For the first time in our lifetime, arenas, fields, gyms and stadiums are silent, and if you’re sitting back, steeped in the “woe is me ... I wonder when we’ll get the green light to function normally” attitude, you are in serious trouble. Now, as we face the challenges of partially opening the economy, marketers and sports brands are wrestling with hard questions: 

As we walk down this unprecedented path of COVID-19, we need to make decisions now and—in the moments that follow. We can’t rely on pulling from our lifetime of experiences that usually feed our decision-tree wisdom. We need to find a fresh bank of information to inform every step moving forward. 

That is exactly what NASCAR wanted to know when they turned to us to help uncover answers to questions like: “We need to know what the sports fan is thinking and feeling ... specifically, our fans.” Will NASCAR fans stay loyal to the sport? Will they return to the stands? How will they engage with us, and how do we leverage those expressed behaviors for the long-term health of the sport and the sport-fan relationship? 

Rather than speculate on a “wait and see” approach, our Designsensory Intelligence team is talking to fans now – and continuing every three weeks – to gather their exact feelings and anticipated behavior once this crisis is past us. It really is interesting to see how those feelings change as our daily outlook on life changes.

Not long ago, everyone we talked with was happy to ingest sports on broadcast/cable/streaming platforms knowing well that they were reruns and thus knowing the outcome of the competition. Today, that has changed—nearly 1/5 of sports fans are choosing to wait until action returns. 

Additionally, we know that one in four fans will head to the track as soon as the action starts, but that isn’t enough to sustain the business model. It will take a sincere strategy to build trust and confidence that measures are in place to protect the nearly 70% of fans who either aren’t sure what it will take ... or acknowledge that they will just need to feel psychological comfort to be part of a large crowd again.

New operational imperatives will prevail, and marketing will be deployed to allay any fears, but the changes to operations – and the entire business culture – must be genuine and honest. Trust and safety will be the dominant attributes that ooze from the event for fans to be present in the seats. And we can’t wait!    

Keeping track of fan or customer feelings in relation to reactivation with a brand, venue, attraction or team is an ongoing activity, and we’ll be here each step of the way.  Stay in touch and informed to make wise decisions.