LAUSANNE, April 2, 2020 – Today, leading global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) released results of a new survey focused on the impact of COVID-19 on cities hosting major sporting events. The key findings revealed that the current situation and disruption in the international sports event market by the COVID-19 virus will likely lead to significant strategic adjustments for many cities significantly involved in event hosting.

The online survey was sent out to an international selection of 100 host cities and answered by those responsible for event bidding and hosting for each respective city. Of note:

  • COVID-19 crisis impacts budgets. In terms of the budget allocated to event hosting by various levels of governments, 78% of host cities expect to suffer financial losses in 2020 due to the cancellation or postponement of sporting events in their city or region while 43% of cities think they will suffer from a budget cut for event hosting in 2021 and 17% after 2021.
  • COVID-19 crisis impacts strategy. In terms of impact on overall hosting strategy, there seems to be a possible shift to focus more on national events, taking away focus from hosting future international events, with 37% of the cities saying that it is likely that they will host less international events in the future, while 17% saying that they will likely most more national events as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • COVID-19 crisis impacts hosting plans. 84% of the cities estimate that the COVID-19 situation will have a strong impact on their event hosting plans in 2020, but at the same time 58% think that the impact in 2021 will be only modest.

Lars Haue-Pedersen, BCW Sports Practice Managing Director, said: “We wanted to get a first look of how experienced host cities view the disruption caused by the COVID-19 situation so that we can provide smart counsel to our clients, including both rights-holders and hosts. The results confirm our presumption that the current disruption in the international event market can have serious implications for both right holders like the International Federations and their host city partners. For quite some time, both sides have been accustomed to stable long-term planning ensuring that everything is in place several years ahead. With COVID19 this stability has been challenged, and strategies likely need to be re-worked and contingencies put in place.”

The survey was conducted over a one-week period from March 23-29, 2020. To download the survey report please click here or see our website for more information  

About Burson Cohn & Wolfe

BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), one of the world’s largest full-service global communications agencies, is in the business of moving people on behalf of clients. Founded by the merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, BCW delivers digitally and data-driven creative content and integrated communications programs grounded in earned media and scaled across all channels for clients in the B2B, consumer, corporate, crisis management, CSR, healthcare, sport, public affairs and technology sectors. BCW is a part of WPP (NYSE: WPP), a creative transformation company. For more information, visit


Tanya Heimlich-Ng Yuen

Director, Burson Cohn & Wolfe – Sports Practice