Post-Pandemic Play: The Rebirth of Live Entertainment

June 28, 2022

Months into what is now the “junior year” of the pandemic and with summer around the corner, people are ready to dive fully into live events. And they’re looking to go big – to immerse themselves in play, tactile experiences that stimulate the senses, and epic adventures. Over time, people’s risk tolerance has become less of a barrier to large-scale experiences. In the twelve-month period between April 2021 and 2022, people’s perceived levels of risk associated with attending live events experienced a percentage decrease of 26%, while planned attendance has risen by 11%. For future experiences, there has been a 30% year-on-year percentage increase in people planning to attend live vs. virtually.* The live event space is overflowing with potential. According to Technavio, the global event ticket market is forecasted to grow by nearly $15B by 2025, a compound annual growth rate of 6%. 

But while people are eager to seek out the experiential, concerns about inflation are strong and widespread, making cost a necessary factor. As inflation endures, its direct impact on individuals will differ. Those more vulnerable to its effects might not be looking to splurge financially, but still share the desire to immerse themselves in experience. Brands that consider access as a point of entry will benefit greatly.  

Three of our proprietary macrotrends are driving the rebirth of live entertainment, as people seek epic experiences, invigorating play, and memorable sensations.

People are Ready for Epic Adventures 

With restrictions lifting worldwide, people are hungry to live life large, experience the “unknown,” and create shareable moments – a trend we call Epic Living. In May, 87% of adults stated they believe living well is determined more by doing amazing things than owning them.**Now is the time for brands to get on board, as Expedia’s 2022 Travel Trends Report reveals 68% of Americans anticipate splurging on travel this year and embracing the GOAT (Greatest of All Trips) mindset. In March, Royal Caribbean’s “Wonder of the Sea,” the world’s largest cruise ship, made its debut voyage. Decked out with 20 restaurants, a ten-story waterslide, and a bionic bar complete with robotic mixologists, this liner builds on the traditional cruise experience for something epic. Brands that go all-out and explore new ways to amplify their offerings can appeal to people’s desire to indulge in pure experience.

Play Invigorates Child-Like Wonder

The stress and cautionary behavior brought on by the pandemic has people excited to let loose, play, and embrace their inner child – represented through a trend we call License to Play. This year, 79% of US adults reported that the best way to blow off steam when dealing with the world’s stressors is to act like a kid once in a while.** Some brands are infusing initiatives with playful tactics, and it’s proving effective. To showcase the marketing power of drone shows and have some light-hearted fun in the process, Sky Elements Drone Shows paired creative thinking with their drone technology to bring an April Fool’s joke to life. On game day (April 1st), hundreds of drones lit up the Dallas night sky creating a QR code that led an estimated 50K people to YouTube to watch Rick Astley’s classic video for “Never Gonna Give You Up.” This one-night event showcases the possibilities of adding play to brand and marketing initiatives.

Sensory Experiences Make for Next-Level Memories

After more than two years of limited mobility and touch deprivation, people are looking for immersive experiences, both physical and virtual, that engage all the senses – a trend we call Sense-thesized. At this year’s South by Southwest festival, experiential art company Meow Wolf teamed up with metaverse experts at Spatial to craft the Spatial Holodeck Experience. The exhibition used 3D audio and interactive elements to transport visitors to an immersive sound universe. For a different kind of immersion, Coca-Cola used flavor and tactile sensation to take people straight to the stars. In February, the brand took inspiration from something out of this world (literally) to release their limited edition “Starlight” flavor. Those who sampled the out-there product experienced a cooling sensation and witnessed a glimmering red hue through each bottle. People experience unmatched immersion when all five senses are engaged, and brands that leverage this powerful tool have the potential to captivate their audiences in untapped ways.

Bringing it to Life 

As people transition into summer mode and seek out memorable experiences, it’s time for brands to jump in and match their energy. Brands across industries should consider making events exponentially more memorable by making them epically shareable, extraordinarily playful, and by encouraging new sensory experiences. With consideration to inflation, brands should also explore executions that are both wallet-friendly and accessible, enabling people of all kinds to indulge in much-needed experiences. Here’s what this can look like in action:

  • Sweets on the Streets: Ice cream is a summertime staple and food trucks provide people with quick, tasty, and familiar indulgences. To ramp up the experience of this low-cost indulgence, an ice cream brand can launch a series of mobile trucks that go beyond taste and engage all the senses. Sound off the summer season with a #SweetsOnTheStreets challenge. Use location-based advertising and QR codes to push ads to people in proximity of the truck and entice them with “eye-candy” 3D images of secret menu items alongside nostalgic tunes. When a mobile device scans the codes, blast the signature ice cream truck song to get people out of their chairs and outside. Patrons who discover a secret item while scanning can redeem their treat when the truck drives by! 
  • Stream on the Green: Streaming services provide us with some of our favorite original and bingeable content. A streaming service can take this experience out of the living room to create a series of epic and outdoor movie nights hosted in parks across the US. Co-sponsor the event with a big box retailer to infuse a night of entertainment with all the (shoppable) furnishings, fixings, decor, photo ops, and beyond, crafting an atmosphere that makes #StreamOnTheGreen an event to talk about. Keep admittance free for subscribers and low-cost for non-subscribers, with opportunities for all to splurge once beyond the gates, making this movie night accessible and memorable for everyone! 

Sources: *Horizon Media, Finger on the Pulse. Survey fielded 4/1/21-4/5/21, n=864; 4/7/22-4/11/22, n=827

**Horizon Media, Finger on the Pulse. Survey fielded 5/31/22-6/9/22, n=986

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