Major League Baseball is among the things that allow me to enjoy summer. I watch it, listen to games and even listen to MLB Network driving from place to place. My non-baseball fan buddies hate it and call it noise, but for me it makes me more knowledgeable and makes me a “fan.”
The only problem with the fan part is there are not as many like me as there were. Don’t get me wrong, there are still 59 million of us, but only a couple years ago there were 79 million. Baseball is still strong but ownership, players and the league are looking at every avenue to give it a shot in the arm, including speeding up play, fewer trips to the mound and a pitch clock.
Will the younger generation and more fans like it better if it’s tweaked? Only time will tell.
Fishing may be in a similar conundrum. It seems the youth movement has given fishing a shot in the arm, but is it enough?
High school and college angling continues to grow, but are youth anglers moving the buying needle. I haven’t seen any stats on it. Numbers are up, but is spending? I watch boat sales, tackle sales and trends closely and hope to see reports soon on a positive impact from the youth movement. Fishing license sales are a difficult indicator because states vary on when youth anglers have to begin purchasing them.
MLB trying everything: In the last 10 years or so, we have seen baseball stadiums go from giant “sit in your seat and watch the game” venues to experience-based ballparks. The new parks and those that have been renovated look at the fan experience as front and center.
Baseball recognizes it is nothing without the fans and things to do for the family have become a priority. Also, better food is now part of the fan experience at the ballpark. What once was a menu of nachos, hot dogs and beer is now also specialty sandwiches and full restaurant experiences.
Fireworks, giveaways and promotions, concerts and even bring your dog to the ballpark make it more fan friendly and baseball has lined up its stars more completely with the fans, too. President and Sausage races add fun to the day and businesses align with teams as an “official” sponsor. Marketing, ownership and MLB continue to look for ways to engage fans. In baseball most fans don’t participate, but in fishing they do.
Fishing catching on: What was once “Bubba on a bucket” has gained significant momentum in recent years as companies see the value and spending power of this growing demographic. Youth initiatives combined with star power have grown the advertiser base from within the sport … advertisers such as boat and motor companies to insurance, tires, oil companies and more.
They see the value, but we still have a lot of work to do. Records were again broken on both attendance and economic impact at this year’s Bassmaster Classic and will probably be again next year at the 50th anniversary of the event.
I believe we still have some tweaking to do, but I see the leagues, pros and weekend anglers stepping up by being approachable, engaged and willing to let their personalities shine through. Although it is tough for fishing to be a spectator sport with such a large playing field, “live” on the water broadcasts via the Internet continue to get better.
With three leagues, the FLW, BASS and Major League Fishing, it is incumbent that they work together at the top tiers on scheduling to not overlap. Scheduling conflicts do a disservice to the fans, in my opinion. They have to decide which one to watch versus watching them all.
Warm weather means baseball and fishing to me and hopefully both will continue to grow. Support your favorite team, your favorite athlete or your favorite league and don’t be afraid to tell them what you would like to see. Some of the best ideas in practice today are a result of the fans speaking up.
Both sports are only as good as the fans! For both, it is much more than the game or the tournament, it is making a positive impact both from a buying and awareness perspective. Baseball is working hard to incorporate the fan experience in everything it does and we need to do the same thing in fishing.
Engaging the fans, making it fun and getting kids involved are the only ways both will prosper. I am betting they will.