Navigate Research

Industry Insights

As the industry leader in evaluating and measuring marketing investments, Navigate has a wealth of knowledge in the sponsorship and marketing space. This blog shares our knowledge and insights on current events in the sports business, marketing and sponsorship worlds.


Navigate Research - Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Navigate set out to understand (1) sentiment of sports and entertainment post COVID-19 and (2) the predicted shifts in behavior from the consumer/fan POV. 

Overall, COVID-19 has shaken up the sports landscape in America, but the sentiment and forecast for sports fans resuming ‘normalcy’ is promising.  While attendance is predicted to decrease among fans, they are still eager to get back into stadiums. In the meantime we can expect a notable increase in viewership. 

Navigate’s Kevin Kane Named “Front Office Sports’ Rising 25”

Navigate Research - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Navigate’s Kevin Kane Named “Front Office Sports’ Rising 25”

Kevin Kane was recently named as one of the Front Office Sports’ Rising 25 in his role as Senior Manager, Data Strategy at Navigate Research. The Front Office Sports Rising 25 Award, established in 2017, was created to honor up and comers in the sports industry.

Before joining Navigate full-time, Kevin graduated from Miami of Ohio with a degree in Marketing and completed internships for the Columbus Crew and Navigate. He joined the team upon graduation and just celebrated his 3rd anniversary.

In Kevin’s years with Navigate he has executed over 25 consultative and valuation projects with MLS teams, making him a leader in the soccer sponsorship realm. He has valued over $650M in sponsorships, created proprietary jersey patch insights reports for most major leagues, and played a key role for clients including the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Rockets, Saatchi & Saatchi, Big 10 Network, and many others. 

“Kevin’s resume of high-impact work, especially in the soccer space, speaks for itself. Beyond that, what sets Kevin apart is his blend of ambition and humility. He always wants to learn more and deliver more for clients,” said Jeff Nelson, President of Navigate Research. “He seeks feedback to improve and he doesn’t hesitate to leverage the experience and expertise of teammates to ensure we’re collectively producing A+ work. It’s exactly the approach you want from every member of the team.”

Kevin values his experience and wants to continue to help facilitate the growth of Soccer and other sports through impactful partnerships and meaningful connections to the fans & community.

 “This award is an honor for me and a tribute to Navigate Research,” said Kevin Kane.  “I never thought that before I was 25 I would be traveling the U.S. and internationally consulting teams on their current and future partnerships. I feel incredibly fortunate that the work I do at Navigate is so closely aligned with my passions. I am very grateful to be working with leaders like AJ Maestas and Jeff Nelson who put our team’s personal growth and wellbeing above all else. I can’t wait to get to know the rest of the 2020 class better, and see this network grow together for years to come.”

Kevin will be recognized at the FOS Rising 25 Award & Gala this fall (date TBA).

When Will Sports Return? Predictions + 2020 COVID-19 Sports Calendar

Navigate Research - Monday, May 11, 2020

When Will U.S. Sports Return?

By Jordan Bloem 

At Navigate, it is in our nature to approach any question through an objective and data-driven lens. Over the past several weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been applying that same approach to the question everyone in our industry has been asking: When will sports return?

It must first be acknowledged that making any such prediction is fraught with uncertainty. Plans will be made and unmade, start dates will be pushed back, and leagues will experience false starts.

As such, in this blog post I’ll outline the hurdles that must be overcome before sports can return and then outline when we think each major U.S. sport may overcome those hurdles. With large group gatherings likely to be among the last parts of our society to reopen, all projections assume no fans will be in attendance during the initial return.


As FiveThirtyEight noted, the novel coronavirus pandemic is not a national pandemic, but rather 50 state pandemics that are each subject to its own timeline. As a result, layered federal, state, and local public health guidelines in the U.S. will likely delay American sports relative to sports in other countries with uniform guidelines.

All states or cities where a league operates must have restrictions lifted before the league can return as normal, meaning that even as current hot spots of New York City, Detroit, and New Orleans recover from the worst of the initial wave, other cities with professional sports teams will likely emerge as new hot spots.


Reports indicate some leagues are considering competing in isolated environments. While this may reduce the health risk to players, it would not be possible to keep an entire league’s players and support staff completely isolated. If COVID-19 infiltrates the bubble, the spread will likely be rampant given the close contact of teammates and competitors.

Leagues must also secure buy-in from players before deciding to return. The NFL Players Union’s medical director Dr. Thom Mayer recently said that they would “go anywhere the science takes us and nowhere the science doesn’t,” while also saying they would look at any solution as long as it keeps “the patient-player, all 2,500 of them, safe.”

Once leagues do resume contact, they must be vigilant about keeping players and support personnel healthy through rigorous testing. Sports with fewer competitors or competitors that have less frequent contact may be able to return safely sooner (e.g.: individual sports like golf, tennis, MMA). Leagues must also have a protocol established for what happens when a player or support staff member tests positive.


Once leagues are cleared by health officials to resume practicing, time will be required to regain fitness. The Bundesliga was among the first major sports leagues in the world to resume training, doing so in “small groups”, with a hope to begin matches without fans by May 9, but that has now been pushed back to May 16.

It has been reported that the NBA is planning 25 days of training before restarting games. Other leagues would likely require a minimum of at least two weeks for conditioning before play can safely resume, or even as many as five or six weeks for high impact sports like football. Realistically, the need for training pushes the resumption of most U.S. sports into July at the earliest.


Additional factors complicate the return for collegiate sports. Leaders across college sports recently expressed to Vice President Pence that before athletic departments can resume the normal student body must be on campus. This makes the return of sports a university president decision, not an athletic director decision.

The presidents at both the University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut both made comments that they think it is unlikely college football will return in the fall, though no conclusive decisions have been made. Complicating matters is that if college football were to return as scheduled, all 130 FBS universities will need to give the go-ahead, and they would need to do so with enough time for the teams to prepare by early September.


These hurdles demonstrate that sports cannot and will not return with the flip of a switch. So how long will the process for sports to return take?

We looked globally to answer this question, evaluating public health benchmarks in countries closer to reopening including Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, and Spain. We then adjusted timelines to the U.S., which has had a slower progression of the virus when compared to the countries listed.

Based on the above hurdles and analysis, Navigate projects the earliest resumption of team sports to fall between August 29 and October 5. Some individual sports like golf or MMA might resume quicker, and creative solutions that differ from the usual league format and require less outside contact and travel could move team sports sooner as well.