Will Canadians Ever Return to Live Events?

July 28th, 2020 | Adam Mitchell, Global Lead, SponsorPulse & Digital Products, IMI International

Person’s hand holding TV remote with chips, beer and a soccer game on the TV in the backgroundOver 135 days have passed since the declaration of the global coronavirus pandemic. It was just a few days earlier that the NBA took swift action suspending its season indefinitely due to safety concerns when a player tested positive for COVID-19 – how quickly things evolved from there. Since that time, we’ve witnessed thousands of live entertainment events around the world, and here at home, having no choice other than to postpone, cancel or shut-down permanently, leaving many questioning the future of live entertainment.

As the situation has evolved, discussion in the media around the industry and future fan and consumer behaviour has heated up. Some publications suggesting that the industry will never be the same or that fans will never come back to attend a live event again, perpetuating the uncertainty among teams, festivals, charities, sponsors and most importantly all the people involved in bringing these events to life. There is no denying its harsh economic impact on all stakeholders, but these headlines are far from what consumers are saying across the globe and here in Canada.

The lack of sports content since March has created significant pent-up demand. Canadians have shown a significant increase in future intention to consume sports content across all available channels, whether that be on TV, through streaming services or in-bar. We expect that the combination of increased demand for sport content, condensed competition schedules and the lack of competitive counterprogramming will lead to significant audiences for the balance of summer and opportunities for brands involved. After all, when’s the last time we had playoff hockey in the heat of summer?

Demand for Sports Content Accelerates Ahead of Returns

These unchartered circumstances have spurred positive innovation for sport in the form of new digital and broadcast sponsorship assets that maximize sponsor value, fan engagement initiatives to reignite passion and plenty of ‘firsts’ as players share behind-the-scenes content at how they’re returning to play. There’s no doubt many of these innovations are here to stay and will continue to propel the industry forward.

Beyond the demand for sport content, Canadians are hungry to attend live events of all types. Future intent to attend live events when the coronavirus is no longer a concern has increased, which is a positive indication that demonstrates consumer appetite to participate. Events and sponsors who focus on redefining the future consumer experience will stand to gain as Canadians are telling us that they will be ready.

Strong Future Intention to Attend All Types of Live Events

In the meantime, some properties and sponsors have used this unfortunate circumstance to bring the content that people crave to them in new ways through exclusive song releases at home, self-shot and produced content, virtual cook-offs or repurposing venue spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The new approaches taken have proved how efficient the industry can be without losing effectiveness.

There are still a lot of unknowns ahead for all industries and the live entertainment industry is no exception, but whether Canadians will ever return to live events isn’t one we’re worried about.



Adam Mitchell is the Global Lead for SponsorPulse & Digital Products at IMI International.