non-fans)It’s 77% among sports fans in the Millennial generation
  • Sports fans indicate they’re using a variety of social media channels more since the coronavirus came to the U.S.Among sports fans, 32% say they’re using YouTube more (vs. 23% of non-fans), 31% say they’re using Facebook more (vs. 21% of non-fans), 19% say they’re using Instagram more (vs. 5% of non-fans)

Sports fans are indicating a greater interest in healthier living options since the coronavirus came to the U.S.

  • 58% of sports fans indicate that their health is either “excellent” or “very good” (vs. 47% of non-sports fans)
  • Two-thirds (66%) of sports fans indicate that exercise is very important in strengthening your body’s defense against COVID-19 (vs. 55% of non-sports fans)
  • 29% of sports fans say they’re eating healthier foods (vs. 20% of non-sports fans) and 27% indicate they’re exercising more – despite most gyms being closed — since the coronavirus outbreak came to their area (vs. 15% of non-sports fans)

Kantar Sports MONITOR’s POV:  Teams, leagues, and brands catering to sports fans should consider ways to help sports fans maintain the aspects of life that they adopted and enjoyed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kantar Sports MONITOR is a syndicated insights service for brands, teams, and leagues seeking to forge a deeper, more authentic connection with the modern sports fan and participant. For more information, please contact Ryan.McConnell@kantar.com

Share this article

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter