Niche Sports Hit New York For A Wide Reach

(image: Adeline Gray, credit: Justin Hoch)

Sometimes it pays to bring the mountain to Muhammad, so to speak. That’s what we have seen and will continue to see in the coming month as some sports not really in the mainstream but still with great brand power, will find their way to the streets of New York.

Earlier this month we had the fast-moving (when the wind was blowing) high tech ships of the Americas’ Cup skipping around New York harbor and this week we had Olympic wrestling in Times Square. In mid-June the AVP will bring sand and their Olympic stars to the west side of Manhattan again, all with the hopes of raising the profile of the brand, and drawing more attention at a critical point in their brand history.

While many niche sports make the foray into New York, the one that seems to have become the annual model is wrestling. The annual fundraiser for “Beat the Streets,” the not for profit engine that has put wrestling into New York City Public Schools and funds programs across the country for youth looking to better themselves physically and academically through the sport, works closely with the national governing body, USA Wrestling, to host an elite international event every May that draws millions of eyeballs and dollars. It has amazing star power, a connection to Wall Street and the grassroots and always has a theme that marries cultures (this year it was USA and Iran wrestling). In an Olympic year for a niche sport, this type of support is nothing short of well, gold.

Team USA Wrestlers at Empire State Building, May 18, 2016 (credit: Joe Favorito)
Team USA Wrestlers at Empire State Building, May 18, 2016 (credit: Joe Favorito)

This week Olympic wrestlers like Robby Smith and Adeline Gray made the media rounds, showed up at Citi Field and the Empire State Building, and hosted events designed to raise awareness for their sport. Did it take effort? Of course. Was the effort worthwhile, the results and media impressions speak for themselves?

“There is nothing like the brand value and recognition you can get by staging an elite event in New York well. It’s not logistically the easiest or least expensive to hold an event, but if you are wrestling or Americas’ Cup or rugby or fencing selecting New York as a venue enables you to enter the mindset of brands and consumers, and particularly leading social opinion leaders,” said Ray Katz – Managing Partner of ROI Sports Group and professor at Columbia University.  “Given the concentration of media, agencies and consultants in New York, it is essential to break through the clutter of sports and entertainment to creatively bringing your competition, athletes, and stories to the forefront and engage decision makers in real time and in a compelling manner. A sport like wrestling has found a way to make it work every year, and other growth sports and sports properties should take note.”

Now New York is not for every niche sport. You need to have budget, a core audience and the ability to create great stories. However for the ones who do, and for those who know how to sue the social space, the Apple can be a powerful driver with a big ROI. Just ask the wrestlers.

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