Lacrosse, once stereotyped as a Northeast prep school game, has become our country’s fastest growing sport over the last decade. Here are some reasons why sports marketers and brands alike should keep their eyes on this sport’s unprecedented growth.
National participation (youth, high school and collegiate) increased from 2009 – 2010 by 10%, and is overall up 146% since 2001. The number of boys varsity programs has increased 55% over the last five years and the number of girls varsity programs has increased 48%. Both figures are the highest total among high school sports. (source – US Lacrosse)
At the collegiate level, men’s and women’s lacrosse are the fastest growing NCAA sports. Overall the number of men’s programs has increased by 22%, with the number of women’s programs up 30%. Additionally, the men’s NCAA Final Four attendance has skyrocketed annually, so much that beginning in 2002, the annual Memorial Day championship weekend moved from smaller college venues to big time NFL Stadiums. To compare, Rutgers University hosted the Semi-finals in 2001 and drew 21,103. In just five short years, M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Baltimore Ravens) drew 52,004. (source – US Lacrosse)
Finally at the professional level, The National Lacrosse League (the pro version of box lacrosse, also known as indoor lacrosse) recently announced a schedule of games that will air live and in primetime on the CBS Sports Network during the 2012 season. The league and CBS announced a two-year deal to broadcast these games live across North America. Meanwhile, Major League Lacrosse (the professional outdoor version of the men’s game) continues to build its audience while strengthening their relationship with ESPN. In 2011, the networks carried more live games (53) than any previous season, an increase of 33% from 2010 – Adweek
What does this all mean? The sport is no longer a regional phenomenon and is now national in scope. Many believe that by the year 2020, “the Big 3” (Football, Basketball, Baseball) could become “the Big 4” with Lacrosse becoming a major player in overall attendance and national TV ratings. The sport is fast, hard hitting, exciting and translates extremely well on television. And in in today’s world with numerous sports channels all craving content, lacrosse could be the next big sports marketing vehicle of the future.
With that I’ll leave you with some highlights of Syracuse’s dramatic come-from-behind sudden death overtime win over Cornell in the NCAA Division I National Championship. Definitely one of the most exciting games in any sport’s history…