The sport of squash is fast, ultra-athletic and pretty much refined to clubs and select colleges and high schools in the United States. It has never been “mainstream.” The International Squash Federation, with a large amount of support in India and Pakistan, has tried in vain to get the sport on the Olympic programme. Women’s Professional Squash, even more of an afterthought than the men’s game by the casual fan, is trying to resurrect itself as a viable alternative for a more edgy audience, and is slowly cutting its own course especially with a charismatic, young American star in Amanda Sobhy of New York.
However coming week, a big stage may give squash at least a little more play in the eye of the casual public sports fan. The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions commences in Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York, bringing some of the world’s most gifted players to a glass cube for a chance at prize money, a title, and the curious eyes of all coming to and from work. Like the PBR this weekend (at Madison Square Garden), squash comes to a different place to get exposure with a brand (J.P. Morgan) that can court its high end customers who are interested in the game, as well as find a little extra brand recognition for those going to and fro their workplace. It brings the sport right to a large group of consumers who may never have seen the game before, and could take an interest. The sport is not shy to try any form of technology to get its athletes some buzz and the wearable space has garnered a good deal of interest from those involved in the game (check out the story on squash player and founder of WHOOP, Will Ahmed) and aggressively markets the even, now in its 20th year, not just to the core but to anyone with an interest in racquet sports.
Will that interest mean that more people will run out to get squash racquets and balls/ Well, if there is not a lot of public access to play the game, probably not. What the event does do is create the potential for other showcase events, while also serving as a potential platform to tell the stories of the elite athletes who are competing. It’s not like squash will suddenly overtake any other racquet sport in popularity, but it is an interesting (and probably expensive) incremental awareness play, that coupled with a young rising star who plays to the crowd, may have squash on the minds of more consumers this January than before and anything to keep people interested and active is not a bad thing.