Hunters, anglers lure the big bucks

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For millions of fans and a select group of marketers, an angler or hunter at the top of their form has all the appeal of an NFL star.

Marketers ranging from Kellogg Co. to US Bank are joining the more expected backers like GMC to sponsor fishing and shooting sports as well as the media that cover them.

There's more to the niche of anglers and hunters than the stereotypical rural outdoorsmen, though obviously those types make up a large part of the demo. These are also sports that attract purchasers of $40,000 rifles and $1 million motor homes. And they represent a very loyal base of consumers.

Between 50 million and 55 million Americans are active fisherman, about double the comparable number for recreational golfers, say those who track outdoor sports. Both presidential candidates presented themselves in photo opportunities as shooting aficionados during the 2004 election to appeal to the 60 million-plus Americans who own guns.

A $70 billion market

Outdoors magazines also cite data from the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and National Shooting Sports Foundation estimating fishing-hunting-shooting to be a $70 billion-plus consumer market.

Fishing competitions staged mainly by two groups-FLW Outdoors and B.A.S.S.-continue to draw big crowds. At the conclusion of such sponsored events, crowds of 5,000-20,000 watch as anglers weigh their catches to determine a winner. "It's like the WWF meets the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," sports agent Giff Breed says of the weigh-ins, which are televised. "The anglers are parading in with their boats as the fans cheer and fireworks are going off." Mr. Breed represents 14 fishermen in his job as director of outdoor at Octagon, the sports management, consulting and sponsorship unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.

FLW Outdoors-which gives out $30 million in prize money at its 214 tournaments-has eight separate tournament series. Among the 21 national advertisers that are sponsoring FLW's 2005 competitions are Wal-Mart Stores, Kellogg's cereals, US Bank and, in perhaps the most unexpected linkup, General Mills for Hamburger Helper.

"Wal-Mart is the title sponsor for a variety of FLW Outdoors tournaments," says a spokeswoman for the retailer, adding, "Fishing is an activity that can be competitive but also one that brings memories to mind of a relaxed day of fishing with friends and family."

The more general "sporting goods and toys" category generates more than $10 billion in sales annually for Wal-Mart. The category, which includes fishing-hunting-shooting, accounts for 6% of store sales at the nation's top retailer, just behind "health and beauty."

In fishing, the biggest sector is freshwater bass, but there's also walleye, kingfish, redfish, saltwater, fly and ice fishing.

In shotgun shooting, there's skeet (target trajectory imitates bird flight), sporting clays (shooting from different locations) and traps (targets come out from same place). Rifles and pistols are other categories. It's common to see participants blasting away with $10,000 rifles.

Sport-shooting competitions also exist, but on a smaller scale than the fishing events. The National Skeet Shooting Association championship and National Sporting Clays Association championship are separately held in San Antonio in September; an Amateur Trapshooting Association event runs in August in Dayton, Ohio. GMC is the official truck sponsor of all three groups.

"The shooting sports are like a fraternity of very faithful members," says David Sickmeyer, Southeast region marketing manager for GMC Trucks.

`Field & Stream,' OLN gain

On the media side, outlets such as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life Network are benefiting from advertisers attuned to the problem of media fragmentation and willing to take advantage of niches-in this case those that attract people who want to fish and shoot.

"It's for the marketers that want the passion of [a specific sport among consumers] and delivery of a large audience," says Thomas Ott, group publisher for the Time4 Outdoors division of Time Inc.'s Time4 Media that publishes Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.

On cable, Comcast Corp.'s Outdoor Life Network reached 62 million households at the end of 2004. Fishing-hunting-shooting represents roughly one-quarter of OLN's 24/7 schedule, though the network's biggest draw is bicycling's Tour de France. In general, fishing and shooting are one component of a large outdoor summer sports category. The cable landscape also includes Outdoor Channel, Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN Outdoors and program blocks on other channels such as News Corp.'s Fox Sports Net.

Outdoor sports like fishing offer media and non-endemic sponsors the opportunity to link up with family-friendly athletes. Instead of the classic athletes on Wheaties boxes, for Kellogg's it's celebrities like FLW Tour Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae on corn flakes boxes.


Big bucks in outdoorsy media.

* Time Inc.'s Field & Stream increased ad revenue by 20.9% in 2004, hitting $75.2 million. Sibling Outdoor Life boosted results by 17.3% to $32.9 million, according to PIB.

* Spending on Comcast's Outdoor Life Network soared 75% to $50.4 million in 2003, the last full year for which data are available, according to TNS Media Intelligence.