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COVID Is Fueling The Rise of Virtual Events for Quarantined Young Consumers

YPulse is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on young consumers and how brands can respond. We’ll be providing new data and insights for you weekly to cope with the crisis, including special reports, exclusive data on Coronavirus and the next generations, and actionable insights on what brands need to be doing now.

You can access everything here on our young consumers and COVID-19 hub.

As quarantined young consumers find new ways to celebrate life milestones and hangout with their friends, brands are stepping up to host virtual events that could impact what they expect in the future…

Since they can’t celebrate with or socialize with their friends and families in person, digital platforms have swiftly become an even bigger part of Gen Z and Millennials lives. Whether it’s hosting or attending virtual happy hours and birthday parties, or “going to” live streamed events. With concerts, sports events, and comedy shows on hold, livestreams have become one of the main ways that celebrities are keeping their fans entertained, and our COVID-19 special report on entertainment in quarantine found that 30% of 13-39-year-olds are regularly live-streaming content during their free time.

In a very short amount of time, livestreamed virtual events have also become a go-to tactic for brands trying to reach young consumers. Some are large-scale spectacles, most notably the upcoming “One World: Together At Home” live concert airing on Saturday on multiple networks. The charity event, sponsored by Pepsi and curated by Lady Gaga, will support WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and feature performances by Gen Z and Millennial favorites like Billie Eilish and Lizzo. But thanks to social and streaming platforms, live events these days are not just big budget affairs. Brands big and small are turning to livestreamed events to reach the generations losing a slice of their youth trapped at home and looking for diversions and replacements for the IRL socializing and celebrating they’re missing. Here are some of the virtual events making livestreamed a new marketing norm—and perhaps a lasting expectation among Gen Z and Millennials. 


It’s a year with no promposals. When high schoolers’ end-of-the-year dances were cancelled, many teens were devastated, but it didn’t stop some of them from finding alternatives. Those who already shopped and bought their suits and dresses are turning to TikTok to show off their outfits—and brands are also giving them a chance to celebrate from home. Teen Vogue has stepped up to throw a virtual prom for the graduating class of 2020. The special event will take place on May 16 via Zoom and will feature celebrity co-hosts and cameos, DJ sets, customized playlists, interactive choreography, epic thematic backdrops, and more. In the lead up, Teen Vogue will be sharing content to help with prom-prep at home, so participants can look and feel their best, even though their big dance is a digital one. 

Graduation Ceremonies

High schoolers and college students who are part of the class of 2020 are also missing out on walking across the stage for their graduation commencement. It’s a milestone that many are feeling robbed of. So, continuing their focus on college students, Natural Light has come up with a live event to fill the void. The beer brand is hosting a virtual college graduation to give them a version of the graduation they aren’t able to experience. On May 14, they will be hosting a virtual college commencement ceremony on Facebook Live to celebrate graduates around the world and “boost spirits.” The event will include speakers including Mark Cuban, actress Jane Lynch, and Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini. 

Happy Hours & Clubs

With bars and clubs shut down, social media users are looking for the next big party and turning to Zoom or Facebook and Instagram Live to do so. Cue Quarantee, which is the hottest new (online) NYC club. The newly formed online club has all the elements of an “an uber-exclusive NYC club” minus the long lines and physically packed dance floors. There’s still a dress code requirement of nightclub attire as well as a doorman who collects a $10 cover charge, while club goers can pay an extra $80 to reserve “private tables”’ (in this case: private video rooms) with smaller groups of people to listen to the DJ and music performances without the rest of the crowd. Three hundred people reportedly attended the first event. D-Nice is a deejay who started up one of the most popular Instagram Live parties at the start of the pandemic getting many celebrities like J.Lo, Drake, and Michelle Obama. Even alcohol brands (which have seen a surge in sales during the COVID crisis) like Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg, and Pernod Ricard have partnered with groups to create online clubbing experiences, while Busch Beer has been hosting virtual happy hours on Facebook Live. 

Sports Tournaments

With live sports events cancelled, athletes are going stir crazy and flocking to Twitch and YouTube to stream themselves playing, and even going as far as joining TikTok. And with the hashtag #NBAMoments trending on the app, it’s clear that sports fans are missing game days—and brands are looking for the way to fill that void. Earlier this month, Buffalo Wild Wings sponsored a H-O-R-S-E basketball game on Twitch (touting its #SportsLiveOn mantra on social media) pitting two social media stars against each other in a game using balls of socks and laundry baskets. Even the NBA got in on the H-O-R-S-E train: Under their  “NBA Together” initiative, the association teamed up with ESPN to host a “pandemic” version of the game bringing together current and retired players from the NBA and WNBA—all of which was filmed from their homes and shared to their social media channels. But that isn’t the only way the sports cable network has been airing alternative sports content: They hosted “ESPN Esports Day” and aired a 12-hour marathon of esports content that included Rocket League, Madden, and NBA 2K, played by NBA stars.