The world of sports looks so different. While fans may be in the stands in some states, it's still in reduced numbers. Bubble basketball is still real, and while things still are not where we wanted them to be, they’re getting better. So when will they be back to normal? While nothing is set in stone, the coronavirus has proved that we don’t really know what will happen or when, I do think that in 2021, we will see the world of sports head back in the right direction. Here are some of our predictions for 2021...

Now with the COVID-19 vaccine out and as it becomes more readily available to more and more people, I fully believe that the number of fans allowed in stadiums will steadily rise through the rest of 2021. I even think we will get some packed football stadiums by the end of the year (gasp!).

That leads me to the next prediction, and one that is not so optimistic for sports marketers. Ticket sales - even in the most fan-crazed areas - are going to be an issue. Fans have been forced out of their season tickets, and many will make the choice to not come back. Some forever sellouts (think Nebraska or Michigan) may be actively selling individual game tickets for the first time in decades.

While many games are still in bubble areas, like the Men’s NCAA taking place solely all over the hoops-crazy State of Indiana this year, I think that as we progress sports will go back to playing normal road games. What will undoubtedly come to pass is colleges and even pro organizations looking at travel costs in a new and highly critical light. Bring on the bus and forego the charter plane for a bit.

I also think fan following and engagement will continue to stay high outside of stadiums. During the pandemic, fans became more immersed than ever on online and social platforms to support and watch their teams. I think that even as fans come back into stands, fan engagement and online streaming of sports will continue to soar. Sports betting and Esports will continue to thrive. Likewise, I predict that more sports docu-series will continue to be made, as well as sports content will be more easily associated with streaming services. The Thursday night NFL package looks to be solely streamed next year, and that will cause some habits to change.

I feel confident in assuming that sometime this year the NCAA will pass NIL rights for athletes, and absolute chaos will erupt. No matter if you are for or against NIL rights for college athletes, it is a lot more than the NCAA can chew right now and it will cause some problems in the beginning as things work out. Here are more of our thoughts on this, here.

Clearly, barriers for both women and people of color will continue to be broken in the world of sports. More of them will take more formerly unthought-of jobs in sports and unlimited opportunities will finally be available for all.

And finally, I think sports teams and athletes will continue to take a stand on human rights matters and political issues. It may not be to the same extreme it was in 2020, but now the athletes have found a way to voice their opinion and stand-up for their beliefs and communities, I do not think they will backtrack.

While these are all just predictions, I am intrigued to see where 2021 takes the world of sports!