What did we all do this past year? Of course, we baked bread, binge watched and zoomed. But what did we do when it came to sports and activities?
For answers, we have turned to The Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the leading trade group in the sports and active lifestyle business and our new partner on providing detailed participation information on 89 different sports and activities. Most of SFIA’s new data will be available on our site by the end of this month.
In the meantime, here are some highlights.
- Not surprisingly, sports and activities that allowed people to be socially distant had banner years. These activities included pickleball, tennis, golf, trail running, skateboarding, surfing, day hiking, and recreational kayaking. In general, outdoor sports and racquet sports had the largest increase in participation compared to their 2019 numbers.
- Team sports, on the other hand, had an extremely difficult year. Only five of the 23 team sports that SFIA tracks had total participation increases; while only two, basketball and ultimate frisbee, had core participation increases. Most team sports had significant (10 percent plus) core participation decreases. We estimate a considerable percentage of team sport participation in 2020 can be attributed to recreational or backyard play, which is counter to the trend of the past decade.
- Unlike other categories, COVID-19 for the fitness industry was a double-edged sword. With gyms and health clubs being forced to close, fitness participation levels overall decreased in 2020. Home fitness activities that can be done at home, such as yoga, pilates, and kettlebells, showed robust participation increases, while activities done generally in health clubs or studios, like group stationary cycling (also known as spin classes), stair climbing machines, and cardio kickboxing, experienced significant declines.
- During the Pandemic, sales of home-based fitness gear were able to grow. One such company is Peloton and the less expensive Echelon Bikes. While group cycling or “Spinning” took a 40% decline in both the number of people and the number of riding occasions, Peloton and Echelon respectively were able to give its customers their group cycling experience without ever having to leave their homes. One user told me ”it was as much with the community that we formed during the pandemic as much as it was with the exercise itself.” This user went on to say that she did a ride with top ranked golfers Justin Thomas and Rory McElroy just to name a few of the celebrities. They were both miked up at the time and the trash talk was flying back and forth.
Here’s a summary on some of the big gainers and big decliners from the past year.
Big Gainers in Participation in 2020
A Tough Year in 2020
|Boot Camp Style Training
And now as we head into spring 2021, the larger question remains what will we keep doing and where will the new business opportunities be around this changing landscape?
"I feel like people didn’t realize just how big a part in our lives sports and fitness activities play," said Neil Schwartz, President of SBRnet. "When there is a disturbance in 'the force' like the Covid-19 Pandemic, not everyone felt it equally. Expressions like 'Social Distancing' and 'Masking Up' became a big part of our lives and those sports and activities that allowed us to be safe, secure and still give us the mental benefit that we have all taken for granted over the years have come through this crisis well, while others have not. Everyone falls and runs into unexpected challenges, it's what you do next that will determine the fate for many of the sports and activities measured in this comprehensive study. It's all tied together, Fandom, Participation, Equipment Purchasers, so the stakes could not be higher."