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Everybody loves a comeback story, where the underdog—beaten and bruised—wins it all despite the odds. The sports industry has to recover from a year that saw tournaments canceled and stadiums silent and empty. In this B-Side episode, Rely San Agustin, a sports marketing professional who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, tells BusinessWorld reporter Michael Angelo S. Murillo how sports stakeholders are dealing with the harsh reality that getting fans back into the stands will take time. “A bubble setup makes sense,” said Mr. San Agustin. “Seclusion is needed. You really have to control movement in and out of the venues.”


Last year—2020—is a lost year for sports.

The effects of the coronavirus hit the revenues of various sports leagues, which were forced to shut down to comply with government quarantine, as well as budgets reserved for sports activities and programs.

“We were taken by surprise by the pandemic, leaving stakeholders scrambling for what’s next to be done to move forward,” said Mr. San Agustin.

To survive, sports leagues are replicating the “NBA Bubble.”

Sports leagues, such as the Philippine Basketball Association and Philippines Football League went the “bubble” way for their activities—a setup where they had all tournament participants holed up in a specific area for a duration of time to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

It is proving to be a viable option but requires utmost commitment across all levels to succeed. 

It’s going to be a long trek back, requiring patience and the ability to adapt.

The sports industry will be among the last to return to normal, which is why stakeholders must use the time they have right now to carefully chart the path they are going to take.

But all is not lost for the sector as there are avenues to take in its return push, including bringing sports entertainment and brands to consumers through a digital approach—going online and exploring the potential of e-sports. The role of social media is now more valuable than ever.

It is still wait-and-see for sports but it will recover gradually.   

This B-Side episode was recorded remotely in December 2020. Produced by Nina M. Diaz, Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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