The coronavirus has gripped virtually the entire planet. The sports industry is one of the most severely affected due to the outbreak. In a matter of days, some of the biggest sporting events and leagues/tournaments have been called off or suspended for a lengthy period of time. The NBA, the NCAA, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, UEFA games, Tennis, Formula 1 and various cricket matches around the world to name a few prominent ones.
This has not only affected the industry financially, but also emotionally. One look at social media, and we can see how athletes and fans alike are trying to cope in a world without sports. Players have started playing video games! Maybe eSports does deserve to be considered as sport proper after all! Fans and athletes now spend a lot more time communicating with each other. Sporting brands and teams are using this opportunity to be more accessible to their fans, thus increasing their own brand image and enhancing their brand personality.
The coronavirus is a bad thing. But as is often the case, the best in people comes out at the worst of times. A lot of the sporting organizations have been severely financially affected, but they are steamrolled by billionaire owners who can take the hit. The real challenges are faced by the employees of these organizations. NBA players like Zion Williamson, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin have pledged to financially support the people at their respective teams. The entire Golden State Warriors organization (ownership, management, coaches and players) are donating US$ 1 million US to the staff who are financially affected.
And all of this contributes to the way fans look at and feel about the teams and players they love and support.
Sport is a highly emotional industry, on both sides (within the organization and outside, i.e., the fans). Fans feel a sense of belonging when they support a team or a player. They feel part of the organization, part of the highs and the lows. When the team wins, they say “WE WON”. It’s an incredibly deep and pure connection most fans have with their teams. I mean the word fan is short for fanatic! So, there is bound to be an emotional connect. And right now, they are being deprived of it.
People are watching reruns of games gone by, documentaries on teams/players and just doing things to make them feel like the entire vibe still lives on. And because sport is one of the few industries that is majorly emotionally driven, I think that once the gates to the arenas open up, people are going to be packed to the rafters. The sense of reunion, of being part of something bigger and of having your heartbeat go all over the place as if you were on the field will be overwhelming. And just like that, the sports industry will more than recover from whatever losses it ends up making during this pandemic. Because sports offer something that other brands just simply cannot, sports make you feel like the owner, CEO, coach, player and fan all in one. The raw emotion that sport evokes will carry the industry for years and will in my opinion be the reason that this industry will never truly die out. But rather, every time it faces adversity, it might just end up coming back stronger, much like the people who are a part of this wonderful industry.