Comeback Updates For Top Sponsorship Properties
Sponsors, properties and perhaps most importantly, fans, are anxiously awaiting updates on the re-start of live events as economies start to re-open. In this ongoing post, we'll keep running updates for major properties and offer some commentary on how re-opening plans will affect major sponsors and their socially-distanced sponsorship activations.
Of all properties, live music may be most affected with many major music festivals taking place between Labor and Memorial day. Most festivals are cancelled through early August, though some have opted to stream virtual music festivals online. Others, like Coachella and Bonnaroo, have opted to re-schedule for the fall.
The NBA has approved a plan that will gather 22 teams in Orlando, Florida, to resume the season in July. With effectively no home games, the impact on local team sponsorships will still be significant, though the exposure for league sponsors will be huge as the league should satisfy are pent up demand for sports as the first league to relaunch.
Beginning in July, the league will make IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Official Home of the 2020 WNBA season with a schedule of 22 regular-season games followed by a traditional playoff format.
Though negotiations are still ongoing, it looks like an MLB re-start will include more regional scheduling and an expanded playoff schedule. The sticking point seems to be the economics with teams calling for significant salary cuts due to lost revenue from games without fans.
Given the NFL schedule doesn't begin until Fall, it has largely to date been unaffected by COVID-19. The one casualty of the crisis however will be the international series games, which will not be a part of this year's schedule.
Similar to the NBA, the NHL is looking at "eight or nine" locations that can accommodate resuming a shortened season. On Monday, the league launched Phase 2 of the reopening plan allowing clubs to reopen their training facilities for individualized training activities.
Similar to the NBA, MLS is planning a return-to-play tournament in Orlando this Summer. According to reports, the league hopes to return games to home markets in August. To offset a significant hit to team revenue, MLS is expected to start allowing teams to sell sponsorship patches on players' shorts.
Of all properties, it seems that marathons will be the most affected by COVID-19. With television viewership significantly lower than traditional sports leagues, limiting the field to only top competitors without fans on-site is a much less appealing option. The Boston Marathon has been cancelled, but Chicago and NYC Marathons for now are still on. Will 50k+ runners really want to pack in to the starting line this November?
While the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness have been re-scheduled for October, Belmont is moving forward with the Belmont Stakes as planned on June 20th. Running without fans in attendance, this will be the first time in history that the Belmont Stakes will serve as the opening leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.
It looks like the Citi Open in DC will be the first sanctioned event post-shutdown, followed by the Western & Southern Open being played this year in NYC. The U.S. Open will be the first major to be played in 2020. The Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open will be played without fans in attendance
While the LPGA cancelled its first major this week, the PGA Tour is planning for a return to the links at this weekend's Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club, the first tournament since the Tour was suspended in mid-March. Players and caddies will be tested for COVID-19 in advance and must complete temperature checks before each round. No fans will be in attendance.
While iRacing did a nice job of filling the gap created by COVID-19, nothing beats the real thing. Nascar returned last month at Darlington without fans and may start allowing limited fans at Homestead next weekend.
With the exception of SOBE Wine and Food Festival, many festivals take place in the early Fall giving organizers time to take a wait and see approach. With sports attendance likely still to be somewhat limited until then, food and wine festivals may provide a great opportunity for sponsors to start to re-engage with consumers at events this Fall.