sport | covid-19 | 4 min read

#WhenThisIsOver - What will sport mean to consumers in the post-lockdown reality?

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Following weeks of self-isolation and home office for many, governments across the world have started to ease the lockdown restrictions. As a result and in direct response to the upcoming changes, conversations about the post-lockdown reality are booming. We’ve seen a 50% month-on-month increase in social posts relating to the “when this is over” debate, signalling clearly our readiness to go out. 

Sport has been an integral part of a lifestyle for many, its popularity and purpose only increasing during the lockdown. Radarly tells us conversations focusing on fitness regimes and staying fit have been increasing gradually, largely due to the positive impact exercise has on our holistic wellbeing. A great way to let off steam but also combat the psychological effects of self-isolation, exercise routines offered many the structure and focus needed to carry on. Is this relationship likely to change as lockdown measures are gradually being lifted and consumers are exposed to regained freedoms and other outdoor temptations?

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The conscious change and information seeking

Through activist campaigns and the spotlight shone on the benefits lockdown has had on the environment, consumers became more aware of their own impact on the planet. We saw many considering their carbon footprint and lifestyle changes they should make to continue with the positive trend. Increased physical activity, including cycling instead of using public transport, is one of the options mentioned. Overall, online conversations focusing on environment and sports in the first quarter of 2020 increased by almost a third (29%, source: Radarly) when compared to the last three months of the year before. 

April 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day globally. Although the circumstances didn’t allow for jubilant celebrations, over 1.5M posts in a single day marked the occasion and highlighted the increasing awareness and interest in the subject. Sport was one of the key topics associated with the Earth Day conversation. From local clubs with ambitious plans for a better, greener future to international stars pledging support to the cause, the link between sport and environment is growing strong.

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The trend is reflected in the choices consumers make and how they discuss their post-quarantine, healthier future. The undeniable positive impact of Covid-19 on the energy demand, traffic and CO2 emissions means that it’s easier to see the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, of which sport is a major part.

Our own research demonstrated how important social values, including environmental action, are to the modern consumer. Covid-19 has only strengthened that notion and many now emphasise their ambition of #notgoingback to the damaging way of living from before the outbreak. The pandemic is seen as a wake up call and an opportunity to lead a more mindful and healthy lifestyle. Brands, including sport and activewear where the connection is undeniable, must ensure their stance on this topic is well known and recognised.

Cycling as a key mode of transport

As consumers face the decisions of going back to the office, public transport and a fear of unnecessary exposure are top of mind. With its positive impact on carbon footprint, cycling is an ideal solution. From dusting off their old two-wheelers to seeking recommendations for a new buy, consumers have started to embrace biking - as a mode of transport but also a new way of exploring their surroundings.

The cycling category registered a 150% increase in month on month mentions in May (source: Radarly), with consumers discussing new biking lanes and cycle to work schemes available in several countries. Governments in the UK and France have already announced schemes to boost cycling initiatives and increase capacity of key cities to accommodate this potential “new normal”. The announcements generated positive engagement and debate on healthy transport options, activating the network of experienced cyclists keen to promote their sport far and wide.

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Sport activities are a reward not regime

Sport has been top of mind for many during lockdown and it won’t change once the quarantine is over. New exercise routines, fitness regimes and online communities have been discovered as the virus limited the usual workout setup.

Of all key topics driving the post-lockdown conversation, sport was one of those heavily influenced by brands. Nike and Adidas mentions dominated the chat, as consumers referenced their favourite equipment and gear, as well as workout types. 

Interestingly, the relationship with exercise is shifting, and the activities are seen as a need, something consumers want to be doing, rather than a must. Using sport as a reward for putting up with quarantine, purchasing a new pair of trainers to celebrate re-gained freedom and a liberty to exercise outdoors demonstrate the type of relationship consumers have with fitness today. It’s not a chore, it’s a treat and one they look forward to Initiatives such as the Instagram #pushupchallenge get the public involved in a simple yet fun activity, encouraging regular fitness routine. Variations of the call outs, setting out objectives easily met by anyone who wants to join (from 5 pushups through to 20 and above) mean everyone can get involved.

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Group exercise in the comfort of one’s home means self-conscious consumers have a chance to join a community-led activity without over-exposing themselves in a room full of people. Online sessions removed many barriers to entry, from budget constraints to travel, and enabled a wider community to connect and network in a seamless way. Reebok responded to that call with their Home Fitness Hub - a community driven initiative which activates personal trainers through the brand’s loyalty program. The campaign offers consumers professional advice and guidelines, boosting visibility for personal trainers who have suffered decline in demand due to the outbreak.

Social cause and exercise 

Contributing positively to the society through sporting activities is a trend we’ve seen exploding during lockdown. Consumers expect brands to not only contribute but lead efforts to minimise the impact of the outbreak. 

Responding to the challenge, Adidas has launched an initiative to encourage its fan base to stay home and healthy through joining their #hometeam. They’ve mobilized 2,500 of their athletes and creators not only to help the nation to get moving but also to keep a healthy mind during the lockdown. New ideas and content served to consumers on a daily basis ensures the engagement and motivation stay high. 

Whilst #hometeam supports the overall Adidas community, the brand is also using digital means to address the needs of specific tribes. Those who’ve turned to running during the crisis can connect with like-minded individuals through Adidas Mentorship space on Facebook. The adidas Runners international community is a 30 days pilot, offering the group health guidelines, online classes, nutrition advice and mental support

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Using sport for good is not only a brand-led activity. Instagram has been flooded with images of consumers participating in the Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5 challenge. Originally called Run for Heroes, the initiative was started by a 27 year old runner enthusiast in Scotland. At the time of writing, the Instagram account associated with the campaign has over 63K followers and the donations towards the NHS (National Health Service) reached over £5M (surpassing the initial target of £5K).

Get ready for the new era

It’s clear, from the online conversation, that consumer relationship with sport is changing, and for good. Topics we’ve seen as emerging just a few months ago, are now becoming the start of a new norm and the post-lockdown reality. Brands not only should but have a responsibility to help their audiences adjust.

 

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