Covid-19 has forever changed sports marketing

The Covid-19 health crisis had a profound impact on organizations that had to rethink the way they operated to address lockdowns, the closure of so-called "non-essential" businesses, social distancing and telecommuting. 

New digital marketing strategies have emerged for obvious reasons. One industry that has been heavily impacted is sports marketing. Here is what you need to know about this structural disruption.


Sports marketing has demonstrated resilience in the face of Covid-19

Certainly, the overwhelming majority of industries have been affected by the global pandemic. However, sports have come to an abrupt and unprecedented halt. In fact, sports activities have been stopped in 2020 at all levels, both professional and amateur. 

Associations and clubs had to suspend their activities for many months and many sports events were cancelled after years of preparation. Sports professionals have suffered heavy losses. Some have seen their revenues melt by 40%. They are now hoping for a return to normalcy by 2023.

Nevertheless, the sports world has shown great resilience, relying on innovation and an extraordinary capacity to adapt in a context of crisis. Sports marketing has played a key role in this resilience, especially in e-sports.

E-sports to engage audiences 

Digitalization has literally exploded with the health crisis, including in the sports world. To survive, the event industry in the broadest sense has accelerated its digital transformation. 

For its part, e-sports has experienced an impressive growth. The number of viewing hours for e-sport games has tripled, and players' performances have thrilled crowds around the world thanks to live streaming.

Sports marketing professionals and sports event project managers were quick to seize the opportunity of new digital technologies to create value. Viewers are no longer passive. They are actively involved in the sports event thanks to ICT.

Sports marketing trends

The evolutions of digital sports marketing in the context of the pandemic were not just ephemeral trends. They have reshaped the way sports marketing is done and established new paradigms that are still relevant today, both on the media and sponsorship level.

#1 Sports media

The public has benefited from the densification of the content catalog of the sports media with a tendency to innovation. New content formats have become widespread, such as highlights of matches or competitions, "behind the scenes" videos, documentaries produced by athletes, bloopers, etc.

Streaming platforms (Amazon Prime, Netflix, Eurosport Player, etc.) now offer original, interactive, immersive and rich sports content to meet the new expectations of audiences.

New distribution channels ( other than TV ) have emerged in sports marketing. The streaming platform Twitch is gaining momentum and competing head-on with television. This splitting of channels, which is only an adaptation to the omnichannel experience expected by audiences, is an interesting opportunity for sports marketing professionals and brands who want to reach new targets.

#2 Sponsorship

Some industries have increased their revenues during the crisis such as retail, health, IT, etc. They are expected to launch and/or pursue their investment in sports sponsorship. Another revolution in post-Covid sports is influencer marketing. Social networks provide a great playground for athletes to express themselves, share their values and engage with the community. An increasing number of athletes are taking a stand on sensitive issues and advocating for causes. This awareness strengthens the support of their fan community. Moreover, audiences are increasingly expecting their idols to be socially engaged.

#3 The consolidation of the hybrid model

The sports industry is gradually returning to its pre-crisis codes with a gradual return to face-to-face events. However, virtual events and e-sports competitions are not disappearing, quite the contrary! These alternatives that were developed during the pandemic will remain (virtual ticketing, virtual events, etc.).

Throughout the health crisis, sports marketing has demonstrated resilience and a capacity to adapt and innovate. Professionals have been (and still are) bold enough to reinvent the way sports marketing is done, with a mix of face-to-face and virtual actions. This capacity for innovation should once again shine through during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games!

Do you want to pursue a career in the exciting field of sports marketing? The American Business School of Paris has developed the Bachelor in Sports Management, a unique training program that allows you to acquire all the necessary skills to shine in this fascinating industry!

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