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Report: SUP, Adventure Racing, MMA all Growing

7 Sep, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Sports Planners May Want to Redirect Focus on Some Activities

If you want to know how and where the sports industry is growing, see what people are buying. And sporting goods manufacturers says the public is buying up goods relating to stand-up paddleboarding, adventure racing and competitive mixed martial arts. But other signs are not so clear and event owners have to navigate the murky waters to find answers on where other sports are headed.

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which is the trade association of sports and fitness brands, suppliers, retailers and partners, said the report shows moderate growth over last year, despite what officials refer to as major disruption in the sporting goods sector. The information was carried in a report shown in Sporting Goods Business.

“Our industry is in an era of mixed signals and of course unprecedented disruption,” said Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO. “There is no question that we’re facing a tough marketplace, but our data shows there continues to be growth across the sports and fitness industry. While declining numbers in core team sports participation are a cause for concern, we did see an overall uptick in total team sports participation. Furthermore, retail has been disrupted in a way no one could have predicted, but in 2015 for the third year in a row our industry saw 2 percent growth.”

The team sports that did increase according to SFIA statistics were baseball, cheerleading, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, indoor soccer and team swimming, as well as flag and tackle football. All those activities had gains of at least 4 percent. SUP, MMA and adventure racing, meanwhile, have officially been taken off the ‘fad’ list and added to the category of sustainable sports.

Mixed signals include the following:

  • More casual participation, but less core sports and fitness participation

  • More sales of athleisure wear (fashion clothing designed to look like, but not necessarily perform as, fitness clothing), but less performance wear sold

  • More footwear sold, but less equipment sold and significant retail contraction, but ongoing pockets of retail sales strength.

Total team sports participation numbers trended positive in 2015, but core team sports participation continued to decline.

“Youth sports participation is the foundation of our industry for the next 50 years,” commented Cove. “The decline in core participation is alarming; if we don’t turn that decline around the industry as a whole will face problems.”

This year’s report shows that Millennials are becoming the most powerful consumer segment, accounting for 25 percent of the U.S. population and nearly $200 billion in annual spend. Research shows that Millennials seek authentic experiences and place an emphasis on experience over goods. In fact, their investment, along with that of Baby Boomers, is driving the travel sports market. Running USA’s recent Millennial Running Study, for example, showed Millennials were drawn to the increased used of technology in endurance activities or the rapid rise of obstacle, color, night and costume races.

“There appears to be a fundamental change in the athlete of the future,” said Cove. “Social activities are beginning to drive sports participation and sharing through technology helps create connections.”

Bucket-list travel is a huge deal, hence the rise of the destination marathon, bicycle tours in both the U.S. and beyond, golf travel packages and other experiential sports vacations.

Full information on the SFIA 2016 State of the Industry Report, is available here.

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