By the time “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” blazed into theaters Nov. 22 and broke box office records shortly after, fans of the series – and the media – had been whipped into frenzied anticipation for months. Those associated with the movie will certainly benefit from its worldwide success, but the biggest winner is the sport of archery.
Two days before the movie premiered, USA Archery, the national governing body for Olympic archery, released overwhelmingly positive growth statistics for the organization.
One thing is clear: Archery’s popularity is surging, and the sport is showing sustained growth that continues to impress …
… [USA Archery’s] individual membership has skyrocketed from 4,185 individual memberships as of November 2011 to 8,589 as of November 2013 – a 105-percent increase in two years. That growth has remained consistent between 2012 and 2013, as well: In the past 12 months, individual membership has increased 54 percent.
The Bleacher Report likened “The Hunger Games” boosting archery interest to the “Harry Potter” books and movies inspiring super fans to take up the fictional game quidditch.
Taking a fictional sport and making it their own, the International Quidditch Association has become a real league, boasting athletes across the world. So if a movie can turn the surreal into an actual sport, there is a hope that the recent boon to archery can continue well past the third and final iteration of the Hunger Games series.
Archery has been compared to fly fishing, curling and now quidditch. Actual similarities between archery and these sports might be few and far between, but the important take-away is that, thanks to media coverage, people of all ages have more opportunities to get inspired by archery. They can then let that inspiration carry them to a bow shop, archery class or possibly the Olympics.
Release Your Wild
To build upon recent interest in archery and get more people involved in the sport, USA Archery, the Archery Trade Association and other partners launched the “Release Your Wild” campaign in early November. ATA also launched Archery360, a website targeting teenage and young adult readers.
Denise Parker, USA Archery CEO, said “Release Your Wild” resulted from the archery industry uniting to present archery in a new way.
"The imagery and the message, it's all a very new look for archery, and we've all collectively gotten behind it. I guess it's kind of our 'Got Milk?' campaign, so to speak, for the industry."
“Release Your Wild” will run through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The campaign strives to build interest in archery and drive people to retail stores and shooting facilities.
The Industry is Prepared
Just as “The Hunger Games’” leading character, Katniss Everdeen, unwittingly started a rebellion, the books and movies unknowingly sparked a major surge in archery interest, which took the archery industry by surprise.
The Mail Tribune reported that the industry is well prepared this time for a boon in interest.
The archery industry, which was caught somewhat off-guard last year by the explosion of interest stemming from the first installment of the “Hunger Games” series, is ready to handle what representatives hope will be a similar groundswell of interest in the sport with the release of “Catching Fire.”
Retailers Do Business Differently
Preparations to accommodate an influx of archery interest weren’t an overnight sensation, nor were they a reaction to a single movie. The ATA has worked the past decade to build archery parks in communities nationwide and make the sport more mainstream. Archery also has been featured in TV shows, multiple movies and the Olympics, all of which increased interest in the sport.
Hispanic Business quoted Jay McAninch, ATA’s CEO/president, as saying media coverage also sparked changes in archery equipment sales and sales demographics.
“Nearly all our retail outlets, large and small, have seen youth equipment growing by double digits all across the country. Generally we have seen retail sales and participation in archery increase from 20 to 30 percent across the country. In addition to more people trying the sport … We're seeing that archery is becoming more family oriented and more diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and race. In addition, the interest is coming from many people who haven't tried or even thought about archery, so what we're seeing is archery becoming more mainstream.”
Joe Dotterer of the Oranco Bowmen archery range in Chino, Calif., told Yahoo! Sports that local archery stores ran out of equipment after the first “Hunger Games” movie, and that retailers expect even more growth from the second movie’s release.
Archery’s media moment is changing the way retailers do business. More specifically, archery interest has changed product inventory as shop owners readied themselves earlier this year for “Catching Fire,” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” scheduled for release Dec. 13.
In an interview with ATA, Wayne Piersol, owner of Archery Only – Pro Shop in Newark, Calif., said the March 2012 release of “The Hunger Games" introduced millions of non-archers, ages 13 to 21, to archery.
“That influx of customers drove our introductory bow sales up by 30 percent last year,” Piersol said. “With the release of 'Catching Fire' we are better prepared, and have 35 percent more equipment in stock than last year at this time. Hollywood created the ‘perfect storm’ for archery, and sporting goods stores are reaping the benefits.”
Here’s a recap of archery media coverage from Nov. 19 through Dec. 5. Please note: only coverage from national media outlets is listed here.
The Post Game: 'Hunger Games' Makes Archery More Popular
Fox Business: ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ helps boost archery sales
Red Alert Politics: 7 things The Hunger Games series is making hot again