How Sports Have Been Impacted By COVID-19 From A Consumer Perspective

3 min read

LeBron is back in the Finals, we have a new Stanley Cup Champion, and Big Ben can still throw touchdown passes. It’s almost like sports are back to normal again. So why does it feel like something is still missing? The pandemic has drastically changed the way that sports are consumed, here’s how:

Game Day Experience

My favorite part about sports is going to a live game. There’s nothing quite like it, and it might be a long time until we can experience it again. This has a big impact on us as consumers. When you go to a game, you experience more than just the game. For some, the game is actually secondary. Just being in a stadium with so many people is enjoyable in its own rite. The in-game promotions and contests add excitement in between plays. Some people’s favorite part about a baseball game is the seventh inning stretch, and they can enjoy it while wearing a jersey from the gift store and eating a hot dog from the concession stand. Unfortunately, sports fans will likely have to wait awhile before they can participate in-person again.

According to a poll conducted by the Harris Poll and Yahoo Finance Survey, 72% of Americans say they won’t feel comfortable attending in-person sporting events until at least next summer. Even if people follow social distancing protocols and wear masks, the majority of people still feel uncomfortable putting themselves at risk. Until a vaccine is developed, we may not be able to attend live sports again. If you’re like me and love to attend games, this is bad news, but what other ways can we enjoy sports in the meantime?

Watching At Home

The viewing experience at home is largely unaffected. Fans can still tune in to the game, or even multiple at a time, and watch the same way as before. More than half of sports fans actually prefer to watch on TV. At home, fans can sit comfortably, socialize with friends and family, and get their favorite food and drink for a significantly more affordable price.

The average price of a beer at NFL stadiums in 2019 was $8.49. To put this in perspective, I can get a six pack of my choosing from the store for under $10. The price difference is significant, playing a big part in the appeal of casual viewing. With unemployment being higher than it has been in decades, people need ways to save money now more than ever. At Consumer $ense, we encourage people to follow our tips and secrets to save even more money when they go shopping.

There’s a lot to love about watching sports at home, and leagues are working hard to bring an enhanced experience to fans. The NBA recently teamed up with Microsoft to develop new personalized ways to view content. These efforts will allow fans to customize their viewing experience with features such as an array of audio features, languages, camera angles, and more. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will be used to analyze behavior and allow you to watch how you want without always needing to change the settings. The NFL has also made moves to adjust to the changing times by partnering with Verizon and Yahoo to provide a cooperative virtual experience. The new feature, called Watch Together, just launched on Verizon’s Yahoo Sports app, allowing fans to connect and watch the game with up to three other people. PlayAR, an augmented reality feature, has also been added to watch replays of important moments through the lens of Next Gen Stats. With exciting new technology like this, watching at home doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Fantasy and Esports

When sports were interrupted by COVID-19 in the spring, fantasy basketball and hockey seasons skidded to a halt, never to be finished. When you spend all season researching, setting lineups, making trades, and talking trash to your friends, this is not how you want it to end. Will the negative experience and fear of another cancelation discourage users from playing again? It’s possible, but probably not for long. Market research company Technavio predicts that the global fantasy sports market could grow as much as 9.4 billion USD in the next 4 years. The fantasy industry has a lot of opportunities in the future. The development of new apps and use of the platform for brand promotion will be some of the vital drivers of growth. One of the biggest threats to the fantasy sports industry is the increasing popularity of mobile gaming and esports.

Video gaming is one of most popular pastimes in the world, and it’s only gaining more traction while consumers are spending time at home. The esports industry is expected to reach 557 million viewers by 2021. In 2016, the estimated audience for esports was only 293 million, which rose to 453 million in 2019. Many universities are beginning to establish esports programs and offer scholarships. Esports used to be considered “uncool” or “not a real sport” by a lot of people. Now that technology has advanced and a better playing or streaming experience can be had, people are beginning to get behind it. Celebrities and brands have even jumped on board the esports train, signing new deals and promoting content.

Sports Gambling

Sports betting is becoming legal in more and more states. With a shift to online betting apps as opposed to going into a casino, betting on sports is easier than it’s ever been. You can place pre-game or live wagers on any game in any sport without leaving the couch. There are a number of current apps to wager on sports, as well as many new apps gaining traction in the marketplace. Barstool Sports just launched their Barstool Sportsbook app and it’s already making a splash, totaling $11 million in wagers over the first four days of operation. The market for sports gambling took an initial hit in April due to the stoppage of sports, but has since bounced back since the return of sports and is projected to grow in the coming years.

How has your sports experience changed since the pandemic? Let us know in the comments below!

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