50. The 5 Stages of Pandemic Response
I've written a couple of missives that have outlined the state of the endurance industry as we navigate through our new normal.
Due to popular demand, it is time for another update. So here you go, the 5 stages of pandemic response in the endurance industry.
Stage 1: Denial
(Feb 1 - Mar 14)
It seems so long ago when we were telling ourselves there's nothing to worry about.
It's just the flu, we said.
It won't impact us, we said.
It's only in China, we said.
We still traveled, events happened, life went on.
<insert sound of car skidding right into a brick wall>
Stage 2: Anger
(Mar 15 - Apr 18)
On March 15, endurance sports hit a brick wall. Seemingly overnight everything shut down. Revenue dropped 85% and hasn't risen above that since. States started issuing stay-at-home orders and Humpty-Dumpty fell off the proverbial wall.
(It's a proverbial Humpty Dumpty too, in case you didn't catch that. You see, Humpty Dumpty represents our industry and falling off the wall represents... you know what, let's just move on...)
All events in the second half of March were cancelled. Within a couple of weeks all the April endurance events were cancelled too.
As of now, May events are already gone. The vast majority of June events are also cancelled or postponed, about half of July has fallen and the August and September calendars are teetering on the edge of me having to repeat the Humpty Dumpty analogy.
Through my best guesstimates here's where I believe the endurance industry is at, as of this writing:
7,600 events cancelled/postponed
3,298,000 athletes impacted
$288m registration fees lost
Essentially about one quarter of a year of business is gone.
A pin was stuck into the balloon of our business and with a short, sad hiss, it fell lifeless to the floor.
Stage 3: Bargaining
(Apr 18 - May)
After four weeks of sitting in fear and darkness, we started turning towards the light.
We tell ourselves that the light is sunshine.
It might be sunshine. I hope it's sunshine. But there is too much unknown at this point. It could still be an oncoming train. We won't know until we get closer.
Dr. Fauci, our nation's leading epidemiologist, has said that a second wave of COVID-19 is "inevitable" and will occur in the fall and winter of this year. How bad it is depends on our preparedness.
But we bargain in our minds. We are still betting that the light in front of us is sunshine and not an oncoming train wreck.
Why do we do this? Because we have to.
Our businesses are in trouble. Big trouble. Meanwhile, we read articles about the new running boom. We look outside our windows and see a lot of people running and biking. We know those people outside are the people that can help our businesses thrive. They are real. They can save our industry. We have to get them to register now.
And therein lies the bargain. Many race directors still want to believe that states opening up their doors and life “going back to normal in a few months" refers to the "normal" we were used to last year.
They are betting that the new normal will appear a lot like the old normal. They smell freedom and it smells a lot like money and jobs and mass public gatherings.
Unfortunately, from everything I'm reading, that thinking is short-sighted.
Stage 4: Depression
(Probably starts in June)
It will be an unsettling reality when we are truly confronted with a new normal that is quite a bit different than the old normal. When our events - whatever they may look like - don't draw as many people as we'd like. When they are more expensive to put on. When we have to think so far outside the box, we don't quite remember what the box looked like in the first place.
It will be an emotionally challenging exercise, once the quarantine is truly over, for us to pick through the ashen remains of what was once our livelihood and determine how we can move forward.
That doesn't mean to say we are going away - we aren't. At least not without a fight.
It appears that about 1 in 4 endurance vent companies were actually funded by the CARES PPP offering. Though that's not great for 75% of the companies, it's good for the quarter that got something.
The Endurance Sports Coalition already has over 700 members and is getting traction on Capitol Hill as we work to get additional funding for the endurance space. If you aren't a part of it, sign up now.
Event organizers are encouraging their participants to sign the petition and send a letter to their elected officials. If you haven't already encouraged your database to do this, please do it and send them here.
The IIRM and World Athletics are putting together medical best practices for events.
Most event organizers I speak with have already begun to think about how they can put on another event this year.
Stage 5: Acceptance
(I'm guessing August-ish)
We adapt. Change has come to our business in the past and it will in the future. Sometimes change is easy, sometimes not. The point is knowing that we will come up with new ideas and we will cope. We will figure out how to make our businesses thrive and we will claw our way back.
Will there be a running boom? The acceptance phase will begin when we all realize that just getting people back in large quantities is good enough. We don't need boom right now. If we can get two thirds of our normal participants to show up in person, that'd be huge.
The acceptance phase will begin when we lean in to virtual events as not just a stop-gap solution, but a long-term variation on our existing business model.
The acceptance phase will begin when all the work we are doing now comes to fruition and we have an executable plan for best practices.
The acceptance phase will begin when we realize all the joint efforts, the community, the support of one another that we are exemplifying now - that can't go away. We are stronger when we work together.
There is no competition, there is only opportunity; Because a rising tide lifts all boats.
Keep yourselves safe and healthy. Keep your loved ones safe and healthy. Keep your participants safe and healthy. And keep the conversation flowing.