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Paintball Jumps To #3
by Bill Mills

Every year the Sporting Good Manufacturer’s Association (SGMA), a trade group of sporting goods manufacturers funds the Superstudy®.  The Superstudy® is a survey of people across the United States about their participation in sports.  The survey participants are categorized and screened so that they form an accurate cross-section of the US Population, and the resulting numbers are extrapolated into realistic estimates of total numbers for the entire US population.

The SGMA publishes lengthy reports, which analyze the results of the survey data, comparing items like lifestyle, income, and location.  These Superstudy® reports are the most in-depth analysis of the US sports consumer market available, and cost $900 for the full set ($775 for SGMA members).

In the late 1990s, SGMA changed the way it grouped its data.  They moved the sport of paintball from the shooting sports category into the extreme sports category.  According to Rene Boucher, publisher of Paintball New, the Paintball News Network field promotional program lobbied heavily for this change, as it would be instrumental in representing the sport of paintball to mainstream companies promoting products like soft-drinks and motion pictures.

When paintball was moved into the extreme sports category, it was suddenly clear that paintball was a lot more mainstream than most people realized.  The Superstudy ® counts a person as a participant in a sport if they say they played that sport at least once during the year.  In 1998, the Superstudy® results ranked paintball as the fourth most popular extreme sport.  With 5,923,000 participants, more people were paintballing than other sports, including snowboarding.  Another signifigant number was that paintball had 1,172,000 players classified as "frequent participants" based on the fact that they played paintball 15 or more days out of that year.  

In 1999, the numbers for paintball moved up to 6,364,000 participants.  That same year, skateboarding increased, but both inline skating and mountain biking saw a decline.  In 2000, paintball’s numbers were up to 7,121,000.  That year skateboarding also grew as did inline skating.  

The numbers for 2001, available in the current report now show paintball as the third most popular extreme sport in the US.  Almost as important as the continued rise of paintball is the fact that other leading sports are now on the decline.  Paintball grew to 7,678,000 participants.  Skateboarding also grew, gaining another 810,000 participants, and placing in second.  The most popular extreme sport for the year was inline skating.  While it remained the most popular, there were three million less inline skaters in 2001 than the year before.  Mountain biking also declined as did snowboarding, BMX riding, sailboarding, roller hockey and wakeboarding.  Another extreme sport growing in popularity and ranked fourth in 2001 was artificial wall climbing with 7,377,000 participants.

Superstudy is a registered trademark of SGMA 

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