Archery is the new curling. That’s what NBC President Alan Wurtzel said to put context around soaring archery ratings at last year’s Olympic Games. But, frankly, archery has way more going for it than curling. For one thing, archery has Jennifer Lawrence, while curling has a name with too many distracting meanings.
An impromptu search of the keyword “curling” on Twitter revealed this as the most recent tweet posted that mentions "curling":
I feel like curling up in a ball and just dying 0.o— Jordyn . (@Trilltypeshit_) November 25, 2013
Another search on Twitter — this time using “archery” — revealed this, the most recent tweet including that word:
Marilyn testing her archery skills at the beach, 1954 pic.twitter.com/9EEUTDQjLT— 50s & 60s pics (@50sAnd60s) November 19, 2013
So there you have it: one point for archery; zero points for curling.
The View From the Ground
Still, there’s more. Archery’s media moment — which started with the “The Hunger Games” movie release in March 2012 and picked up momentum throughout the year thanks to other archery-related movies like “Brave” and “The Avengers” and finally reaching a crescendo with archery’s appeal at last summer’s Olympic Games — is changing the way archery retailers do business.
More specifically, it’s changed product inventory as shop owners readied themselves earlier this year for “Catching Fire,” the second installment of "The Hunger Games" franchise, and the upcoming “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” scheduled for release on Dec. 13.
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 the sport of archery. ”That influx of customers drove our introductory bow sales up by 30 percent last year,” he 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.”
Another archery shop, Archery Headquarters, in Chandler, Ariz., reported seeing more women and kids in the shop after the 2012 Olympic Games than at any other time before. Typically during that time of the year — late summer — the shop is full of bowhunters ready to buy equipment for autumn’s bowhunting season.
“For 25 years, my customers have been primarily men,” said shop owner Randy Phillips. “Suddenly, a lot of moms were there with their kids, asking a lot of questions. We didn’t know what to do at first.”
But Phillips figured it out. Archery Headquarters began offering introductory archery classes, which filled quickly. Soon after, Phillips created the Archery Academy, a separate area in his building that’s bright, colorful and free from taxidermy. The new area resembles other indoor sports facilities, and appeals to this new mainstream archery audience, especially women and kids.
Tracking National Industry Trends
While there are testimonials just like those from archery shops in every region of the country, the Archery Trade Association (ATA) is working to track trends nationally, many of which are revealing surges in archery equipment sales and participation.
Federal excise tax is one way the ATA tracks equipment sales. Unlike most manufacturers, makers of archery and bowhunting product pay a tax on bows, arrows and various accessories sold. The tax is used by state and federal wildlife agencies to fund shooting, hunting and conservation projects, but it’s also a reliable way to gauge growth in an industry with virtually no publicly traded companies.
“Our industry is made up of family-owned, private companies which makes accurate, nationwide sales data more difficult to report,” said Jay McAninch, ATA CEO/President. “That’s why the ATA’s funding of industry-wide surveys and our efforts to monitor the excise tax totals are so critical to recognizing trends in archery participation and equipment sales.”
McAninch wrote in a blog post earlier this year that arrows have steadily increased in unit sales since 2009, when we estimated 16,944,029 units were sold.
Here’s an excerpt from the same blog:
Total shafts sold rose 10.7 percent in 2010 to 18,755,651 units, then rose 20.9 percent in 2011 to 22,680,360 units. For 2012, arrow shafts increased by 2 percent to 23,085,826. Interestingly, third-quarter sales for 2012 were 9.4 percent higher than the best quarter on record, and fourth-quarter sales of arrow shafts were 31percent higher than any previous quarter, another record.”
Additionally, the ATA commissioned a national participation survey earlier this year through Responsive Management (RM), a respected surveying firm for outdoor activities. With emphasis on obtaining an accurate and precise sample of the U.S. population, RM called 8,335 randomly selected cell phone and residential phone numbers.
The following are data highlights from this 2013 survey.
Participation in 2012
Of 235 million total Americans age 18 and older:
*18.9 million (8 percent) shot archery or bowhunted.
*10.4 million (4.4 percent) participated in target archery only.
*6.5 million (2.8 percent) participated in archery and bowhunting.
*1.9 million (0.8 percent) participated exclusively in bowhunting.
Of the 18.9 million participants in bowhunting and archery in 2012:
*14 million or 75 percent used compound bows.
*5.5 million or 29 percent used crossbows.
*2.6 million or 14 percent used recurves.
*16.4 million or 86.7 percent used only one type of bow.
*11.5 million or 61 percent used compound bows exclusively.
Meanwhile, USA Archery is reporting a 105 percent increase in its individual memberships from 4,185 as of November 2011 to 8,589 in November 2013: That growth has remained consistent between 2012 and 2013, as well. In the past 12 months, individual membership has increased 54 percent.
To harness and direct surging archery participation and interest among young archers, the ATA has committed resources to "Release Your Wild," an advertising and social campaign which recently launched prior to the November 22 release of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
The campaign effort is designed to leverage the influential, pop culture moment surrounding the movie’s release, while extending beyond the moment to sustain peaked interest and engagement among new archers. Archery360.com, a consumer-facing site devoted to all things archery, will complement the campaign by providing ongoing archery-related news, participation how-tos and such tools as an archery shop locator.