Interest in figure skating in Canada has plummeted now that stars like Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko have moved on. In response, Skate Canada has rolled out a new marketing strategy: Get more men to watch.
By re-packaging figure skating as a violent testosterone-fuelled sport like football and hockey. (Which, some of the outfits notwithstanding, it obviously is.)
WSJ: Once a prized national sport in Canada, figure skating has been losing its edge. Television viewership dropped more than 30% in the past decade. Skate Canada blames a dearth of big international stars like Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko who reigned in the ’90s, while some fans say a new scoring system is so confusing, it’s ruining all the fun. Canada particularly wants to drum up new interest in the sport ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
One solution: Get more men to tune in. To do that, Skate Canada is encouraging skating officials and athletes to use words such as “strength,” “power,” “speed” and “risk” when describing the sport. Team members are being asked to play up the fact that they skate faster than most hockey players, jump higher than most basketball players and fall harder than most football players — all without padding. (Debbie Wilkes, Skate Canada’s marketing director and a former figure skater, says she doesn’t have data to prove those assertions, but experience tells her they’re probably true.)
At the same time, Skate Canada is discouraging skaters from using too many sequins, feathers or anything else that dangles from their costumes. Adornments like that are “garish” and “distracting,” says Skate Canada Chief Executive William Thompson, and belong “in an ice show, not a competition.”
But attracting the football crowd could be a challenge for a sport whose fans routinely throw stuffed animals onto the ice as a show of admiration. The move is also hitting a nerve among gay and lesbian advocates who say it’s a red herring for Skate Canada’s real motivation: making the sport seem more straight. “Figure skating has always been a little embarrassed by the perception that the male figure skaters are gay,” wrote sports blogger Pat Griffin in a recent posting about Skate Canada’s campaign, who suggested they change the name of the sport to “Ultimate Skating,” after the Ultimate Fighting Championship.