Covid 19 could well have been a very important catalyst for significant growth inoutdoor and adventure sports over the next decade. However, it is not the only reason. Fundamentals seem to be strong with demographic changes and innovative (technological) disruption being the main drivers. We discuss 10 important reasons.
1. Covid 19 catalyst for outdoor activities
For a lot of people Covid 19 has been a disaster with festivals and holidays largely been cancelled because of government restrictions. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Outdoor and adventure sports/activities have hugely benefited so far, as it is relatively easy to keep social distancing when doing these activities. Many have rediscovered the benefits of exercising outdoors with and without family.
Let me give you some numbers as featured in the following article. In June US equipment sales in cycling were up by a whopping 63%, in paddle sports by 56%, whilst very surprisingly even golf seems to have turned the tide with sales up by 51%. In this perspective outdoor sports clearly have been bucking the trend.
Additionally Covid 19 also seems to have triggered a healthier lifestyle amongst many. The question is of course whether this trend is to be continued. No doubt some people will return to old habits post Corona. However, there will also be many who have rediscovered the outdoors and will continue their newly discovered hobby. In any case the combination of above mentioned trends should bode well for the future of outdoor and adventure sports.
Also interesting to read: 10 ways to keep fit during Corona crisis
2. Boomers and GenXers have healthier lifestyle
Boomers and Gen Xers are retiring and have not only plenty of time on their sleeves but also a lot of money to spend. As the the new religion of the elderly is to age in a healthy way (and rightly so), this bodes well for outdoor sports. Why? Because, it has been proven that being outside is good for one’s health. Moreover, it fits their lifestyle as well. As the average age is increasing and more senior citizens are participating into (individual) sports, this automatically will filter through into more people being active in outdoor sports.
Also interesting to read: 10 super trends why sports participation of the elderly will increase
3. Outdoor experiences are fitting lifestyle of Millenials and GenZ
By 2025, Millennials and GenZ will account for around 70% of the working population. That’s an enormous number, isn’t it? Their lifestyles, purchasing behaviour and expectations of life are vastly different than that of the Boomers and GenX-ers, which I discussed in the paragraph before. Millennials are much more self directing and are characterized by a high level of individualism. Similar to GenZ they are increasingly becoming global citizens, are very health conscious and love experiences.
Read again please! Excuse me, but if those characteristics don’t bode well for outdoor and adventure sports, I will eat my shoes! These sports should be very much to the likes of these generations. They offer the necessary flexibility, whilst simultaneously they reflect a their identity. This is a no- brainer! So funnily enough and for different reasons, both the younger and the older generations might turn to these sports and activities.
Also interesting to read: How GenZ will change the world of sports
4. Health insurance will stimulate outdoor activities
There is increased awareness that movement and sports are leading to reduced stress, obesity, fall risk, cholesterol and depression, whilst muscle mass is maintained and the immune system also will improve. Not surprisingly, this leads to an improved lifestyle and lower health related risks. Given the ever growing general health bill of society, it is likely that insurers will reward and incentivize improved lifestyles. In this perspective, being outdoors definitely ticks all the boxes.
5. Technology is big incentive for outdoor and adventure sports
Sensors, electrical power, drones, augmented and virtual reality, trackers, artificial intelligence, foils etc etc……They are just a few examples of what technology can do for sports and how it can make sports more attractive to a variety of user groups. Clearly individual sports are stand to benefit more than team sports, particularly as it will be easier to implement and introduce new technological changes. What to think for example of electrical cycling. It is taking off in The Netherlands and particularly popular amongst the elderly.
So you want to have a couple more of examples? Let’s explore! Sensors and trackers will do a lot for outdoor and adventure sports both in terms of health measurement and safety as well as for realizing peak performance. Sensors can now measure basically anything from heart rate to blood sugar to fatigue etc. In combination with trackers it hence will become safer to go outdoors into the wilderness.With the help of Artificial Intelligence and these sensors, one now also will be able to measure peak performance levels. Think of altitude,body health, air time and height in kiting etc etc.on to drones.
Drones will add a new dimension to outdoor sports. Not only will drones be able to record your running, climbing, surfing, cycling or whatever session from the air, but with the right software you may also be able to analyze your performance. But there is much more. Drones are creating new outdoor sports and spin off sports. What to think of drone surfing or drone boarding or the lesser active version drone racing?
