Archery rising in popularity
It wasn’t that long ago that if you shot a bow, you were among a niche group of hunters who loved the added challenge and the reward it presented.
But over the past few years, archery has skyrocketed in popularity. USA Archery, the national governing body for Olympic archery, reports a 72% membership surge in the past 12 months alone, and the Archery Trade Association (ATA) recently reported that 18.9 million Americans participated in archery and/or bowhunting in 2012.
That’s more than the combined population of America’s 5 biggest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia), according to census data from the same year.
Some attribute much of this growth to archery’s growing cultural prominence: the Katniss Everdeen character from the Hunger Games alone, for instance, has spawned a massive amount of interest, particularly among teenage girls, reports NPR.
Others believe it's the physical and mental benefits of the sport that have sparked the appeal. But whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Archery has become America’s fastest growing sport — and from the looks of things, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
To capitalize on the growing popularity of and participation in archery, a number of organizations and businesses are launching programs that will help build and sustain interest.
This past fall, the ATA launched the “Release Your Wild” campaign. The campaign, a collaboration with USA Archery and other member partners, leverages digital platforms and pop culture to connect teens and young adults to each other as well as to the stores, camps, leagues, and classes that will help them begin their journey towards becoming veritable archers.
“The commitment we’re making to this campaign is all about seizing a lucrative opportunity and turning this groundswell of interest and curiosity among America’s youths into a vibrant, active community of new archers and bowhunters,” said ATA’s president and CEO, Jay McAninch.
Archery’s recent surge in popularity has also uncovered a real need for easy-to-locate online information for beginners. To fill this void, the ATA created archery360.com. This consumer-facing website is geared towards teens and young adults who are interested in archery and bowhunting, providing them information such as how to shoot, where to shoot, what to buy and how to go about buying it.
“The information was and is out there, but it’s scattered around the online space and it’s not always written or presented in a way that appeals to this age demographic,” says McAninch. “Archery 360 takes these great beginner resources — many created by our member companies and partner organization — and puts them all in one spot where young people can find them.”
Explore Archery is another program that will complement the “Release Your Wild” campaign. Developed jointly by USA Archery and the ATA, and announced in early May, this innovative education program is specifically designed for community-based organizations such as Scouting Groups, State Agencies, and Archery Retailers.
With a wide range of program options, Explore Archery provides these entities with the tools to start a new archery program or complement existing programs. As a result, organizations are better equipped to introduce beginners of all ages and abilities to archery, and future generations of archers have greater opportunity to learn about and engage in the sport.
“We hope that Explore Archery will serve as a foundation for the development of community based archery programs nationwide,” explained Denise Parker, USA Archery CEO. “We’re excited to grow a new generation of archers and Olympic, Paralympic and World Champion hopefuls at the grassroots level.”
While the sport of archery shows no signs of slowing down, there’s no telling where the industry is headed. But so far, it sure seems to be hitting all the right targets.