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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Goldfarb

Reinventing Professional Sports in the Covid-19 Era… your business should too


Sports are deeply entrenched in our American culture and psyche. Long before the first Super Bowl, we were fanatical about competitive sports. People have long been fascinated by athletic prowess since ancient times… Roman gladiators, chariot races, Greek Olympic games. And since this time, not much has changed.


In the 1940s boxing, football, baseball, and horse racing were all loved by millions of Americans. As a matter of fact — right after the attack on Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt sent out the famous “Green Light Letter” to endorse baseball as an acceptable war-time activity & reiterated the importance of professional baseball to boost the morale & spirit of the nation.


Throughout the years, we have often questioned why sports are so important to us. We know it is a recreational activity and was projected to bring in over $140 Billion (tickets, travel, food, drinks) this year. We know that pro sports are not something we need to survive, especially in a pandemic. Yet, it’s something Americans have always relied on to heal our national psyche.


Crazy, huh? Check it out…


-Super Bowl XXV (Buffalo Bills vs NY Giants): This was the Super Bowl event that took place during the Gulf War in 1991. Not only was it an incredible game where the Bills lost to the Giants by 1 point — we were given an emotional high from listening to Whitney Houston’s insightful rendition of our national anthem.

-Sept. 21, 2001 (NY Mets vs Atlanta Braves): Only 10 days after the Twin Towers fell — NY took center stage with a 3–2 victory over Atlanta at Shea Stadium…Who can forget Mike Piazza’s eighth inning homerun leaving players, fans at Shea and TV viewers around the country in tears?

-Sept. 18, 2005 (New Orleans Saints vs NY Giants). On Aug 29th 2009 — Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans with extensive damage and flooding. Who can forget the emotional impact of watching the Saints “come marching home” to the Mercedes Benz Superdome just two weeks later?


And, once again Pro Sports was tagged to raise our collective sagging national spirit…


Due to COVID — worldwide professional sports was shut down for 3 months. During this time — the US lost -1.3 million sports jobs (furloughed, laid off, fired) -$12.3 billion in revenue ($133.4 million/day or $92.6 thousand/minute).


Plus, we had never faced “social-distanced” players and fans alike. But, despite possible exposure for the players, restricted “bubble” living & playing, fan-free venues and daily testing, we restarted pro ball. At first it seemed very iffy but now we have become accustomed to the altered universe of cardboard cutouts and pre-recorded crowd noises.


But has it been worth it?


Of course, fandom has been “rebooted” with continued TV, radio and online streaming and fan support (53 million-NBA, 51 million-NFL, 31 million- MLB and 10 million- MLS). And, even with abbreviated game schedules and often competing game times… leagues like the WNBA, NBA, NFL, and MLB were able to use this time to bring key issues (Black Lives Matter, Police Brutality and COVID relief efforts) to the forefront of our awareness.


Now that the NFL is in full swing, WNBA, NBA and MLB seasons are over — the lingering question yet to be answered… was resuming pro sports worth risking the health of league staff, media and players?


At this point — there is no clear-cut answer. What we do know is that, economically speaking, the shortened season will end with a 50% loss from initial projections bringing in only $74 billion. Not one league has been able to operate a profitable endeavor as can be seen with losses of: $1.3 billion-NFL, $1 billion-MLS, $950 million-NBA, and $500 million-MLB.


Does that mean the US love affair and morale builder with sports is waning?


It still seems highly doubtful, but we will not know until 2021…As of today — pro sports will return to their full schedule and game time slots throughout the year. Although in 2021 games may still have no fans in attendance — the Olympics are expected to help offset most of the losses. Plus, with the election being put to bed and people returning to a more “normal” pre-Covid life — it is anticipated that professional sports will fully recover & recoup 2020 losses.


There is no doubt that Pro sports will continue to be an integral part of American life. For all the Covid-19 related hardships including staying at home, one good thing we can remember is our unexpected gift of family time… and that is priceless!


Now here’s some advice from a coach, a business one — myself. At this time of crisis, do as our pro sports leagues are doing…


  1. Find ways to support your audience — make them happy, think of ways your audience can be supported in the face of uncertainty and try to anticipate what they need.

  2. Use your strength — respond and help your audience in ways that are consistent with your brand.

  3. Adapt to the change — be sensitive to the needs of your community as it goes through uncertainty and reinvent your business model to address the changes.

“In baseball as in business, there are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — Tommy Lasorda


For help with reimagining and reengineering your business, email us at debbieg@bizmadeez.com. Let’s talk!


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