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Even in 2020, Orange is the New Black (Ink)

26 Aug, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Fun fact: Halloween is an $8 billion industry and event owners have long loved tying into it.

Not so fun fact: COVID-19 is a scary concept, outdistancing any zombie apocalypses on the screen.

Much more fun fact: There are ways around it. Since event owners are already marketing seasonal events (or at least considering doing so), some new concepts could help bring in new people – safely – and bump up the revenue stream even further.

Best fun fact of all: Halloween comes on a Saturday this year, meaning there are multiple opportunities to pivot in the traditional approach of hosting events in order to offer creative solutions.

It’s no secret, after all, that Halloween is big news. Last year alone, shoppers anticipated spending more than $85 each. And while it’s unlikely people will be throwing parties, we’re already seeing themed 5Ks that allow celebrants to run or walk in costume. Running in the USA shows plenty of races on weekends in October (including Halloween weekend). Saturday is by far the most popular day for races, but Sunday isn’t exactly slacking in participation either. Most 5Ks include key words such as Halloween, Ghoul, Spook, Haunted, Pumpkin, Zombie, Ghost and similar terms.

But it’s not just road races that are tying in. Soccer tournaments, including the Halloween Cup, put on by the Santa Cruz Breakers, runs October 17-18. Indy Premier puts on the Halloween Classic on October 31 and November 1. And Gateway Rush has its Halloween Havoc from October 23-25.

Soccer isn’t the only sport getting into the act, though. The USSSA Halloween Havoc, in Wicomico County, Maryland, includes not only ghoul, er, pool play, but costume contests and even umpires getting into the act. (It also pretty much takes the cake for the coolest logo). In Colorado ice hockey, there’s the Foothills Frightfest on Halloween weekend. In disc golf, there’s the Las Vegas Halloween Classic Presented by Legacy Discs, and in Lake of the Ozarks, there’s a nine-hole tournament, one that invites costumed foursomes, that plays out at Margaritaville Resort.

The NRF has noted a distinct increase over the years in grown-up kids participating in the holiday too. In fact, as of last year, half of all adults who celebrate Halloween intended to do so in costume, meaning the days of staying home and answering the door are over. And if a sports event can tie into the theme and give them a reason to show up in their spooky best, they’ll turn out in force. 

There has also been a rise in the number of costumed pets – as of last year, nearly 29 million people were planning to dress their pets, with the top costumes being pumpkins, hot dogs and yes, superheroes. (So if you’re holding a Halloween 5K – or any other sports event with a Halloween theme – and you can find a costume category for Fluffy, you’re likely to take an even bigger bite of the holiday pie.)

But the driving force this year, in terms of kids participating in Halloween events, isn’t COVID. It’s mom. According to MediaPost, Party City surveyed 945 mothers from across the United States and found their planning was already well underway. They, in fact, want to celebrate Halloween – but perhaps not going door to door. And the thing that frightens them the most is not COVID but disappointing their kids. Many expect to participate in wagon and bike parades (tie-in alert!) with passersby tossing candy – or perhaps putting it out in bowls. In fact, 47 percent of moms surveyed say they will participate in drive-by trick or treating if today’s conditions persist in October. Industry experts are seeing the sales of car decorations, door drop favors and yard decorations that support these new celebrations. 

Oh, and the buzzword of the coming holiday is expected to be… booing. Booing is the act of leaving treats or decorations at the home of a neighbor with no indication of where they came from (like ding-dong-ditch but in the nicest possible way). 

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