Augmented Reality also might become big! We all remember the Pokemon madness. With the help of AR people suddenly were prepared to go outdoors to discover these silly new Pokemon creatures. Well, with a little creativity there will be a lot more possible to get the herds outside and discover what the outdoors have to offer. In any case, technology will all make it happen.
Also interesting to read: 10 great technologies that will change sports
6. Indoorisation of outdoor lifestyle sports is creating stepping stone for the real thing
The trend of indoorisation of outdoor sports has gained momentum over the last few years. A few days ago, I was walking past a indoor climbing center in Amsterdam and was utterly surprised by the huge number of people actively participating in it. It is proof of the increasingly popularity of doing such a sport in a city center. This way people may get a taste on what the real thing is.
There are plenty of examples. Think of typical outdoor sports like climbing, skiing, surfing, rowing, skydiving and even rafting. All of these used to be practiced particularly outdoors in nature but now are also being offered in indoor centers. Besides offering a feel to these sports, it is also safe and predictable, making it ideal for beginners.
7. Social media and shared interest platforms offering better engagement levels
Surfers are a tribe, kiters are a tribe, cyclists are a tribe as well as climbers are. People like to herd with other people that have similar preferences and interests. This is nothing new. Increasingly new social media platforms are emerging aimed at people wich have similar interests. Outdoor and adventure sports do not form an exception. The new generations love to engage with communities and make new friends online, which may become friends and future buddies. This way, it will become much easier to become fully absorbed into outdoor sports.
There are plenty of examples such as Runkeeper, Nike and Strava, but a good example can also be found in kitesurfing. Kitesurfers are free spirits which like to meet their counterparts. The Woo is a gamification tool which can realise this. It records your session while you are out kitesurfing. It capture your highest boost in Big Air mode or it scores your tricks. These achievements can be posted on a social platform (which includes leaderboards etc), so your friends can see what you have been up to and if you have indeed gained bragging rights.
8. New spinnoffs offer wide array of new opportunities
As discussed, technology is an important catalyst for the rise in outdoor and adventure sports. Drones, kites, foils, sensors and trackers just offer a new dimension to many traditional outdoor sports. This should not only give new momentum to existing active participants, but also attract a whole new breed of people, that are attracted to high adrenaline stuff. Read for example my recent blogpost on the spinoffs of surfing. You will be amazed by the sheer number of alternative forms of surfing. I definitely will try a few, like the one below.
Also interesting to read: 5 outperforming sports categories in the future
9. New business and subscription models will result in lower entry barriers
In the past the entry barriers to some outdoor and adventure sports were pretty high. Often you had to buy expensive equipment in order to participate or you had to make use of experienced but often expensive instructors (all within an oligopolistic environment) in order to learn the skills. Well, this will no longer be the case. We all know successful existing business models like the bookings.com, airbnb.com and uber.com, models in which assets and services are being brokered through a platform.
Outdoors and adventure sports are no different and the first platforms where either instructors or equipment can be rented are already emerging. Look for example at outdoor.skouty.com and adrenaline-hunter.com It not only makes things cheaper, but personal preferences are also much better rewarded. Don’t expect it to stop here. I can imagine that in the near future new companies will emerge that will offer subscription models with winter outdoors activities in winter, water sports in summer, cycling in autumn etc. Exclusive membership will mean separate tribes will emerge.
10. Outdoor and adventure sports increasingly reflecting someone’s identity
People in general just like the experience of getting an endorphin high or adrenaline rush. Increasingly identity plays a major role of expressing yourself. With the danger of generalization, just try to visualize the differences in identity between the following groups: golfers vs surfers, skiers vs snowboarders, sailors vs kiters etc etc. Expressing yourself through a sport undoubtedly will become more important
All right, I think you’ll get it by now! In my mind. Let’s conclude, outdoor and adventure sports are ideally positioned for further growth given the current demographic, technological and social trends. I would be utterly surprised if these sports will not show above average participation and revenue growth. And no, this was not a commercial for the outdoors and adventure industry bit just some humble analyzing. What do you think? Happy cycling, climbing, surfing, skiing, kiting, trailing etc. Enjoy!