Archery Hits The Bull’s Eye, Thanks To Movies And TV Shows
While the legendary Robin Hood is typically depicted as being quite proficient with a bow, Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the hit film The Hunger Games, based on the Suzanne Collin’s novels, has managed to do something that the bandit of Sherwood Forest never could do. Namely get young women and even tween girls interested in the sport of archery.
“It has been almost instantaneous in its sudden rise in popularity,” says Jason Pickerill, marketing manager for Bear Archery Products. “As soon as The Hunger Games and Brave hit it exploded! There is a profound impact that these movies had on the sport of archery.”
It isn’t just girls that suddenly have been drawn to draw a bow. Pickerill says that his five year old son expressed passing interest in his father’s line of work, but after seeing Brave his son was hooked.
The movies have been a bull’s eye of sorts, as archery has become among the fastest growing sports in the country, and most indicators point to movies, along with TV shows. This TV season, one of the hottest super hero shows isn’t about Superman or even Batman, it is the CW’s Arrow, about the lesser known but not exactly super popular super hero Green Arrow!
And fans are picking up the bow. Clubs devoted to bow sports have grown from 279 clubs in 2010 to 504 in 2012, while website traffic for USAarchery.com has doubled over the same period.
Along with the firearms industry, which has experienced record sales in the past few months, archery has seen tremendous growth, but Jay McAninch, CEO and president of the Archery Trade Association says it is almost for opposite reasons. “People have never felt as threatened as they do with archery equipment as they do with guns,” McAninch tells Fortune.com. “But there is no question that the stars in the universe lined up, as the sport received its largest marketing campaign ever from those movies.”
Most of the growth is also coming from target archery as opposed to hunting, but McAninch adds that this is how it has long been overseas. “The rest of the world has had a robust sport in target archery,” he says. “France has seven million archers, and now we’re starting to catch up.”
This, of course, is good news for retailers, who are continuing to experience record growth in the sport. And leading the way are those who are clearly inspired by Katniss and Princess Mérida of Disney Pixar’s animated movie Brave. “The biggest increase in our customers has absolutely been tweens – both boys and girls – and young women,” says Rob Kaufhold, president of Lancaster Archery Supply. “We’ve seeing seven to 12 year olds who have seen Brave and older girls who have seen The Hunger Games and read the books; and it truly has inspired them to give it a try. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
Even those who aren’t drawing the string themselves are also showing increased interest, as Kaufhold adds that attendance in the Junior Olympic Archery competitions is now drawing fans who are coming out to watch their friends, and this in turn just means more bow enthusiasts. “The youth programs we’re seeing are at or beyond capacity, and the interest from kids and family just continues to grow.”
The closest past phenomena like this came in 1999 when actress Gena Davis, who had only picked up the sport two years prior, vied for a place on the US Olympic archery team. She went on to place 24th out of 300 and did not qualify for the team but did participate as a wild-card entry in the Sydney International Golden Arrow competition.
“That resulted in some short lived interest,” adds Kaufhold. “Rambo also had an impact, and of course Robin Hood over the years. But nothing like what the recent wave of movies and TV has done.” Kaufhold has seen the impact firsthand as business for his retail outlets is up even with the sluggish economy. “We’ve seen double digit growth and at times triple digit growth since those movies hit. And we don’t think it is going to slow down anytime soon.”
It doesn’t hurt that a complete recurve bow set for a beginner starts at under $100, and even intermediate equipment can cost just $250. Unlike with shooting sports, archery isn’t a problem in most suburbs, provided that there is a reasonable amount of space.
“The barrier to entry for this sport is very low,” adds Pickerill. “Shops will help set you up with your equipment and will teach you.”
It might not be the same as having an Olympic medalist as a trainer, which is what The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence received while preparing for the role, but the bow can still be picked up at any age. And unlike with many other sports, size doesn’t play as much of a role. “It doesn’t matter how big you are, anyone can shoot a bow,” said Khatuna Lorig, 1992 Olympic bronze medalist and trainer for Lawrence. “I’m just very excited that my sport is becoming so popular. It is nice to see so many people, especially young women, seeing that it is a cool sport. This sport is unique.”
With Hunger Games: Catching Fire coming this holiday, and one more movie yet to follow, it seems that interest in this unique sport might just get a lot more common.
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