It’s an Olympic year, so many of those sports that seem to hibernate from the casual fan start to rise up again, from wrestling to beach volleyball. Each will find their niche and hope to play off of a sentimental crowd on the world’s biggest stage to win recognition and maybe some endorsements or brand dollars.
This year it also seems that brands are aligning themselves with teams of athletes much further in advance, hoping to parlay those relationships into programs leading to the Games and then through the events, should their athletes…both Olympic and Paralympic, grab the spotlight. If not, it was a great run with some great stories.
However one sport below the radar may be finding its own niche, one which has global appeal and may just lead to more casual interest come the end of July. The sport is archery, one which has had its brightest lights cast when famed actress/archer Geena Davis made a run for the Olympic team some years back. Before that and since, the sport gets more exposure in swashbuckling films than on the sports page, at least in North America.
However because of the big screen, that interest may change, and it will be interesting to see if archery can ride that wave. The film is the international blockbuster “The Hunger Games,” and its ties to archery, both in the film and in the book trilogy, seem to be growing interest in the sport itself.
Some studies show that sales of archery equipment have increased more than 20% in the last year, according to figures provided by the Archery Trade Assn., and at the group’s annual show in January there were 20% more exhibitors. If that wasn’t encouraging enough, two other projected blockbusters, Pixar’s animated “Brave” and “The Avengers,” also have key ties to archery.
Manufacturers have also noticed the uptick, with brands like Under Armour now starting to create apparel around the sport that is hipper and more athletic, both for boys and girls.
Now of course you need more than a movie bump to reach the mainstream, you need great stories of the athletes and success in competition, both of which are still in the distance. However the sport is simple to understand, takes a great degree of skill and concentration, has been tried in some form by millions of people around the world. It also has the medieval cache, along with ties to the real world today, which makes it just appealing enough to maybe break through a bit. It is also very pristine in the sponsor category; making it prime for a bit of a run should NBC and other broadcasters suddenly glom on to a growing interest by some key demos, especially young ones. BMX it is not, a little edgy maybe it is.
No it doesn’t mean that archery will replace the NFL on the global landscape. What it does mean is that maybe pop culture can help a niche sport move the needle (or the arrow) just a bit, and ride the Olympic wave, with Hollywood’s help, to a little renaissance.