How to Bring Skiing in from the Cold and Make it a Mainstream Sport

FasterSkierFebruary 10, 2022
26.02.2021, Oberstdorf, Germany (GER):
Tara Geraghty-Moats (USA) – FIS nordic world ski championships nordic combined women, individual gundersend HS106/5km, Oberstdorf (GER). © Modica/NordicFocus. Every downloaded picture is fee-liable.

Skiing is a competitive, adrenaline-fueled sport. Anyone that competes, trains or watches from the sidelines knows this. However, for those that don’t, it’s often seen, at best, as a sport that’s only relevant every four years or, at worst, a novelty. Indeed, for all the skill, talent, and entertainment all types of competitive skiing provide, it’s not considered to be a mainstream sport. Casual viewers will tune in during the Winter Olympics, but they probably won’t have seen Tara Geraghty-Moats win the first-ever FIS Nordic Combined World Cup in 2020. In reality, those entrenched in the world of skiing love it. However, the average sports fan will typically give skiing the cold shoulder in favour of mainstream sports such as soccer or football.

Sports Fans Enjoy Skiing When It’s Easily Accessible

The question, therefore, is how can competitive skiing grow its fanbase both in terms of viewers and participants? Well, the good news is that people actually do enjoy the various types of events when they tune in. A Nielsen report from 2010 found that skiing, downhill, in particular, was the most-watched Winter Olympic sport that year. 26.7 million Americans watched the downhill events on NBC. That figure put skiing just ahead of the luge (26.2 million viewers) in terms of total viewers.

The 2019/2020 International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine World Cup also attracts a solid number of viewers. Statistical data shows that it has a cumulative audience of 634 million viewers in Germany, 544 million in Italy, and 316 million in Austria. Skiing can be seen as a success by those measures.

Deedra Irwin (right) competes in the Women’s 15km Individual race during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. (Photo: Nordic Focus)

However, when you compare these numbers to an average audience of 90 million+ for the Super Bowl alone, the difference between skiing and other sports becomes clear. Moreover, when you step out of TV land, move away from the major events, and look at exposure in general, skiing pales in comparison to other sports.

In the UK, for example, there are dozens of programs dedicated solely to soccer. From Match of the Day on BBC to Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports, fans can watch live games, highlights and listen to pundits every day of the week. Skiing, in contrast, receives fairly little fanfare. The BBC has shown Ski Sunday since 1978, but other stations, such as ITV and Channel 4, barely mention skiing. Therefore, the obvious way to increase the sport’s profile is to show more of it on TV.

The International Ski Federation could broker deals with TV executives to get more events shown on mainstream stations. Indeed, given what we know, it may simply be a matter of access and convenience. When skiing is put in front of sports fans, e.g. at events such as the Winter Olympics, they’ll watch. However, if they have to search for it, they won’t bother.

So, it’s fair to assume that if skiing was given more TV time, interest would naturally increase. However, this isn’t the only way. We live in a digital world and TV isn’t the sole provider of entertainment anymore. Social media, and, more interestingly, betting platforms, can all contribute towards raising skiing’s profile.

Skiing Needs to Embrace Digital Trends to Become Viral

Organizations are starting to make use of social media platforms. For example, the tweet below shows how clips of exciting moments are being cropped and posted on Twitter. This 23-second clip condenses the drama and skill involved in freeride and is easily digestible for the casual observer. It’s snappy and effective as an enticement method and could lead to more awareness of the sport.

Sports betting sites can also help skiing break into the mainstream. In the UK alone, online sportsbooks are part of a digital industry raking in over £15 billion ($20 billion) every year. Pan out to other territories, such as Asia, and the numbers only increase. It’s often the case that popular sportsbooks in India, the UK, and other countries put more emphasis on commercial sports with a lot of hype around them.

If you read any reviews of Indian betting sites, for example, they’ll tend to cover cricket more than other sports because it attracts upwards of 300 million viewers for a major match. In contrast, the Winter Olympics and skiing receive little to no coverage, relative to cricket and therefore have no representation on the betting markets.

To remedy this absence, skiing organizers can’t magically pluck viewers appear out of thin air to attract the attention of bookmakers. However, what they can do is develop new ways to pique their interest. Moreover, they can use social media strategically to raise awareness of the sport and encourage new demographics to engage with upcoming events. If certain clips go viral, it means interest is high. When this happens, bookmakers will pay attention.

This would have the effect of making skiing a highlighted sport on betting sites. The benefit of this is that millions of sports fans use these sites. As well as betting, they use online sportsbooks to read news stories, look at stats and get expert insights. If skiing can stand out in these settings, it will enhance its profile. This, in tandem with increased exposure on social media, could certainly help make it a mainstream hit.


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