I have heard a lot about the good TV ratings that curling has received in these Olympics but, I thought it was only within Canada. However, as an article I read in the New York Times (click here to read it) suggests, the new found popularity that curling has garnered is not just in Canada but, in the United States as well. This is obviously a surprise not only to the general public but also to the new curling viewers themselves. In fact, the article quotes new viewers being surprised that they find themselves watching it.
The TV success that curling has achieved is certainly notable because these Winter Games have done very well in the ratings battle overall and curling has beaten ratings expectations more than all the other Olympic events at the Vancouver Games. It has done so well that it even beat hockey, a generally popular Olympic event. There are many reasons and theories as to why this sport has TV viewers hooked, but what is more important is that it is almost a certainty that once these Games are over, no one will be watching curling anymore. That is, unless they implement a strategy like I am about to propose.
The sport or curling should be completely reformatted to make it more appealing for the general public. Well actually, I don’t mean the game itself but, the way the organization(s) is set up. This sport is obviously not as exciting as other sports like basketball or football or even something like beach volleyball so, that means that in order to generate sustainable viewer numbers the stakes need to be raised. In order to this, they need to scrap their club leagues and instead make it more like a world series of curling.
The way it can work is to have small tournaments within each country to get to one representative from each nation and then set up a March Madness (the NCAA college basketball tournament format) type of playoff tournament or even something like the Little League Baseball World Series. This should be done every year except for Winter Olympic years. By doing this, it will give the sport the highest chance to achieve good TV ratings and a big boost in the popularity of the sport during the months and years between the Winter Olympics.
Also, corporate sponsors in the US and Canada should take notice of the personalities that have emerged in these Olympic Games from curling. Three people come to mind and two of them are Canadian and one is British. Kevin Martin, the ‘skip’ (basically team captain) of the Canadian men’s team has earned the reputation for being one of the best in the sport. Second, Cheryl Bernard, the ‘skip’ of the Canadian women’s team who is marketable due to her leadership, skill and determination. The third is Eve Muirhead, the ‘skip’ for the British women’s team who is only 19 and has a very bright future in the sport and is also visually appealing.
This sport has become a hit with executives and big shot, Wall Street CEO’s (as the article mentioned above suggests) and the companies that promote products for this demographic should think of these three talents for some endorsements. Also, one interesting note to this sport is that the women are just as popular as the men. This is not an overly physically demanding sport that gives a natural advantage to men so women can be equally admired and watched in this sport. Moreover, it might just be the only sport where women can become as popular as the men without wearing skimpy clothing (like beach volleyball) and that is significant to the female demographic both young and old.
I don’t know of any plans that the decision makers in this sport plan to alter anything, let alone the drastic changes I recommend but hopefully, they will open their eyes and see that they have a possibly once in a life time opportunity to make this sport mainstream.