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Valuable hybrid event lessons from the sports world

Insights from Michael Guerriero, president of Digitell.

I find it interesting when I hear comments that virtual events can never replace physical events. Why did we ever think that was the goal?

Do we say watching a sporting event on TV can never replace being in the stadium for the big game?

Of course not. Everyone might be watching the same game, but they’re doing so from different “seats” with similar and different experiences to enjoy.

This same dynamic applies to professional events. As physical events resume, it’s important that we do not turn our backs on the new audiences who flocked to our virtual events this past year.

Now is the perfect time to cast our nets wider to make events available not only to those who travel to our events, but to those who can’t or choose not to attend in person.

A closer look at the NFL ‘Virtual’ Success Story

The relationship between pro football and television started earlier than you think.

On October 22, 1939, the National Broadcasting Company was the first network to televise a pro football game when the Philadelphia Eagles lost to Brooklyn’s Dodgers.

With 13,050 fans watching at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, another 500-or-so who owned televisions watched from the comfort of their homes.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s, with the advent of color TV that viewership (and revenues) took off. Prior to that, many NFL owners were concerned televised games might compromise ticket sales, but the exact opposite happened. Television earned these NFL teams new legions of fans who were eager to watch regularly.

Fast forward to today, did you know that television accounts for more than 50% of the NFL’s $15 billion in annual revenue? Less than half of NFL revenue comes from ticket sales, merchandising, etc.

For more than a decade, I’ve watched similar success stories play out for clients, as physical and virtual have evolved to coexist beautifully and profitably. A huge opportunity is ahead of us with virtual and hybrid events, we just have to grab it now.


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