Non-Participation Trophies

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The NBA All-Star Game will be played this Sunday in Charlotte, and you can be sure that both the arena and the television audience will be full of people who never laced up basketball shoes past junior high school. Their ranks may be outnumbered by fans who’ve never dribbled anything other than a beverage.

That’s true of all of the major sports. Professional football and baseball have plenty of close followers who never played the game. While I don’t really follow hockey, I’ve attended multiple NHL games even though I don’t know how to ice skate.

Does professional bass fishing have those kinds of fans, the ones who’ve literally never played the game?

If not, what would bring them into the fold?

Would better, more in-the-moment coverage, like what we’re seeing from all three major leagues right now, convince non-participants that this is worthy of their time? Or would it require a transformational personality, like Tiger Woods? When Woods was in his prime, lots of people who’d never played golf (or people who despised golf, like myself – I consider it just a poor excuse to wear plaid pants) tuned in. Some of them eventually took up the game, but others just cared about how Eldrick was doing.

With three tours pouring on the gas trying to maximize market share, this seems to me to be the threshold question going forward. If the fan base is limited to people who already fish competitively, have a desire to do so, or are in a demographic likely to be given that opportunity, the pie is far different than if our potential dedicated fan base includes people who will never pick up a rod and reel. If you’re a tour operator, or a potential sponsor, that’s what tells you how to spend your cash. NBA league-wide sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay, Kia Motors and State Farm, companies that may be marketing more heavily to the hardcore fan than to the hardcore baller. Pro fishing will never have the NBA’s widespread appeal, but if it can tap into non-participants more heavily than it’s doing now, it changes the business dynamic and potential. If it can’t, then we need to keep buttering our bread in the same places, only better.

If you know someone who is a huge fan of professional bass fishing but has never fished, or fishes only when Halley’s Comet comes around, I’d love to know what attracted to them to the sport and keeps them engaged.