The ticketed entertainment world has come to a halt due to COVID-19. Conventions are being shut down globally. Music festivals are being canceled. NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, MLS, and XFL competitions have all been suspended or postponed. These shutdowns, cancellations, suspensions, and postponements have created a void. In 2019, March Madness alone brought in over $650 million in ad revenue and over 100 million live streams. In 2020, those numbers are $0 and 0 viewers. So how are these brands staying relevant in the age of social distancing and quarantine?

Suns Shining on Twitch

Just like the rest of the NBA, the Phoenix Suns’ season has been suspended. But that doesn’t mean the show can’t go on. The organization has decided to virtually play out the rest of the seasons’ matchups on the video game NBA 2K and stream it all on Twitch, a live streaming service owned by Amazon. The first game drew in 12,500 views, landing their channel a top ten spot on the platform.

The Suns even brought in some real NBA talent to help out. Phoenix rookie Ty Jerome picked up the controller and faced off online against Minneapolis shooting guard Josh Okogie, recreating the Suns’ scheduled matchup against the Timberwolves (including the postgame trash talk).

The numbers don’t compare to what a regular-season game would bring in, even for the third-worst team in the Western Conference (they even lost one of their 2K simulations). That’s not the point. The point is that the Suns are keeping their brand awareness high.

A Different Formula

When McLaren’s Formula 1 driver Lando Norris heard that the 2020 Australian Grand Prix was canceled, he booted up his computer and partnered with Veloce Esports to host his own race, cleverly named “Not the AUS GP.” Using the racing simulator F1 2019, Norris took on ex-F1 racers, YouTube creators, and even soccer team Real Madrid’s starting goalkeeper. The event saw a peak of over 70,000 concurrent viewers, decimating Formula 1’s previous streaming record of 24,233.

Norris might have lost his shot at hoisting the Jack Brabbham trophy in Melbourne, but he scored a big win for Formula 1, McLaren, and his personal brand awareness with the “Not the AUS GP.”

Indycar Looks Back and Drives Forward

Races are postponed and teams are closing up shop for the time being, so IndyCar used their downtime to revisit the past. The NTT IndyCar Series aired a rebroadcast of the 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Series’ first race of the season, and one of the biggest events every year.

IndyCar tied in their social media channels by having drivers live-tweet the event, and invited fans to join in using the hashtag #FirestoneGP.

But IndyCar won’t only be looking back. The organization also recently took on the future of racing by streaming virtual races featuring their athletes, including pre-race virtual autograph signings and post-race interviews. Sage Karam won the inaugural event which used the iRacing software. IndyCar will be holding similar simulated events on Sundays through May 2.

IndyCar’s creative solutions to the shutdown brought in TV views and social impressions in a time when both are desperately needed by brands.

The Show Must Go On

Concerts and festivals might be getting canceled worldwide, but the rock’s still gotta roll. Touring brings in a huge percentage of musical acts’ revenue, promotes album sales, and keeps artists’ brands in the spotlight. With all that shut down many musicians are turning to social media.

Chris Martin of Coldplay fame and John Legend of John Legend fame teamed up for an Instagram Live performance. Keith Urban used the platform to do the same. In fact, almost every major artist you can think of has been doing some sort of live streaming.
These virtual concerts bring in new followers that are sure to hang around long after we’ve all returned to society. They also keep brand awareness high for the performers and bring in plenty of earned media. And who knows, if they get enough fire emoji reactions your favorite band might even log back on for an encore.

Early Birds Get the Worms

Even in quarantine, you can only rewatch The Office so many times. Brands are realizing the need for fresh streaming content available and adjusting their schedules to satiate the binging masses. Your kids will be happy to know that Disney made a big move by bumping up the streaming release of Frozen II, and with so many theaters shutting down, many studios have moved pictures from the box office to your living room.

While Frozen II already grossed well over a billion dollars globally, the move by Disney will bring in more viewers and create more Disney+ customers. Flexibility like this will help businesses through this Coronavirus pandemic, though we don’t think anyone has to worry about Disney.

A Glimpse Into the Future

This is an unprecedented time. But are these changes just a bump in the road for the ticketed entertainment industry, or has Coronavirus accelerated the timeline? The numbers might go down when COVID-19 and social distancing are over. But the overall trends show that consumers are more and more choosing live streaming as their preferred method of entertainment. Esports already brings in more viewers than many traditional sports, and though it’s important to note that it’s not an exact comparison, it’s hard to ignore the data.

The NBA already has a foot in the world of esports through the NBA 2K League where 23 franchises battle it out on the pixelated parquet. The NFL has begun streaming their Thursday Night Football games on Twitch. Disney and NBC have created Disney+ and Peacock to stream their content. YouTube, Facebook, and Microsoft have all invested heavily in their live streaming platforms.

Ticketed entertainment is one of our specialties. An MKR media audit will help you know if your business has its finger on the pulse, or if you’re missing out on valuable impressions. We can also help you craft and execute a marketing strategy based on the data we collect. If your brand could use some expertise in the digital age, contact us and we’d be happy to talk.