Sports and Entertainment Trends Shift, Spike & Set the Stage for 2021 

Market research is all about staying ahead of emerging trends. And change is ongoing in the sports and entertainment industries, as trends continue to shift, setting the stage for 2021.

We’ll take a brief look here at the world of sports and entertainment with a focus on:

  • Comparing today’s conversation versus the historical narrative
  • The rise of sports and entertainment alternatives
  • Looking to the future

And here are a few stats we uncovered that are of interest to the conversation.

  • Only 24% of respondents would feel comfortable attending an outdoor event at 100% capacity, according to Statista.
  • In 2019, the video streaming market stood at $42.6B globally. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.4% between 2020-2027.
  • While NBA viewership was down uncharacteristically this year, WNBA viewership grew by 68%.

With that, let’s dig in and see how today’s conversation compares to last year.

CTA_Q_AK 2020 Media Intelligence Report Online Gaming

Sports and Entertainment: Then Vs. Now

It seems like an eternity since going to live sporting events or out to the movies was a thing. Markets are hopeful of a return to some semblance of normalcy as vaccines get preliminary governmental approval. But even as we enter a post-pandemic world, some industry shifts in how we do sports and entertainment are sure to remain.

To get a solid grasp of how the conversation has changed over time, it’s essential that your market research can parse the data and tell the whole story.

To get a feel for this one, we can simply look at our sports and entertainment industry analysis timeline, which covers from January of 2019 to the present, to see how things have changed.


We can see that the conversational volume exploded back in March which is par for many industry conversations this year. The entertainment industry cluster in blue is the largest in the analysis and primarily didn’t have much bulk before the onset of the pandemic.

Likewise, the online gaming & esports highlights cluster in purple also saw an uptick in volume starting in March. Major sporting organizations such as the NBA and Formula 1 quickly turned to esports to connect with fans as in-person events were cancelled, fueling the conversation.

Esports and streaming were emerging trends in 2019 that have exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what the conversation looked like before COVID shut everything down:


And here is how the conversation looks post-COVID:


Esports and streaming services were put on the fast-track during the pandemic and will most likely remain a part of the post-pandemic sports and entertainment world. As in-person events begin their eventual return, brands will want to monitor these conversations to assess how big of a part they’ll continue to play in the future of sports and entertainment.

CTA_Q_AK 2020 Media Intelligence Report Online Gaming

The Rise of Sports and Entertainment Alternatives 

At the outset of the pandemic, consumers looking to pass the time turned in droves to music streaming and video on demand (VOD) services to get their fix. Subscriptions to streaming services were growing before the pandemic but have seen a meteoric rise since its onset. When communities begin their return to normalcy due to vaccines or herd immunity, it will be interesting to monitor these services’ subscriptions as an indicator of market movement.


As alluded to earlier, esports burst on the mainstream earlier this year as a substitute for canceled events. It already had the technology to serve its growing fandom and video games played by professional athletes bridged the gap between canceled sporting events and fans hungry for action.

There’s been a lot of movement in the esports market already this year as brands jockey for position. Keeping a keen eye on consumer and market intelligence in the esports space will continue to shed light on underserved areas.


And as leagues worldwide have renewed their seasons, albeit with nearly nonexistent crowds, the WNBA has made strides into the mainstream. In 2020 WNBA viewership has increased year-over-year by an astonishing 68%.

The league enjoyed a broader push into Facebook and Twitter streams and traditional sports networks like ESPN and CBS Sports Network. Brands will want to keep leagues such as the WNBA on their radar going forward into 2021 for emergent marketing opportunities.

wnba tweet

Looking to the Future 

In hindsight, the pandemic has not squashed sports and entertainment but added jet fuel to emerging trends that have transformed and bolstered the industries through a crazy year. While some markets such as streaming services may see a slight retraction to normalized growth rates, diligent market research will inform brands to those trends.

One thing for certain though, it’s unlikely that sports and entertainment will return part and parcel to how things used to be pre-pandemic. There’s been too much ingrowth into the digital frontier to go back now.

Now that we’re putting the finishing touches on 2020, what should brands be watching for in the sports and entertainment space going forward? Data monetization in fan engagement, team performance and sports betting powered by data-driven platforms and artificial intelligence will be one area to watch going into 2021.

Likewise, social justice initiatives embraced by teams or players will continue to gain traction with sympathetic fans. This year has seen strong social justice narratives drive the online conversation and this trend will most likely continue. The WNBA dedicated their 2020 season to social justice efforts which contributed to their growing presence globally.


And of course, trust-building remains to be done between organizations and their fans as vaccines roll out and in-person events eventually resume. Safety will be the utmost concern and brands will want to tread carefully while armed with the latest consumer and market intelligence.

Market research that cuts to the heart of emerging trends and their requisite innovations never takes a day off. Top brands stay on the forefront of market shifts thanks to the speed of insights gained through next generation artificial intelligence (AI). Be sure to reach out for a demo to ensure your brand is always on the cutting edge!

CTA_Q_AK 2020 Media Intelligence Report Online Gaming

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