The Covid-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way live events are organized and perceived by consumers, and a new study has provided insight on what attendees will expect from organizers once they return.
Performance Research, an agency focused on sponsorships and experiential marketing, found that restroom cleaning, hand sanitizer availability and reduced capacity will be the factors most likely to increase event attendance consideration in the future.
The finding comes from the second phase of its Impact of Covid-19 on Live Events study, which showed an overall increase in U.S. consumer concern about attending live events post-pandemic and an increase in expectations of changes related to health and safety.
Performance Research worked with online sampling company Full Circle Research Co. to survey more than 1,000 representative U.S. consumers for each phase; the responses were collected first on March 23-26, then May 11-14.
The percentage of consumers who said attending large public events would scare them for a long time increased from 47% in March to 60% in May. Consumers also said they were less likely to attend in-person events in the future, an increase from 44% in March to 52% in May.
“Just as the country begins to open up, there has been a swing toward increasing caution, with a majority of Americans clearly saying ‘not yet’ when it comes to attending large public events,” said Jed Pearsall, founder of Performance Research, in a statement. “And event organizers should take notice. Fans of all types of events can identify significant milestones and new safety precautions that will get them back. Simply opening the doors will not be enough.”
The percentage of people concerned about venue cleanliness and sanitation increased from 66% to 74%, and close contact with strangers increased from 59% to 67%. The top three precautions consumers reported would increase their likelihood of attending events were: specially treated and cleaned restrooms (73%); hand-sanitizing stations throughout venues (72%); and reduced capacity or increased spacing at venues (69%).
Other reported considerations included the availability of face masks and gloves at events for those who want them and requiring them for staff; touchless payment and entry systems; having safety officers at events to help oversee and enforce safe distancing and sanitizing procedures; and temperature checks for all attendees.
Agencies will have to take a leadership role
Seth Bardacke, vp of operations at GDX Studios, said the considerations are in line with what the experiential marketing company has predicted attendees will care about when events return. The company has gotten a head start on preparing for these and other safety factors with the launch of GDXtra Care Health and Safety Program, a 147-page manual that outlines safety and cleaning protocols it will institute for activations once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“One thing the survey showed us is people are identifying precautions that will take them back to events,” Bardacke said. “We hope our program will benefit all agencies to establish those milestones and protocols that will get people out and make them feel comfortable while they’re there.”
To develop the safety guidelines—which naturally will vary based on the type of venue and activation—GDX Studios worked with health and safety organizations including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the CDC, WHO and ISSA to gain certifications for taking preventative measures against Covid-19.
“Brands will need to trust their agency that they’ve gone the extra mile to keep their patrons safe,” Aaron Gaeir, founder of GDX Studios, added. “We’ve been doing this for 11 years, since before experiential marketing was called experiential marketing, and we felt it was our duty to lead our industry in this ever-changing landscape.”
Jeff Snyder, founder and chief inspiration officer at Inspira Marketing Group, a consumer engagement agency, said it will be agencies’ responsibility to take a leadership role and instate these precautions—and adapt to how locations are easing restrictions, from the state and city levels down to municipalities and neighborhoods.
“As we work with clients to brainstorm what activations will look like in the end of 2020 and through 2021, it’s challenged us to start thinking through situations of planning,” Snyder said. “We’re bucketing things based on the activation locale and phase of recovery, and thinking about how to ensure we’re complying [with] local safety standards, and [prioritizing] what’s in the best interests of the consumer.”
Snyder added that these considerations will naturally affect the creativity of activations in the future, but in a positive way.
“Just a few months ago [before the pandemic], we were in the height of the experiential economy, which challenged us to go big with ideas. Now, we’ll be forced to wear different hats as we go through the creative and ideation process,” he said. “We’ll have to put ourselves in [the attendees’] shoes and think through every single element. How can we demonstrate empathy, showcase trust and deliver an experience for our brand?”
Beyond health and safety precautions, Performance Research’s second study also found that concrete milestones in the fight against Covid-19 will impact whether consumers attend events again. The milestones that consumers deemed “very important” in their decision included a cure (65%), an FDA-approved vaccine (63%) and widespread testing (60%).