We are inundated with information about COVID-19. Every day brings a new study, recommendation, or contradiction of previous policy. One thing we know is that COVID-19 essentially wiped out the 2020 sports year for fans. How is the 2021 fall sports season playing out with sports fans in the United States against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the Delta variant?
Kantar Sports MONITOR is always “taking the pulse” of sports and entertainment fans. They just released a “Quick Read” about fan sentiments related to COVID-19. Some of their questions focused on vaccine requirements to play sports, how confident fans are about health safety at sporting events, and where fans are in terms of their fears about COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant. The comparison between 2020 and 2021 is instructive.
High profile players like Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) have made news for their stance on COVID-19 vaccinations. Sports celebrities can influence their fans, so Kantar tried to determine whether these noisy, high-profile athletes and the media coverage about their positions “reflect the will of most sports fans.” The answer appears to be NO! It appears that sports fans strongly support health safety and are more likely to be vaccinated (81%) than people who are not sports fans (72%). Kantar found that 73% of sports fans support requiring professional athletes to be vaccinated.
Kantar’s research indicates that the rapid spread of the Delta variant affected fan confidence about attending large sporting events. Between October 2020 and May 2021, fan confidence grew, with 54% of fans indicating they were “extremely or very confident” about attending sporting events. The rise of the Delta variant over the summer negatively affected fan confidence about the health safety of sporting events so that by October 2021, only 39% of people were “extremely or very confident” about attending sporting events. Kantar noted that the falling confidence of fans reduced fan attendance at Major League Baseball games by 34% from 2019.
There are reasons to be hopeful. Kantar discovered that fans are coming to terms with the Delta variant and are feeling better than they were in 2020. Fan sentiment about COVID-19 improved between October 2020 and October 2021 with 72% of fans now indicating they think the “worst of coronavirus” in their community is behind them. Anyone watching college football games can see nearly every televised game showing stadiums almost filled to capacity. Perhaps the United States is turning the corner in the fight against COVID-19?
Kantar. (n.d.). Checking the Pulse: Sports fans and COVID-19. Kantar. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from https://sites.kantar.com/subscription/Sports_MONITOR/Quick_Read/2021/Sports_Fans_and_COVID/SportsFansandCOVID19.html.