In the US there are 4 million people that annually take part in triathlons (1). The Ironman World Championship is televised on NBC Sports every year. Triathlons are exciting to watch. For the athletes they are punishing. If you are unfamiliar an Ironman it is an endurance event where athletes swim 2.4 miles, complete a cycling time trial of 112 miles, then run a marathon (26.2 miles for those of you that don’t know the distance of a marathon). The three endurance tests are completed in sequence without a pause.
There’s a time limit to complete the 140.6 of 15 hours. If an athlete fails to complete the total 140.6 miles distance in 15 hours they are recorded as did not finish. Each leg of an Ironman also has time limits. If an athlete fails to make it out of the swim or off the bike under the time allotted for any segment they are pulled from the race.
There are shorter distances for triathlons. For example a popular distance is the 1/2 Ironman where each segment is halved. There are still time limits for the 70.3 miles. There are other triathlons that have a 1200-meter swim, 40-kilometer cycling distance, and a 10 k run to finish it off. Some athletes prefer sprint distances like a 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and a 5K run which are available. Any distance requires a lot of discipline, training, expensive equipment and pricey entry fees. If someone is willing to pay there is a match for him or her in triathlon.
Archery on the other hand isn’t televised on NBC. There are bow hunting shows on some paid cable network that are generally sponsored by a bow manufacturer and other hunting gear companies. There aren’t shows for the big archery tournaments on major networks.
You can find big archery tournaments on YouTube. Unless you enjoy archery odds are you aren’t searching the Internet for folks flinging arrows. People seem more likely to select golf should you enjoy slow moving sports.
Archery is slow. Golf is slow. Triathlons are not slow. Despite being slow golf is entertaining to watch even if you don’t play golf. Watching Tiger Woods win his last Masters was exciting. Woods repeatedly walked around pretty landscaping in Augusta hitting a small ball into a small hole better than other folks who were all doing the same activity.
In archery we shoot arrows into small dots or nearly unseeable rings on a foam animal. Archery is hard to do well. In an Ironman the top professional men will soar over a course and finish the 140.6 miles in around 8 hours. The professional women aren’t far behind. An Ironman is hard to do well. An Ironman is also hard to do not well.
Should you watch NBC’s Ironman World Championship show not only will you see the blazing professionals but also NBC will highlight those in misery struggling to come in under the cut off time. You never see some duffer on a golf course at 20 over par. No one wants to see that sort of embarrassment. But, if you’re in an Ironman, shuffling along in the dark during the final leg of the triathlon having snot running down you face you are fodder for a camera crew. The crews have to do something; those top pros have finished the race and gone home.
Archery’s top professionals are a marvel to watch. The announcers on events found via the Internet do a pretty good job of keeping viewers (other archers) interested in the competition. Golf’s announcers have done the same for audiences. The stories told about the golfers are often similar to those being uttered in hushed reverence about archers.
In America 25 million people play golf. (2) That is about 8% of the population. You can find golf on television pretty much year round. There are even paid channels, if you subscribe, devoted to golf. If you look around you can also find an ample supply of triathlons with watch. Should you be on of the 1.9 million triathletes in America you know where to find them.
If you are among the 18.9 million American, over the age of 18 that participate in archery your viewing options for archery aren’t in the same ballpark as golf. (The triathlon figure includes all participate aged 6 and above) (3,4) Yet, the numbers of participates for the two sports, golf and archery, are similar.
There are differences in the wealth backing the sports. Golf in the US has an annual revenge of around $23 billion dollars while archery comes in around $363 million. (5,6) Triathlons, which is a smaller sport than archery, has annual revenue of around $3 billion dollars, (7) None of those are in the athlete footwear ballpark of $72 billion annually. (8) Archery doesn’t even come close to the annual revenue of bicycles of $7 billion. (9) But, the King of sport is the NFL, which took in over $15 billion last year from fans. (9) Yes, that’s $15 billion earned by the NFL from adoring fans. Major league baseball earned about $5.82 billion (10) (NFL and MLB revenue does not reflect gear/equipment sales)
Archery isn’t “big” business. I think it could become bigger. Like golf there are stories for broadcasters to quietly share during televised events. Archery would certainly be easier for film for camera crews than triathlons. But, archery isn’t going to reach the living rooms of most Americans if it depends solely on hunting shows.
Hunting is a large segment of the bow manufactures earnings and one where customers will buy the newest gizmo that promises to improve their skill as a bow hunter. Of course, more practice would be a better investment.
I believe the volume of people in archery, about that of golf, is enough to bring the sport into mainstream. I just don’t think hunting shows are the conduit. The conduits, in my opinion, are field, 3D and target archery. But, then no one is asking me.