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Olympic Wins Add to Growth of Shooting, Outdoor Sports

24 Aug, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Organizers Hoping that Team USA's Shooting Medals (All Won by Women) Continue to Attract a New Demographic

Shooting sports are, ahem, on target to be some of the most popular in America. And so are activities associated with the great outdoors. And you have three women to thank, since their performances in Rio are likely to keep things on a positive track.

Part of the good news comes from the Physical Activity Council which recently released its 2016 Participation Report. In that report, which analyzes trends in exercise and physical activity, four of the top ten growth activities in 2015 involve the use of firearms, and three of the top ten growth activities in the past eight years are affiliated with the outdoors.

The shooting sports that made gains in popularity include target shooting (handgun), target shooting (clay), hunting (rifle) and target shooting (rifle). Other outdoorsy pursuits showing growth were day hiking and kayaking. (Hunting found its way into two categories, making up the third outdoor sport that is on the grow.) More good news: among the top 10 growth activities over the last eight years, trail running, recreational kayaking and overnight hiking/backpacking were featured.

This news – which is good for all sectors of outdoor sports – dovetails with findings in the North American Camping Report, which showed that participation in camping was not only up overall, but for the first time, up among minorities – a demographic that formerly did not participate (most likely the result of not being marketed to.)

The cross-populations of camping with other outdoor sports, such as orienteering, fishing and boating, can mean an uptick in sports events for those sectors.

One of the demographics that is additionally expected to grow is the female segment of the market. Women on Team USA did well in shooting in Rio, with Kim Rhode winning bronze in women's skeet, Ginny Thrasher winning gold in women's air rifle, and Corey Cogdell-Unrein taking bronze in women’s trap. USA Shooting (as well as the shooting industry as a whole) is hoping this spurs more people, including women, to take up the sport. An announcement published on USA Shooting's website shows all three women and includes the tagline, "Shoot like a girl!"

Already, there has been a rise of shooting sports on the collegiate level. Fueled by gun industry funding, college shooting clubs are growing in numbers – and in popularity. According to an article in the Washington Post, these organizations are growing at a surprising rate, including at a diverse range of schools including Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, the University of Maryland, George Mason University, and even smaller schools such as Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and Connors State College in Oklahoma.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a powerful firearms lobbying group, has awarded more than $1 million in grants since 2009 to start about 80 programs. A couple who own a large firearms accessories company created the ­MidwayUSA Foundation, funding it with nearly $100 million to help youth and college programs, including MIT’s. The National Rifle Association organizes pistol and rifle tournaments, including the national championships in Fort Benning, Georgia. In addition, shooting is growing in popularity on the youth level. According to an article on Sports Destination Management’s website, clay pigeon shooting is gaining in popularity among tweens and teens.

Segments of the outdoor sports industry are already making inroads in reaching out to minorities. The National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF) has released a new report, “A Hispanic Market Study Firearms and the Shooting Sports,” which found that 72 percent of Hispanic respondents reported participating in outdoor recreation such as camping, boating, hiking, golfing or fishing in the past year, and that 41 percent of respondents had been to a shooting range. Of the Hispanics surveyed, 18 percent reported owning a firearm, and an additional 25 percent said they would like to own a firearm in the future. Desire to own a firearm in the future is strong, at 27 percent, among Hispanic women.

As an online article in Sports Destination Management’s website noted, “Translated into dollars, it’s easy to see why marketing shooting sports to Hispanics is of interest to the market: Hispanics currently wield buying power of more than $825 billion, quickly approaching $1 trillion, according to the NSSF.  To try and attract more non-traditional demographics to ranges, the Foundation advises ranges to reach out to a more diverse pool of participants and create an environment that welcomes new shooters.”

The outdoor industry has long remained a glass ceiling for minorities. An article in the Kansas City Star noted that statistics from the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Association Recreation show that whites made up 86 percent of all fishermen nationally, according to the survey, issued in 2011.Whites made up an even larger percentage of hunters, 94 percent.

But the glass ceiling is giving way. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which represents the boating and fishing sector, has been active in recruiting minority participation to the outdoors. A new program called Vamos A Pescar (Let’s Go Fishing) was recently introduced as a way to appeal to Hispanic fishermen. The website VamosAPescar.org tells of a campaign designed to encourage Hispanics, especially families, to get involved in outdoor sports.

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