Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dear Director of Marketing:

I am not in squash professionally, I'm only a squash enthusiast, but I am in publishing professionally, and nowadays that means I do a lot of work providing as much value as possible for our advertisers, whether they are in our print publications, on our websites, or perhaps buying a presence in one of our emailed newsletters to our audiences. If I see a way to significantly improve my advertiser's market position, I will let them know, and if the means by which this is accomplished happens to involve advertising across the many channels we offer, then we have reached the proverbial 'win-win,' and everyone's happy.

My point is that the media world has changed considerably over just the past few years, and marketers of goods that have always relied solely on mass media to get their point across should now reconsider that stance, as heretical as this may appear to be.

Indeed, for a relatively small amount of investment, I have just the marketing edge you are looking for, and I can prove it ....

It's the sport of squash. The U.S. Squash (USS) association undertook an extensive review of its membership back in 2006. Using an outside specialist firm, the USS wanted to better understand its diverse membership. Based on earlier direct-mail invitations to its e-mail list, 1,429 squash player surveys were completed. There were a wealth of findings, including:

  • 86% were males
  • Average age was 43 years old
  • 81% self-identify as being White (<2% off US average of over 79%)
  • 92% have a 4-year college degree or higher
  • Those with a graduate degree: 57% (US average, 9%)
  • Mean household income is $287,000
  • Percent with household income over $100,000: 58% (US average, 12%)
  • Percent who own home: 80% (US average, 66%)
  • Mean household non-real estate assets valued at $1,407,000
What were their occupations?

  • C-level (eg, CEO, CIO, etc.): 19%
  • VP: 9%
  • Director or Manager: 19%
Where and when do they play?

  • 52% play at a private club
  • 30% at a public/commercial health club
  • 19% at a country club
  • 18% at a college facility; and
  • 11% at a squash-only commercial club. 
These numbers are important because it shows that squash players invest in the game they love.

  • 52% of respondents were from the Northeast; 20% were from the South; 15% from the West; and 13% from the Midwest (therefore it is no longer true that squash is only a regional, northeast sport)
  • Respondents play on average 2.6 times a week.
What kind of vehicles do they own?

  • imported luxury car, 29%
  • domestic luxury, 5%
  • sedan, 32%
  • sports car, 16%
  • SUV, 38%
  • Motorboat or sailboat, 10%
  • airplane(!), 1%.
Other sports?
On average, 30% or more of the respondents said they played the following sports:

  • golf, 49%
  • tennis, 45%
  • skiing, 38%
  • cycling, 37%
  • running, 37%
  • swimming, 31%. And 14% sailed....
If one defines 'high-wealth households' (HWH) by those with incomes over $250,000 and net worth at >$1M, then you arrive at 430 respondents whose numbers become particularly impressive. HWH:
  • have a significantly higher average household income ($538,000 vs. $287,000) 
  • have a significantly higher non real estate asset value ($2,937,000 vs. $1,407,000)
More ...

  • Average # of airplane flights per year, all respondents: 5.9 (HWH averages 6.8)
  • Average international flights per year, all respondents: 1.9 (HWH averages 2.3)
In what do USS players invest?
  • life insurance, 35% (HWH, 45%)
  • 401K or IRA, 77% (HWH, 85%)
  • stocks, 65% (HWH, 83%)
  • bonds, 37 (HWH, 52%)
  • real estate, 36% (HWH, 51%)
  • venture capital, 11 (HWH, 20%).
I could go on. Squash is a demanding sport, it's tough to do, so there will never be millions of players in the US like some other sports. But squash is nonetheless a robust sport, with wide interest in countries all over the world, whose relative demographics and financial information in many cases likely mirror those found in the US study.

A global brand would do well to promote itself in a milieu where these smart, high-achieving, relatively well-to-do individuals are fully engaged: in squash magazines, squash websites and other media, and by sponsoring tournaments that can be found on every continent save Antarctica. You will find your dollar goes a lot further than in such high-expense sponsorships like those found in golf and tennis, and the demographic and financial profile of the squash player is unrivaled. No sports segment comes close. If you are a luxury brand that needs to target individuals whose pockets are deep enough to consider purchasing one of your products, then it's time for some new thinking.

Oh, one more thing. Another old-school line of thought said squash spectators were too reserved, that the media quality was so problematical that you couldn't see the ball, and that the players were uninteresting and unexciting. Check this link out, which refutes all those points,and then some. It's 155 seconds of what squash is all about: Today's Squash.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. I personally have nothing to sell, but as a publisher I hate to see a great opportunity go unexamined.


  1. Great post. Right on the money!

  2. There is a downside to these demographic findings, and that is that it makes squash seem like a bunch of rich dudes waving their rackets around at the country club. The reality is there are some terrifically rich people who play squash, and their high salaries and net worth skew these averages upward. The sport of squash is also very much an urban sport -- it is the GREATEST GAME for an urban environment -- and the truth is that people tend to make more money in cities, because it is more expensive in general to live in them. One more thing: this study was taken back in the halcyon days of 2006, when money flowed like wine from Bacchus' goblet.... Times have changed, and I would imagine these averages have dropped a bit.

    The downside is I don't want the impression of the sport to be just a bunch of coddled, white, ivy-league prepsters -- there certainly is some of that (I know, I am one of them myself!) but the sport is much bigger than that now. I only wrote this blog to point out that the dearth of marketing interest in squash is, as ever, a mistake!

  3. Interesting figures, and good point made. Someday soon hopefully the sport will get the respect it deserves, greater visibility and an olympic berth.!!!


Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....