In an Ernst and Ernst study, it was determined that an average bowling alley derives 65 per cent of its income from bowling itself. Even with additional attractions or services, such as a pro shop, restaurant, and bar, two-thirds of a bowling alley’s income comes from participants. Getting bowlers to actually bowl is key.

Among participants, league bowling is the principal source of income and patronage. The same study showed that patronage by percent of yearly lineage was:

  • League bowlers, 52.6%
  • Tournament bowlers, 4.3%
  • Junior bowlers, 3.3%
  • Open bowlers, 39.8%

Of participants, nearly two-thirds of income comes from those involved in organized events such as leagues and tournaments and just over one-third is from open, non-enrolled participants. Note, this is gross income. Consider the ease of marketing to those involved in league play, who visit regularly, offer contact information, and want to hear from the alley because they want to see scores, league standings, upcoming events, etc. Consider this active group is also smaller and easier to communicate with.

According to research reported by the Bowlers Journal International, 70% of a bowling alley’s total income is derived from regular, organized events such as leagues, arriving at an even higher figure of the importance of league play than that reported by the Ernst and Ernst study.

What does this have to do with shooting and why should you care?

Bowling companies recognize the value of organized participation. Consider AMF and Brunswick both list directories of active leagues. It is rare to find a firearm manufacturer doing anything similar.

Worse, organizations that are supposed to organize this, don’t. The NRA reports that 98% of its card-carrying membership have never participated in an NRA sanctioned (approved or registered) event.

Sports and activities that can’t depend on financial success via spectators must drive participation. They must find ways to get people that own the equipment to use it in an organized fashion on an on-going basis.