What to watch for in 2020
1) Attendance Decline
As the cost of going to a game rises and entertainment options expand, attendance continues to decline across the U.S. sports landscape. The NFL saw another decline in attendance this season and reached the lowest point since 2004. MLB continued a twelve-year trend with another decrease in attendance for 2019 (down 1 million fans from 2018). The NBA and NHL remained relatively flat overall during the 2018-19 season. MLS experienced a slight increase with the addition of a new team, but the average per match attendance was down after years of strong growth. College football also continued to drop. A recent article in the LA Times showed the average cost for a family of 4 to attend the local professional sports teams, which ranged from $821 on the high end to attend a Chargers game to $198 to see the Angels. Fandom often starts with attending games as a kid. If this trend continues along with the change in viewing habits, what will the future look like if we are losing a generation of fans?
2) New Venues
2020 will see the openings of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home to the Rams/Chargers and Raiders respectively. It will be interesting to see the impact both have in these markets. It’s hard to imagine Inglewood becoming a destination place for Los Angeles besides Sunday’s for football games or the occasional concert at the Forum, but you could have said the same thing about downtown LA when Staples Center first opened. This spring will also welcome MLB’s latest ballpark with Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. The NHL’s newest team arena is under construction in Seattle with a 2021 scheduled opening. MLS continues it’s explosive growth with several new stadiums in the pipeline. FC Cincinnati will open in 2021 with Austin, St. Louis, Miami, Columbus, Nashville, and Sacramento on the way. Will the A’s continue to make progress in Oakland with their new ballpark plans and will Steve Ballmer and the Clippers win their battle for a new arena in LA (Inglewood)?
3) CBD Category
2019 saw the early beginnings of the CBD category in the sponsorship world with individual athletes and a few select sports property deals (e.g. UFC). Most of the major sports remain reluctant, but this could change. MLB recently altered its stance on Marijuana with the players union and numerous current and former athletes are involved with CBD companies. Will this take a similar path as the Spirits category once did not so long ago or will it mirror the gambling transformation as the legal landscape evolves?
4) Sports Gambling Impact
This category experienced tremendous growth the past couple of years. 20 states have now legalized gambling with more on the way. All of the major U.S. sports leagues have cut deals with either MGM or Caesars along with most of the teams. Draft Kings and Fan Duel have partnered up with these casino giants along with several of the fantasy sports sites. Even restaurants/bars like Buffalo Wild Wings are getting in on the action. We are also seeing more integration throughout sports media coverage. This year will see a sports book open at Capital One Arena in DC with others likely to follow. How will this impact the sports landscape and the next generation of sports fans? Today’s kids will grow up with gambling as an open and integral part of the sports experience instead of the off the record, behind closed doors, call my bookie days from previous generations.