Sports industry doesn't expect full venues until 2022 without a vaccine

As sports events such s the Guinness 6 Nations and GAA inter-county championships shape up for a return next month, 46% of the Irish sports industry believe major sports events will proceed with reduced capacity of up to 25% attendees across the remainder of 2020, according to new research by ONSIDE.

The third wave of the ONSIDE Covid-19 Sports Impact Monitor survey of sponsors, rights holders, broadcasters and agency members of the Sport for Business industry group found that seven in 10 sports industry stakeholders expect major sports events to be hosting between 26 and 50% attendees by the first half of 2021, albeit just one in four expect venues to be more than 75% full before 2022 unless a vaccine is available.

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish sports sponsorship market to date, John Trainor, founder and CEO of sponsorship analysts ONSIDE, noted: “While 8% of sponsors say they have already dropped out of an existing sports sponsorship as a result of Covid-19 and a further 17% are considering stepping back from their current deals, encouragingly a similar 17% have already entered into new sponsorships since Covid-19 began.

“Sponsors have been increasingly looking to renegotiate a revised fee as the impact of empty stadia becomes more evident. The numbers of industry practitioners considering fee adjustment approaches to sponsorship arrangements that are affected by Covid-19 have jumped from 27% in June up to 43% in September.

“All sides are sensitive to the unique nuances and the evolving nature of the situation, and to the importance of managing an approach to this challenge that recognises the established and long-term relationships required to make the sponsorships work effectively in the recovery phase and beyond.”

Several opportunities were uncovered by the ONSIDE industry research as potentially valuable parts of rebooted sports presentation in the short term, with rights including pitch-side grass branding and empty seat covers highly favored by sponsors. In-venue apps that allow for pre-order food at half-time scored highly as an opportunity by 67% surveyed about how sponsors can support future safety measures.

Rob Hartnett, CEO at industry group Sport for Business, stated: “On the field, the majority of the sports industry surveyed by ONSIDE are optimistic that most scheduled events in the fourth quarter of 2020 will conclude, and also encouraging was the significant 35% of sports sponsors that claim their organisation is likely to invest in cause-related sports initiatives and women’s sports in the next 12 months.”

The industry research found AIB and Musgrave’s GAA partnerships and Bank of Ireland and Vodafone’s most recent rugby initiatives as the stand-out sponsorships in action over the past two months, with two in three stand-out sponsorships called out by the latest ONSIDE research being originated ‘locally’ in Ireland.

Looking beyond 2020, levels of optimism for recovery in the sports industry remain strong, with seven in 10 industry practitioners expecting good recovery in sport in Ireland in the next year or twos. Concerns among sports industry practitioners for the wider Irish economy, however, are at their most fragile since the pandemic began, with just four in 10 optimistic about the wider landscape, and approval for how the government is handling the Covid-19 crisis dropping a significant 13% since June.

Field work for the third wave of the ONSIDE Covid-19 Sports Impact Monitor was carried out from August 20 to September 4.

*Pictured above, founder and CEO of ONSIDE, John Trainor. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy