The Sports Industry Stepped Up Big Time In Social Response To COVID-19

by | Mar 23, 2020

PIVOT Founder/CEO, Ben Shapiro, discusses how the sports community lead by example in PIVOT’s First Installment of “Thought Starters”

Hi Sports Fans, and Sports Business Fans!

For those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Ben Shapiro and I am the CEO/Founder of PIVOT Agency.

We are experiencing an unprecedented halt in our usual way of doing business as an industry. This is unique because of the COVID-19 virus’ potential severity, and because it impacts all of us, across the globe.

Given the uniqueness of this situation, we at PIVOT feel this is a moment for us to provide perspective from a historical standpoint and to let others know that they are not alone as we continue to evolve as an industry. I welcome any feedback from peers and followers in sports business and sports as a whole.

To that end, we will be releasing a series of blogs to cover some of the impacts of this virus to the sports business industry: What we know, what we don’t know, and instill a sense of community; perhaps a sounding board for others to post their ideas and coping mechanisms during this challenging time. PIVOT, like many agencies, properties and companies, is open for business! However, it is hardly business as usual.

Given where we are at this exact moment, The topic for this blog is: How the sports industry stepped up Big Time in social response to COVID-19.

The very first impact of this virus to the sports world occurred just two months ago, on January 22nd when The International Olympic Committee cancelled Olympic boxing qualifiers due to take place in Wuhan and the Olympic women’s soccer qualifiers moved from Wuhan to Nanjing, before later being switched to Sydney. Little did we know or understand at the time, that these were the first of many significant global events that would be cancelled because of the coronavirus. For a complete listing of all sports events impacted, please check out the BBC’s article providing a timeline to cancelled events in the sports industry.

In this country, I am proud of the visionary leadership expressed by Larry Ellison and Adam Silver, who led the charge in the United States by postponing the BNP Paribas Open, and the NBA, respectively. At the time these decisions were made, March 11th and March 12th, respectively, some people in this nation believed the coronavirus to be a hoax, over-inflated, or an issue contained in other countries. Yet, almost immediately, the NHL, MLS, MLB and others followed suit and postponed their respective seasons. Even the Masters and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, perhaps two of the most venerated events, in any sport, announced it was postponing/canceling its tournaments. While shocking at the time these decisions exemplified bold leadership.

I believe it was the sports industry that helped the general public understand the seriousness of this event, and that helped lead to the aggressive actions taken by other industries and our Federal, State and Local Governments.

I think it is also important to mention such industry notables as Mark Cuban, and NBA players such as Kevin Love & Zion Williamson, and others, who are ensuring hourly workers that are an important part of our industry are being paid wages during this shutdown. Again, I am proud of the contributions of the leaders of our industry and hope that this caring attitude is prevalent in other industries and workplaces given how many workers will be impacted.

Like all things, this too shall pass, and we, as an industry are facing a massive test of resolve. We have been tested before, and the importance of sports and large-scale events, such as the Olympic Games and playoff games/matches to our global culture is undeniable.

Sports has long been a rallying point for American society – in the aftermath of WWI and WWII the sport of baseball was critical in healing our country. The NFL took a brief hiatus during the events of 9/11, but was back, shortly thereafter to provide entertainment and a sense of belonging. Weeks after 9/11, when the New York Yankees faced the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series, President Bush used the platform to inspire a nation, thank first responders, and assure Americans that there would be a return to normalcy. While it is easy to think that we, in this industry, are simply fun and games, I would argue that sports culture is a fundamental pillar to our lives as Americans. This history exemplifies that many will be depending on us as an industry to serve a similar purpose to celebrate and rejoice when normalcy is resumed.

Even though the coronavirus represents a significant threat to all of our respective businesses, I hope this is a temporary setback. Our current collective focus must be to minimize the spread and use precaution due to the potential loss of human lives.

Once we emerge from this situational circumstance, sports will be back, bigger and better than ever, as the need to collectively celebrate and participate in leisure and competition, to be inspired by individuals who participate in the field of play will be a necessary distraction as we rebuild from the impacts of this disease.

In future posts, PIVOT will provide some context to how this virus is impacting sponsorship, media, properties, travel and other facets of the industry. Further, I will introduce you to other PIVOT subject matter experts to provide some information about their respective areas of expertise. We will also provide some information regarding how athletes are managing their professional sports careers and personal lives during this outbreak.

In closing, I sincerely hope this blog provides information and some entertainment during this trying time.


Ben Shapiro

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