The Reality of the New Demographic

For years the advertising world has based a lot of its focus and predictions on the assumption that the world stops once a person turns 49. Most of this thought is based on the perception that members of the 50-plus group are set in their ways, rigidly brand loyal and lack the necessary funds to purchase products even if it was possible to influence them. The advertising world thinks so little of the purchase capabilities of the 50-plus demographic that only about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the media spending budget in Canada is directed toward the over-50 population even though they represent nearly half of the total Canadian population and a segment that is steadily growing. But, then, things have changed a lot in the past 25 years. The parents of the people who are the Boomers in many cases had the bucks but after living through the Thirties and World War II were reluctant to part with a dollar. Different story today. Your 55-year-old parents have just purchased a new Ford Explorer, are considering an adventure trip to Africa and/or the purchase of a new 30-foot water craft after the trip. How long is it going to take for the marketing and advertising gurus in the nation, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, to become less occupied with the 18- to 34-year-olds who today are a relatively small portion of the population with a relatively small portion of the money? In 1996, the first Boomers turned 50 and by 2008 the entire Boomer generation will have celebrated its 50th birthday, making it the largest and most powerful demographic in Canada. A U.S. study also recently found that consumers over 45 and those under 45 were equally willing to try new brands and products. The study also revealed that those over 45 always were looking for better products which blew the older-people-and-brand-loyalty theory out the window. By the time the opening ceremonies start for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver the spending by people over 50 will involve billions of dollars more, on an annual basis, than by people between 18 and 49. So, you ask, what does all of this have to do with curling? Every university graduate in marketing for the past 50 years has been told to forget about events and activities that attract people over 50 years of age when considering the placement of sponsorship or advertising dollars. This philosophy, still particularly prevalent on Bay Street in Toronto, has made the task of selling curling to potential advertisers, sponsors and television networks a tough one over the past 25 years. Despite the “aged” label with which curling has struggled through all of those 25 years, people selling the sport on behalf of the CCA have done a more than successful job. The Season of Champions consistently has enjoyed the strong support of sponsors at the national level and a more than respectable television package has been part of the sport for over 20 years. The CCA also has worked hard to bring the average age of its fans and participants down by the introduction of entertainment centres and “fest” activities around all of its events where people from a younger demographic have been and continue to be attracted to the sport. However, the shear aspect of time and the numbers of the population in the baby-boom generation is going to make it very difficult for curling to stop its demographic from creeping up over the next 10 years. Market research pointing to the conclusion that people over 50 are neither frugal nor set in their ways and spend more time considering new products and brands will be helpful. It could be good news for the future of curling in Canada. Certainly, over the next 10 years, more people in national marketing departments and agencies are going to awaken to the reality of the new demographic and realize that the sport of curling offers one of the best access activities to this important demographic.