U.S. is nearly halfway to the return of live events, study projects
As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to creep higher in the U.S., the country is nearly halfway to the point where Americans can begin safely restarting in-person events, new data from experiential brand agency Jack Morton reveals.
The Return to Live: Recovery Index, launched last week, assigns individual states and the nation as a whole a ranking out of 10—the highest-possible score that indicates full readiness to launch live experiences again. On average, the U.S. is currently just shy of the scale’s midpoint at 4.70.
To score well on the index, there needs to be low weekly COVID-19 case numbers, high vaccination rates, and “proven consistent and high levels of consumer mobility to places like retail and recreational spots,” the agency says.
“Live experiences are roaring back in 2021,” says Scott Varland, senior VP and head of Jack X North America, the agency’s innovation practice. “Sporting events were expected to be the trailblazers but there is still some caution in the air for other events, and brands need to take into consideration some important caveats when planning them."
“The data and the empirical evidence are trending in the right direction, but we still need to carefully review location and context,” Varland continues. “There is still a lot of disparity as you zoom in on the map.”
On a state-by-state basis, the index’s rankings swing wildly across both ends of the scale.
As of the Recovery Index’s release date in early June, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota are the five states closest to a full-fledged return of live events, clocking in with an average score of 8.68 on the 10-point scale. Meanwhile, Arizona and Louisiana are both sitting at the bottom with scores of 1.0. Alabama, Texas and North Carolina are not much further ahead.
Well-scoring states typically have new daily and weekly case rates below the national average and adult vaccination rates of 50% or higher, with Jack Morton noting a “positive correlation” between states with high Recovery Index scores and those with mask mandates still in place or that have only recently been lifted.
Generally, states with lower scores never had a mask mandate in the first place or removed it prior to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s revised mask recommendations were published last month.
The index also found that consumers and brands alike are ready to return to in-person experiences, with 81% of brands surveyed by Jack Morton planning to host at least partially live events by the third quarter of this year; by Q4, that figure jumps to 87%.
However, around two-thirds of all “key cultural events” scheduled around the world in the next 12 months—think CES, Bonnaroo, San Diego Comic-Con and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—are projected to be held in hybrid live-remote formats.