Every sports fan across the GLOBE watched in agony as leagues and events slowly, but surely, began pulling back. At first, the NHL decided to take a little break. March Madness still planned on having its shining moment. Plenty of time before The Masters opening tee. Baseball’s Opening Day was still on track.
Then one by one, they all vanished.
At the same time, schools were canceling field trips. Museums and Zoos were closing. And the rest of us were asked to stay home.
Wearing my fan hat, this was disappointing and strange. Wearing my dad hat, this was hard to explain. Wearing my marketer hat, this was uncertain and disruptive. Closing the gates to sports stadiums and attractions – even those with lots of outdoor, open-air space – is scary.
No tickets to sell. What now?
Locally, the Indianapolis Indians and Indianapolis Zoo – our client partners in this space – are responding confidently and correctly. Their actions are the real-life versions of the popular “How brands should respond to COVID-19” blog.
With what was supposed to be baseball’s Opening Day now behind us, and the gates to Victory Field sadly closed, the Indians are creating new opportunities to stay connected with fans. They are communicating with empathy, self-awareness and helpfulness.
If you visit the Indians’ Facebook page, you’ll see them honoring service and healthcare workers, Rowdie coaching us through home workouts, posts filled with family activities and education centered around baseball, and a charity drive to raise money for the American Red Cross of Indiana. They’re even creating new ways to deliver value to sponsors through content while stadium activations are paused. Since we’ve been staying home, the Indians have more than quadrupled its year-over-year social engagement in most channels.
We still miss ballpark season. We’re all impatiently waiting for our first beer at Victory Field, our first family night out, the first Friday Fireworks of the season.
As a longstanding part of the fabric of the Indy community, our friends at the Indianapolis Zoo are #INthistogether to ensure access, safety and support.
While we’re home, the Zoo is bringing the animals to us through up-close photos and video stories from their animal experts. They are reaching out to families through their newsletter to provide educational content and other fun activities to help keep us occupied. Memberships have been extended to ensure people can return to the Zoo when it’s safe. Its education team is working with teachers to provide content for online learning. And year-over-year social engagement has more than doubled during this time period.
We still miss visiting the animals that bring a smile to our faces. We can’t wait to take our kids to meet Bahati, the Zoo’s newest cheetah, ride the carousel and wave at the massive elephants in their new home.
In the meantime, understand that consumers are watching how brands react to this pandemic, and these reactions will impact future loyalty. Brands can connect by doing what’s right. Acting on purpose instead of talking about purpose. And by supporting customers and communities in real ways.
For any questions please contact Executive Strategy Director, Justin Wojtowicz.