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If you are of a certain age, you probably remember weekend afternoons in front of the TV set, watching Chris Schenkel call the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tournament of the week. Big names like Dick Weber and Don Carter would compete every week in a sport that a lot of us played at our hometown lanes. It was a big deal if there was a PBA stop near you.
And, it hasn’t been that long ago, in March of 2000, that the PBA tour got a jolt of enthusiasm (and cash) when former Microsoft executives Chris Peters, Rob Glaser and Mike Slade resurrected the tour, albeit for a short time. By 2009, when the economy was starting to take a hit, so did the PBA Tour, cutting the number of tour stops and overall events, with many of the tournament finals now shown on tape instead of live. In between the Professional Women’s Bowling Association went out of business in 2003, and now men and women compete equally on the tour.
Now, the latest, and possibly, final blow to a once proud tour, the U.S. Open, one of the top bowling tournaments in the country, has been canceled for the second year in a row after the Bowling Proprietors Association of America failed to find sponsors. This year’s Open already had been scratched—now, the 2015 Open also has fallen victim to the lack of sponsorship.
The BPAA says it costs about a half million dollars to put on the Open, money that they have not been able to raise. They say it’s because advertisers like to reach the 18 to 35 year old crowd, a crowd sponsors don’t think they can reach at the lanes. But those advertisers may be victim to stereotypes.
A 2012 Experian Simmons National Consumer Survey found that more than 51 million adults ages 18 and over, and perhaps more significantly, 19 million youths aged 6 to 17, are bowling, and 2012 was the fifth straight year that participation in bowling grew.
Here are some more facts from that Experian survey: The average income of a bowling household is nearly $68,000 a year, more than 46% of those households had incomes of $75,000 a year or more, and almost 32% of them had household incomes of more than $100,000. What advertiser WOULDN’T want that demographic?
You want younger demos? High school bowling is one of the fastest growing high school sports in the country, with more than 5,000 schools offering bowling programs with more than 50,000 participating in 47 states. Collegiate bowling is growing by more than 10 percent a year, and the sport is recognized at the NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA levels.
The lesson? Do your research. Do your homework when looking for sponsors to match up with your events. Presenting potential sponsors with facts and figures for their target audience may help save—and even grow—your home town events.