We know that the various lockdowns have had significant negative effects on mass participation events, exhibitions, and team sports, but it has also encouraged millions of people people to try new sports and to be active outside. In April 2020 alone, a study showed that more than 890K new athletes took part in their first 5K challenge on Strava and in a separate study, Mintel also reported almost 25% of the UK population are now hikers. Sport England reported an extra 1.2m people riding bikes for leisure during the early period of the nation’s initial lockdown, while an extra 2.1m exercised at home, compared to the same period last year.
I believe that this represents a significant opportunity for brands operating in those areas and the e-commerce stats seem to support this (e-commerce sales in health and beauty were up 73% YOY according to IMRG & Capgemini.) E-commerce has sustained many in our industry during the lockdown period, but the online world is becoming crowded and price driven so the return of in-person sales channels will be welcomed by many.
We can already see a return of smaller crowds to sporting events such as football, rugby and boxing and clearly the demand is there (provided that safety is assured.) I believe that the impact on mass-participation sporting events is temporary and that people are desperate to return to an in-person experience. Some of these events are already back and doing very well (I’m taking part in a Maverick Race event this weekend which is sold out!)
As for exhibitions, a comprehensive study of 9,000 visitors and exhibitors from 31 countries conducted by Explori over the lockdown period stated:
Not only were live events being sorely missed by both visitors and exhibitors, it seems that they have not found alternative channels that can replace the unique aspects of face-to-face networking.
Whilst many brands have successfully pivoted to digital during in 2020, I believe that to be temporary and not an elective choice so people will just as quickly pivot back to in-person engagement.
This is a view that is shared by Steven Taylor (Professor of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia and author of The Psychology of Pandemics) who stated:
…psychological research on catastrophic events shows that most people do bounce back. Post-lockdown Wuhan is a case in point. In August, Wuhan staged a massive waterpark music festival in which thousands of people crowded, shoulder to shoulder, at an outdoor pool party. There were no protective masks, and certainly no social distancing. Similar events will likely occur elsewhere in the world when the pandemic is over.
So, if mass participation events do return and current participation levels (excluding team sports) have increased then perhaps an opportunity is looming?
At Raccoon Events, our own data would appear to support this, we have seen over 13,000 visitors sign up to the National Outdoor Expo in March and the National Running Show in June has seen a similar number of registrations. We have also seen over 2,000 people sign up to attend the National Snow Show in October in the first weekend of going on sale! This is way above our expectations and supports my personal view that a significant opportunity is coming.
We know that there are a few months of hardship ahead, but we also know that the tiered restrictions have a ‘sunset clause’ which expires on 3rd February. We also know that Boris and other senior cabinet ministers have spoken openly about a return to life without restrictions after Easter (4th April) and it is my belief that this will happen gradually as restrictions are eased in the lead up to Easter. With rapid testing, biological passports and vaccines being rolled out as we speak, it is my belief that the restrictions on our lives are likely to start to ease early in the New Year.
If I’m correct, then this presents a huge opportunity for brick-and-mortar retail, mass-participation events and exhibitions (like ours) that target consumers with active lifestyles.
The last few months of video conferencing, social distancing and working from home have taught us to value in-person experiences more than ever! An opportunity is coming – get ready for the bounce!
Mike Seaman, CEO, Raccoon Events