THE MISSING DEMOGRAPHIC – 25-40
The way junior curling works is that teams are formed in late elementary and/or high school. –The recreation programs at clubs filter out the competitive players from those there for socialization only. Teams form from the competitive curling group. The competitive curlers go through transitions with their teams. At competitions, they meet other enthusiasts and change teams. Changes occur annually, until the team ‘gels’. Then, at age 17, the team members have to make decisions on their future careers. Some go away to post-secondary schools, some stay in town to work or go to college locally. The decisions often result in the rearrangements of the ‘gelled’ teams. Strong players seek like-abled team mates. University teams will form, but only eight players will survive the cuts. At this point, the players who are not well connected drop away from the sport, despite having attained credible skills.
So, what happens to the learned curlers, who have not formed teams? What happens to the university teams after the players leave school?
Often they disperse. Unless a team shows promise from the junior ranks such as Team Homan, or an individual shines and is picked up by an established group, Kaitlyn Lawes to Team Jones for example, former players find their fortunes in other endeavours. No longer satisfied to play at recreation levels, those former accomplished athletes correctly seek occupations and other recreation activities.
But, what about those recreation and social curling participants? Often, those teens establish a social network within their club and stay. But at age 17, they concentrate on the books or redefine their goals as they age out of structured curling programs (U18 or Bantam). There are few U21 programs into which to graduate. In a previous article, I explained that youth programs are only as good as the organizers/coaches. Those organizers are usually parents. At 17, many teens find freedom from parental guidance in the keys to a vehicle.
If a U15 program had, say 40 players, possibly there will be two competitive teams, conceivably ten players. By age 21, those two teams produce perhaps two players to feed into the competitive curling community. Most of the 40 recreation players will keep curling in mind as a potential lifelong endeavour….”in mind” not necessarily in actuality. I am one of those who started curling at 40 but with the knowledge gained in a high school recreation program.
So, part one of the 21-40 demographic market for curling clubs will be players who learned at a young age. Assuming those forty youth participants, and there are 1000 clubs in Canada, there is the potential for 40,000 youth educated in curling delivery every four years (length of high school attendance). Credo Consulting Inc. has performed surveys which plot the total number of active curlers at about 592,000. Credo conducts a monthly poll of 1000 Canadians selected randomly from the population. Unscientific discussions with people in curling conjectured that there are up to 800,000 active curlers.
The second part of the market is the persons who want or are encouraged to learn the sport for social or competitive reasons after age 21. These may be athletic persons from other sports, or spouses and friends of curlers who want the socialization. This sturdier market is one of SOCIALIZATION.
How does a curling club engage the 21 to 40 age demographic?
- According to Credo, 65% of the population watches curling. That education from television or live-streaming is an advantage to clubs seeking participants. The Canadian market that knows the sport is 22 million. Your program can be focussed less on educating the consumer.
- The 21 to 30 age group is developing a base for family and financial health. The curling club should promote itself as an opportunity to network both for social and business reasons. To compete with other recreations, curling must compete on cost as well. Cost it too low, and there will seem to be limited value. Compare your district recreation opportunities and price memberships accordingly. Graduated fees for those starting out will encourage the new players.
- Your club has two venues: the ice shed; and the lounge. You hook them on the ice and reel them in the lounge. Learn-to-Curl programs expand their knowledge on ice. The Lounge provides them the security of networking. Make your lounge inviting and have conversation areas.
- Information from Credo also shows that 18.1% of all curlers are ages 12-17 (five years out of the total demographic scale). The 25-34 (10 years) age demographic by contrast is only 16.2%. This tells us that there is 50% fewer curlers per population by child rearing ages. This is a poorly tapped market that already knows the sport! Give them a reason to be at the curling facility!
Nab them at 17 and after university/college. They have few financial resources, so graduate your fees to accommodate them. If they can prove that they attend post-secondary institutions, and their parents used to pay $100 to $150, then they should not flinch at a 50% increase. If they are employed, they will consider two-thirds of the adult fee a supportive proposition until age 24. Until they reach 30, graduate them to 85% of full fees. By the time they are 30, they should have stabilized their financial position and have reduced their loans.
Appeal to their family instincts. Enable spouses the opportunity to play together. Support their date night. Mixed or Mixed doubles events are ideal. I say events because leagues lasting 30 weeks may be straining for some relationships. Think creatively. Perhaps Mixed and Mixed Doubles is every other week. Offer couples bottle of wine on their anniversary or special remembrance. When their kids reach age 6, the positive experience of the spouses will be passed onto the children. If there are more than two in the family – organize Family Events distinct from religious holidays.
Promote the social environment. Remember, curling facilities have two distinct venues. Curling is a superlative singles setting. One minute between thrown shots on ice can start the conversation that continues around a table in the lounge. The Royals in Toronto and Calgary Curling Club (see their Associate leagues, http://calgarycurlingclub.com/associate-leagues/ ) have built flexibility into programs that appeal to this demographic.
Promote skills and fitness. Unlike the over 50’s, most of the 21-40 demographic is agile. Some want to demonstrate that agility. And, they want fitness. Curling, the drinking man’s game, is trending to an athletic endeavour. So, set aside 200sf of floor space dedicated to a warm-up area or a between-game fitness regime. Indeed, that extra facility could become a profit centre.
Prediction:The young clubs of tomorrow will be: non-golf –and-country; unrefined, homestyle; have flexible leagues; and be accessible by other than car.
Take Solace:If you missed the Twenty-Somethings as your market, make the effort to hold them on the line until they can be pulled in after they are 40.