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3 Entertainment Categories That Are Increasing Ad Spend (Despite the Recession)

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) put everyone on notice when they announced that the COVID-19 outbreak was officially a pandemic.

In the two-plus years since the pandemic, a lot has changed, including the spending habits of advertisers who found themselves trying to make sense of shifting consumer behaviors and shrinking ad budgets. 

As the pandemic waned, advertisers understandably increased spending as they looked to capitalize on the spending surge and recoup lost revenue. 

But now, a little over 3 months since the US exited the “pandemic phase,” another hurdle is standing in their way: a recession. 

So, how are advertisers responding? 

We looked at our data to find out. 

This article looks specifically at how entertainment advertisers, including those in film, tourism and golf, are navigating the latest challenge—with some even increasing ad spend.  

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The Show Must Go On: Film Ad Spend on the Rise

Even with less money in our pockets, people still want to go to the movies.

Despite the widespread concern of most Americans— a survey found that 82% of people are worried about inflation—the box office is banking that people won’t give up the magical world of film.

In the first half of 2022, these advertisers spent $1.2b on film promotion, representing an increase of 325% from this time last year.

While it may be surprising that they’re spending more when millions are spending less, the increase could indicate that these advertisers have the luxury of working in a recession-proof industry.  

Although spending on restaurants and travel will likely decline for the remainder of 2022, the relative affordability of going to the movies may put these advertisers in a good position to spend. 

In addition to that, the growing trend of launching films on streaming platforms is making them more accessible, which could sway people who’d otherwise forgo the movies if it meant driving to the theater. 

Plus, after many advertisers reduced—or stopped—spending when production stalled during the pandemic, they’re under more pressure than ever to generate ROI. 

Tourism Stays Strong… For Now

Name an industry hit harder by the pandemic than tourism. 

We’ll wait. 

Traveling was impossible for more than two years, costing the industry trillions in lost revenue

As state- and federal-level travel restrictions were lifted, people eagerly hit the road. 

On June 1, 2022, almost 2mm people went through TSA, which is close to pre-pandemic traffic levels. That number has remained above 2mm every day since. 

Despite the recession trying to block the sun and fun, advertisers in the tourism industry, especially those for US Tourism associations, aren’t decreasing their spending yet. 

Through July of 2022, US Tourism associations spent more than $282mm on ads (72% of total tourism ad spending), representing an increase of 19% compared to the same period in 2021. 

Will this level of spending continue? 

It could, but it’s unlikely as most Americans say that rising gas prices will impact their decision to travel in the next six months. The rising price of airline tickets won’t help either.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom for tourism advertisers. 

The return of in-person meetings means business travel is back, albeit at a lower level than before the pandemic. 

The rise of the digital nomad, i.e., someone working online from different locations, should help keep the tourism industry afloat as well. (As will, of course, those impulsive tickets many of us are apt to buy after being cooped up for a while.)

Golf is in the Green 

While golf’s popularity has been on the decline for some time— the number of golfers steadily decreasing for most of the 2000s—the pandemic gave it a much-needed jolt as beginners and experts alike turned to golf as a “socially-distanced” escape. 

In fact, in 2020, more than 24.8mm people played golf in the US—up by more than 2% year-over-year and the largest increase in nearly 20 years.

Meanwhile, sales from some of the biggest brands hit all-time highs. 

Acushnet, for example, the brand that owns Titleist and FootJoy, increased its revenue by more than 117% in Q2 2020 and then another 75% in the first half of 2021.

Understandably, advertisers for these golf companies have responded by increasing their spending. 

In the first half of 2022, spending from these advertisers increased by 75% from the same time last year. 

While the sport benefited from people being cooped up inside and the lack of alternatives during the pandemic, less spending due to the recession could be a detriment.

That said, pockets of the golfing world may shine.

For example, TopGolf CEO Artie Starrs said there’s been “no substantive impact to the business has been viewed as a result of the macro headwinds.”

So, while parts of the golfing industry may feel the brunt of the recession, others may use it as an opportunity to grow. 

Hold the Applause: Ad Spending May Fall in H2 2022

As pandemic restrictions and widespread consumer hesitation decreased, entertainment advertisers ramped their spending.

As a result, these advertisers, including those in film, tourism and golf had a strong first half of the year. 

With the arrival of a recession and no signs of relief, it’s easy to see why some of these advertisers would slow their roll; those promoting more costly entertainment options are at an even bigger disadvantage.

That said, those advertising more affordable forms of entertainment may find a reason to spend. 

We saw this with advertisers in film—and as long as ticket prices (virtual or not) don’t go through the roof, these advertisers should stay busy. 

Other industries that people deem necessary regardless of the economic situation will continue as well—the prioritization of health and wellness, for instance, will likely lead to continued boosts in electronic bikes and at-home gym equipment. 

The moral of the story: Entertainment advertisers promoting more costly or “luxurious” things are more likely to decrease spending, while those offering more wallet-friendly options may do the opposite. 

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