Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Macro vs Micro Solutions for the Shooting Sports

Okay, it's Tuesday but it's really Monday. It feels like Monday. In fact, it feels like Two Mondays. Still, I'd like to say a couple of words about the title of this post.

I've talked a lot about the Balkanized landscape of the shooting sports...you've got literally dozens of sanctioning bodies running matches large and small. Some of those sanctioning bodies — like the NRA — have mucho big bucks; some, like, say the .50 Caliber Shooters Association, substantially less. Most of the organizations fall in the middle range...USPSA, SASS, IDPA, NSCA, etc. They sport between 10-20K active members and usually one of the — if not the — largest item on their budget is the annual match. The focus of that match has to be satisfying the members of the organization...it's sort of like the summer picnic.

There's virtually no money left for marketing of those annual matches outside the endemic group. More importantly, there's very little expertise for that kind of marketing just floating around. The people who are good at it have typically been snapped up by "real" jobs. Moreover, that kind of marketing (and the hand-maidens, media and public relations) tend to be time-consuming, stressful and very deadline-oriented...not at all well-suited to the volunteer labor typical of most shooting matches.

As I've said before, in my days with NSSF, myself, Paul Erhardt and Scott Moore created a model for promoting the shooting sports. We beta-tested the model on the Great Outdoor Games, the Steel Challenge and one USPSA championship. It works just great...it will do exactly what needs to be done.

So we got a model. We need a way to drive that model out into the landscape and get it used. We also need a centralized organization to promote the model, to provide support (standardized entry forms, for instance, that provide video/news model releases and collects information for local media relations) and help to organizations using the model and to provide clearing house functions, such as maintaining a central calendar of events, providing media relations services to all member organizations, creating and operating a "newsroom" to disseminate shooting sports results to local and regional media.

The organization could provide a number of other services, such as helping with resource allocation, scheduling national ranges, publishing a newsletter/magazine specifically aimed at promoting the shooting sports and helping match directors, and publishing advance info on upcoming matches.

I could (and occasionally do) go on and on.


Anonymous said...


Forgive my ignorance, but isn't that what NSSF is supposed to be doing? And if they're not, WHY NOT?


Michael Bane said...

Organizations — particularly non-profit organizations — tend to do what their "squeaky wheel" members push them to do, and NSSF is no different. On the whole, they're an excellent organization. Their legal department saved all our butts in the first round of the Lawsuit Wars. They have launched some really excellent programs that have benefitted us all — Project Childsafe, the Scholastic Clays Target Program, the "Aiming for Accuracy" media education program, Step Outside, the Great Outdoor Games target competitions, support of USA Shooting and, of course, the SHOT Show.

That said, NSSF has two serious weaknesses:

• It is excellent at *starting* progams; not nearly so good in running those programs. This is a non-profit disease, not exclusive to NSSF. The administrators of the non-profit typically answer to a board of directors, who often default to a "what have you done for me today?" stance. Typically (and I've worked with several non-profits over the years in addition to NSSF), a start-up program, especially a program with the potential of being big and flashy, gets all the resources it needs, from ace program managers to larger budgets. As the program ages, the flash factor subsides and the program managers move on to newer, flashier programs. Budgets start tightening up; the program begins constricting or is axed in favor of newer higher visibility programs.

• Secondly, the "squeaky wheel" in Gun World is the well-organized, well-financed hunting lobby. It is an article of faith in the firearms industry that hunting drives ammo, gun and accessory sales, despite the fact that sport shooting participants buy more guns, more ammo and more accessories, which is probably true if you're talking about cammie vests. However, if you *seriously* compare the ammo consumption between 14 million hunters and 20 million sport shooters, it's a whole new world. Look at new gun sales — my friends who are hunters wax poetic about hunting with Dad's rifle or the "ultimate hunting battery" of about five guns; my friends who are sport shooters wax poetic about double-door gun safes and what percentage of their annual income goes to new hardware purchases.

