COVID-19 Triggered Sports and Festival Cancellations Will Have Staggering Economic Impact Across the Country

The global economic effects of COVID-19 are taking shape: markets are plummeting, consumer spending is falling, and countries are taking emergency measures in response to the pandemic.

While several industries are bracing for (or have already taken) a hit in the wake of the virus’ spread, the impact on the sports and events world has been swift and particularly public.

Performance Research, the world’s leading event and sports research agency with a specialization in economic impact analysis, has estimated, just from those announced in the past week, $6 billion in economic losses and climbing due to COVID-19 related major event cancellations and postponements in the U.S.

The agency confined their analysis to major, nationally recognized U.S. events including the NBA season suspension, the NCAA Final Four, NCAA College World Series, SXSW Conference and Festivals, the Miami Open (tennis), NFL Draft, NASCAR and IndyCar races, The Kentucky Derby, and NYC’s famed Broadway Theaters, which are just a portion of affected events. (see table below for full list of events included in this analysis).

“The economic impact of this pandemic within the festival, conference and sports industry – and the local economies that host these events – is staggering,” says Bill Doyle, Vice President of Performance Research. “In addition to ticket sales and sponsorship investments, these events support jobs and generate revenue for local businesses by bringing in thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands – of attendees to the host cities.”

“Yes, fans are understandably disappointed about their favorite sports events or festivals being canceled,” says Doyle, “but the economic story here is bigger: fewer drinks are being poured at bars, hotels will have massive room cancelations, and local businesses will suffer. This will create a ripple effect in community economies for a long time to come.”

While Performance Research’s analysis focused on major, nationally recognized events canceled through April, the scope of the impact related to the events industry is of course going to be much wider when smaller-scale festivals, as well as local professional sports and college conferences are considered.

And the impact will be multiplied significantly if events are canceled further into spring and summer months (most notably, the Summer Olympics, which is currently hanging in the balance).

Ultimately, safety is paramount, and closing events to help slow the spread of the virus is the right thing to do. The industry, though, is in uncharted waters and should bolster itself with the information, data and research it needs to revive itself in the coming months.  

According to Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research, “When the pandemic is over, it will not necessarily be business as usual in the sports and festival world. Fans may have a different hierarchy of values, and both event organizers and sponsors will need to assess if they are reaching fans in a genuine and authentic way. Events, leagues, and corporate partners that provide meaning and value to fans’ lives will be the first to climb out of the losses that COVID-19 has created.”


Event Postponed vs. Canceled Estimated/Historic Economic Impact
NBA – Regular Season Canceled $1,000,000,000
NASCAR – Atlanta, Miami, Texas, Bristol, Richmond Postponed $680,000,000
BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells Tennis) Canceled $406,000,000
Coachella Music Festival Postponed $400,000,000
Kentucky Derby Postponed $400,000,000
Miami Open (Tennis) Canceled $390,000,000
SXSW Conference and Festivals Canceled $356,000,000
New York Auto Show Canceled $330,000,000
Houston Livestock Show Canceled $227,000,000
NFL Draft Canceled $224,000,000
Boston Marathon Postponed $211,000,000
MLB – Spring Training Canceled $200,000,000
NTT Indycar Series – 4 races Postponed $180,000,000
Ultra Music Fest Canceled $168,000,000
Indycar – 4 races Cancelled $160,000,000
PGA Player’s Championship Canceled $151,000,000
PGA Valspar, WGC Match Play, Valero Open Canceled $150,000,000
NCAA – Final Four Canceled $143,000,000
Broadway  Canceled $100,000,000
E3 2020 (e-Sports) Canceled $75,000,000
NCAA Men’s & Women’s College World Series Canceled $70,000,000
IRL Firestone Grand Prix Canceled $48,000,000
Volvo Car Open (Tennis) Canceled $30,000,000
Seattle Comic Con Canceled $22,000,000
NCAA Wrestling Championship Canceled $15,000,000
Big 10 – Men’s Tourney Canceled $10,000,000

About Performance Research: With more than 30 years of focus and experience, Performance Research is the industry leader for worldwide consumer research and evaluation in the event, sponsorship and experiential marketing industry.

Performance Research’s experience covers an array of quantitative, qualitative and economic impact studies focused on sports events and fan festivals, as well as in-depth experience with activation testing at music and cultural festivals and pop-up brand experiences.