Bowling isn't exactly an extreme sport; it's not sexy, doesn't involve bungie cords, BMX bikes, skateboards, or various aerial acrobatics. It's the sport of Ralph Kramden, Ed Norton, Archie Bunker and Jeff Bridges and "The Big Lebowski."
But a trip to a Bolwmor center on a Friday night shows that its appeal crosses boundaries. There are as many Millennials drinking Pabst as there are older people in team shirts. And, most important, it's the one ball-based sport, and probably the only sport besides competitive swimming, that can't be performed in the back yard, a parking lot, or a vacant patch of dirt. Without a bowling venue, there is no bowling, just bocce.
The market has been shrinking, and probably will continue, according to a sector report from IBIS World, but consolidation may change the fortunes of venue participants and bring in new younger people. Bowlmor, which last year merged with AMF to become the global king pin of bowling alleys under the Bowlmor AMF name, is launching a campaign to bring in those new consumers.
The effort, "Bowling Makes Saturday Night More Fun," targets Gen Xers and Millennials. It features real reactions from real people. In the spot, street teams in giant bowling-pin outfits along with giant bowling balls show up to surprise young people at movies, in the mall and waiting on line to get into a club. The people are ushered into stretch limos (with bowling pin paint schemes) and taken to the lanes where the fun is just getting started. The goal of the campaign is to showcase Saturday night at the bowling alley as a guaranteed good time.
The new spot is airing across national broadcast and cable networks including MTV, TLC, Comedy Central, TruTV, E!, Spike TV and more.
An IBIS World 2013 study says the business, led by Brunswick and Bowlmor AMF and comprising some 3,523 venues in the U.S., is in slow decline. The industry's contribution to the overall economy will, per the firm, decrease at an annualized rate of 1.5% through 2018. U.S. GDP is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 2.1% during the same period. But venues may bring in new consumers. The newer centers like those run by AMF, feature lounges, bars, food, and amenities beyond shoe rental and vending machines. They are also pitching deals, discounts, parties, food nights and other draws.