It has happened consistently for the past three or four springs. There is a whirlwind of activity around lacrosse, especially at the college level. Lacrosse opened the new Meadowlands Stadium with over 25,000 fans…lacrosse at the collegiate level is making its way west, with a thriving program now at the University of Denver, a state (Colorado) which has seen immense grassroots growth for the game.
The Ivy League chose lacrosse to be its first sport to have a post-season tournament. The NCAA’s are almost here, which will lead to massive- crowds in Baltimore for the Final Four at the end of the month. It has tremendous grassroots interest, especially among girls and its World Cup event does well. Yet the professional game remains fractured, with the indoor and outdoor games being run by different groups with no continuity, and the indoor professional team in the hotbed area of New York was again a failure and is long gone. There is no consistent television partner and the brands that have chosen to activate in the space appeal more to its core audience than to the mainstream. So eventhough there is talk of growth, immense growth at the grassroots level, can lacrosse ever become a viable sport for brands to activate with and against?
Maybe its still too soon. Like soccer eight to ten years ago, it took senior leadership with very deep pockets and a great deal of patience and vision to grow the sport from the grassroots on up. That growth in soccer is similar to what has gone on with lacrosse. Indoor lacrosse had its spalsh, but it was curtailed by overexpansion and a bust in the economy…maybe it was too much of a rush too soon, akin to what happened with the NASL before MLS came along.
Also, the sport does need to be unified for both indoor and outdoor, or it should concentrate on one (probably the outdoor) to be successful on the professional level. Maybe in eight to ten years those who play and follow will be the consumer who will spend and follow the sport at an elite level, and maybe they will bring brands with them who will invest and see ROI. Or maybe lacrosse is just what and where it needs to be…with a great following on the collegiate level in select regions, and with a growing high school system, but one that does not need a viable professional alternative to be deemed successful. Can there be a solid social media play that could tie into greater exposure amongst the casual sports fan? Maybe. But in this economy that won’t translate yet into viable dollars needed to sustain.
No doubt that lacrosse is growing, and is providing great healthy alternatives for young people from the grassroots through college. The doubt is at the pro level. Whether or not it is needed remains to be seen, but whether or not a pro version is successful, this month will provide some great exposure points for the sport.