U.S. nears halfway mark on road to recovery for live experiences, reports new index from Jack Morton


June 9th, 2021

return to live dashboard jack mortonNew Return to Live: Recovery Index from Experiential Experts Tracks Readiness of States to Safely Embrace In-Person Events

  • The U.S. scores a 4.78 out of 10 on a new index tracking recovery towards resuming live brand experiences.
  • Consumers and brands are ready to get back out to in-person events, but the safest place to hold one varies across the country.
  • Several New England states score highest, Florida and Arizona lowest.
  • 81% of brands are committed to hosting live experiences in Q3 2021.
  • 66% of key cultural events in the next 12 months are expected to be live/hybrid.

BOSTON, MA – June 9, 2021 – With vaccination rates rising, cities around the country reopening, sporting events at almost full capacity and mask mandates lifting, data from global brand experience agency Jack Morton, shows the U.S. making steady progress toward returning to live, in-person brand experiences again.

The Return to Live: Recovery Index, which launches today reports that the U.S. is close to the halfway point on the journey back to recovery. The overall country scores a 4.78 out of 10.

The index defines recovery as safely hosting live events due to low weekly Covid-19 cases, high vaccination rates, and proven consistent and high levels of consumer mobility to places like retail and recreational spots.

Data from the index, which tracks individual recovery scores for each state and county weekly, shows that some states are drastically outperforming others. The top five states closest to recovery score an average of 8.68 and include Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The worst performers are Illinois, North Carolina, Arizona , Pennsylvania, and Florida, with an average score of 2.0.

“Live experiences are roaring back in 2021. Sporting events were expected 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,” said Scott Varland, senior vice president and head of Jack X North America, the agency’s innovation practice. “The data and the empirical evidence are trending in the right direction, but we still need to carefully review location and context. There is still a lot of disparity as you zoom in on the map.

“Are brands getting ahead of themselves in returning to live? Does a low score mean an unsafe environment? No, but there are some watchouts. Some places pose a greater risk than others, and brands should consider the level of recovery in their design. The goal with this dashboard is to arm brands with the data to make informed decisions because numbers can sometimes tell a different story than feet on the ground,” continued Varland.

High scores reflect new case rates below the national average and vaccination rates of 50% or higher. Nationally, consumer mobility to recreational and retail locations is -5% below pre-pandemic levels. However, top states have consumer mobility levels on par with or greater than pre-pandemic levels – a rapid change for the better over the last 30 days. Low scoring states report higher than average case rates and lower vaccination stats.

There is a positive correlation between states with high recovery scores and mask mandates still in place or recently lifted. States with low recovery scores never had a mask mandate or lifted it ahead of or shortly after the CDC’s May 2021 updated mask recommendation.

The index is part of an inclusive Return to Live dashboard created by the agency. It also includes the status of over 300 experiences planned throughout 2021 by brands including Fortune 100 companies across multiple sectors, including technology, healthcare, automotive and financial services. By Q3, 81% of events around the globe are expected to include some kind of live, in-person component (63% fully live, 18% hybrid). This number is projected to reach 87% by Q4, with 71% of those experiences planned as primarily live engagements. The agency also looked at tentpole cultural events such as large conferences and festivals occurring over the rest of the year. Of these, 66% are committed to having live audiences.

About the Return to Live: Recovery Index

The Return to Live Index, a dynamic and proprietary rating of the U.S.’ readiness to safely embrace in-person events from the brand experience experts at Jack Morton, tracks virus spread, vaccination rates, market demographics, consumer mobility, and sentiment at the state and national level from reputable data sources, including Google, CDC, Nielsen, and the New York Times. Each metric is scored and weighted, resulting in a single comprehensive score that determines when conditions have improved enough for consumers and brands to feel comfortable with social closeness and re-engaging in in-person experiences. Jack Morton will update the data weekly. The index can be found at www.jackmorton.com/return-to-live