Author: Patrick Durkin
INDIANAPOLIS – Much of the bowhunting and archery industry endured a tough year in 2016, but the Archery Trade Association is working on several fronts to boost business and participation in 2017 and beyond.
That was the message delivered repeatedly Jan. 9 when the ATA Board of Directors met in Indianapolis the day before the ATA Trade Show welcomed nearly 9,600 industry professionals to the three-day event. That was the annual Show’s second-highest attendance mark. The Show filled 531,600 square feet of exhibit space, the largest space in the Show’s 20-year history.
Ben Summers, chair of the ATA Board and director of operations for T.R.U. Ball Release Products, said the ATA is making solid investments in the industry’s future with a more active Retail Council, and popular ATA programs like the Retail Growth Initiative and ATA ePRO, as well as Explore Archery, Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing.
“We’ve already put 250,000 to 300,000 students through Explore Bowhunting, and the Retail Council has been working hard on difficult issues like MAP (minimum advertised price) policies and new-product release dates,” Summers said. “The Council is addressing issues that affect dealers directly, and some of these issues are difficult and controversial, but the industry is working together to address them.”
At the ATA’s January Board meeting, Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO, said it’s more important than ever to find long-term funding sources for hunting and wildlife-management programs beyond the traditional methods of license sales and FET. Photo Credit: Patrick Durkin
Summers and ATA President/CEO Jay McAninch also reviewed several initiatives the ATA is studying and addressing, including:
1. A national bowhunting media campaign to build interest in the sport.
Summers said campaigns like this are expensive because they’re not one-shot announcements. National ad campaigns like the “Take Me Fishing” program can cost upward of $6 to $8 million annually, so it’s important to work with other groups and pursue additional funding sources while crafting a potential campaign and its administration.
McAninch noted that a media campaign launched by the recreational-vehicle industry nearly 20 years ago had a budget of $15 to $18 million in 2012 alone. He said it’s also difficult to convert people reached by these campaigns into active participants. The RV industry learned, for example, that 70 percent of potential business leads generated by the campaign were never contacted.
“Awareness leads to web traffic, which leads to referrals, but then some industries have difficulty making the final sale to recoup their campaign investments,” McAninch said. “These programs don’t just happen. They take lots of planning, research and long-term execution. Our sports’ futures rely on the GenXers and millennials. To reach them, we’ll need to learn a lot more about their activities and motivations. For starters, we’ll need to develop a funding strategy for at least the next three to five years if we expect any campaign to help our industry.”
2. An initiative on Capitol Hill to keep pushing the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act.
The P-R Modernization Act failed to pass last fall in the final weeks of the Obama Administration. The ATA supports the P-R Modernization Act because it would let state wildlife agencies use some federal-excise tax revenues (which are paid by the archery/bowhunting industry) on public-outreach programs to promote bowhunting. McAninch expects Congress to pass the act the next time it gets introduced, but will stay in contact with lawmakers to answer questions and ensure its passage.
3. Work with the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports to further advance its R3 Plan.
The R3 Plan addresses recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters. ATA helped craft and launch the initiative two years ago, and also helped launch CAHSS itself in 2010. The Council is led by a 32-member board of directors composed of industry representatives like the ATA, as well as state agencies and non-government organizations. Its goal is to increase participation in shooting sports and hunting.
During its January meeting, the ATA Board discussed its Retail Council and how it can work with retailers and manufacturers to address mutual concerns. Mark Copeland (far left) serves as the Council’s chair. Photo Credit: Patrick Durkin.
Summers said all these initiatives require partnerships with other outdoor-recreation manufacturers, such as the RV and ATV industries, fishing and boating industries, and camping and backpacking industries. “We have to look at our allies and partner with them whenever it makes sense,” Summers said. “We need a united front. We don’t want to throw money into something without knowing what we’ll get in return. In many cases, we can tap into long-term efforts through solid channels already in place.”
McAninch said it’s more important than ever to find long-term funding sources for hunting and wildlife-management programs beyond the traditional methods of license sales and FET. He noted that license sales continue to decline as more baby boomers leave the field, and funds paid by hunters and anglers often get “siphoned off” for other agency programs that aren’t relevant to hunting or fishing. “We’re trying to find additional revenue streams and redirect them to fill in gaps we’ve identified in the current systems,” McAninch said.
McAninch said the ATA is also working with longtime partners like USA Archery and the National Field Archery Association on self-sustaining outreach programs to attract new archers, train them, and keep them involved in the sport. For its part, ATA has been ramping up its Archery 360 and Bowhunting 360 platforms to attract and engage archers and bowhunters with helpful and entertaining content and programs.
The Board also discussed its Retail Council and how it can work with retailers and manufacturers to address mutual concerns. Mark Copeland, the store director/manager of Jay’s Sporting Goods in Gaylord, Michigan, serves as the Council’s chair. He said the Council wants to work closely with manufacturers to help ATA retailers succeed.
“We’re not interested in threats, boycotts and telling manufacturers what they should be doing for us,” Copeland said. “I’m excited about the work we’re doing, and think we can do a lot more to educate retailers about profitable business practices. The ATA’s new ePRO software will provide more real-time data and insights to help everyone work smarter and more efficiently.”
Council member Randy Phillips, owner of Archery Headquarters Inc. and Arizona Rim Country Products in Chandler, Arizona, agreed. “A lot of good things are already happening because of the ATA’s Retail Growth Initiative,” Phillips said.
The Council plans to work with the ATA to engage retailers in regular communication and interaction through blogs, forums and a newsletter. It wants to hear fellow retailers’ thoughts on possible impacts on business, such as concerns over chronic wasting disease, and shifts in buying habits caused by the growing crossbow market.
The ATA Board of Directors next meets April 18-19 in Minneapolis.