STILL, if you're a non-profit charged with *listening* to the industry, who do you listen to? The organized, thoughful, well-spoken, *powerful* groups that promote hunting, or the squabbling band of child anarchists who run the shooting sports? I remember a conversation I had with a hella-powerful industry insider who swung a big hammer with NSSF. I was asking him to pull some strings to get a couple of major media people comp'ed into a shooting school> After a minute of listening, he turned to his friends and laughed..."Oh, oh, oh Michael! I understand now! You're talking about 'sport' shooting! You'll have to speak up, 'cause when you're not talking about blood sports, I just sort of lose interest." Everyone but me thought that was just hysterical.

NSSF could and should be doing everything I've outlined, but first we have to be able to *talk* to them at the same level the hunting lobby does. That means the companies that stand to benefit the most from the shooting sports need to make those sports a priority and then make their wishes known to NSSF. Ditto for the heads of the sport shooting organizations (and the training organizations, who also have a stake in this).

Otherwise, it's just another case of "Michael spouting off," and who gives a damn?


Anonymous said...

A small time player here. Quietly running my own forum on a rather paltry slice of the shooting spectrum.
I agree that the focus of "saving" the shooting sports cannot rely on the "hunting" aspect alone,as suggested in the campaigns. It is not about hunting,our passionate shooters are much more than "blood" shooters.
I personally enjoy a bit of varminting,or a opportune chance to harvest a wayward rabbit.
However the main reason I partake in the shooting world is the chance to go beyond the obvious TV/WWW choices and such.
Shooting for me is therapy/science/homeland security and investments combined.
Taking odd bits of metal and wood,machinging them into art works such as J.M.B.'s designs of 1911's and 1894's is uniquely satisfying. I would not want to imagine living in a world without a S&W 625 or a AK either. The absurd infighting between the shotgunner's and the pistolero's is a diservice to all that would burn powder.
Our support base should work toward the goal of staving off the inroads of the extreme anti's as well as encouraging newcomers.
My forum base is meager but dedicated toward the art of casting bullets,but looking out for the entire species of shooters is discussed.

Either we stand together and bellow loudly proclaiming what is right,or we shall indeed be standing separately with one small voice.
Ken Caldwell aka 45nut

Mr. Gus said...


I realize I am commenting back to an ancient blog, but it seems like this is always a current topic. Has anything changed since the posting?

I am totally convinced the best bang for the buck in promoting shooting sports is to keep teaching the kids, by the bus load if you can. In my programs I require a parent to be there, a little bit for supervision and a lot for promoting and encouraging future participation. If a kid learns to shoot a bow or rifle, that's great, but if a Mom and kid learn to shoot TOGETHER, the chances of the child sticking with it is much greater, and I am helping that family stick together with a common interest. Down the road as an adult, the kid will still have the interest and more than likely bring his own kids and friends. See my blog, Sneaky Prophylactic Education.

In my town Pepsi and Coke pay millions of dollars for the opportunity to sell their products in the school district. The reason is, the want to get kids hooked on their particular brand early, so they'll buy it as an adult.

I could go on too, but I won't. In my experience with the organizations you mention, it is tough. They all have their own bylaws, politics, bank accounts and members to look after. Getting them to partner is a long-term, baby-steps task I've found - but I'm sure you know that. Keep up the great work!


Half X said...

Designer Oakley Sunglasses Cheap are vbigyfh classified as the great way to protect this eyes on the ultraviolet rays on the sun. Invention on the Half X Oakley was for just a solo aim of protecting Oakley Sunglasses Discount this eyes; even so, today custom made Sale Oakley Sunglasses are used united the vogue symbol Obtaining Oakley Jawbone is usually compared with choosing a car. You Oakley Stpl Jawbone won't randomly opt for one in addition to say We'll have that you. You ought to consider a number of differerent qualities with Half X like purpose, ease, optical excellent, UV safeguard, weight, manufacturer's Oakley Sunglasses Outlet warranty, price in addition to brand.