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ACBL Marketing: 250K by 2025?

(How) can we get there?

If the ACBL grows its 168,120 membership by 3.5% annually for the next 11 years we will have 250,000 members by 2025. Currently, we grow by about 1% annually, but our market penetration remains well below that of other countries.

At the grass roots level - seeing the baby boomers retire - this growth is eminently doable, even conservative.

I've spoken to a number of leaders from other districts who:

  • share strong optimism about ACBL's growth prospects
  • believe the baby boomer retirement is a huge opportunity for bridge
  • believe the growth must be driven at the district-unit-club level.
  • would welcome an explanation from the BoD or Horn Lake of their marketing plans and membership goals


At this point, as with a recent grass roots technology advance posted on BW, and a tournament sanction snafu, it feels very much like the grass roots have to work around or in spite of the powers-that-be to grow the game. 

Four questions:

  • What is the ACBL's target market?
  • What should Horn Lake's role be in promoting the game?
  • How could the ACBL best spend $250K to get new members?
  • What grass roots efforts work?

My opinions are:

1) The ACBL should target three groups:

  • 60%: Baby boomers for club play: this cohort is the ACBL's economic and volunteer engine
  • 15%: Cruise takers: this group is highly lucrative for the ACBL
  • 25%: youth programs, especially those targeting students at elite colleges;(think Eddie Wold at Rice): youth don't provide money but they ARE the future and the youth make tournaments vital


2) ACBL Marketing should primarily be a savvy partner with the districts/units/clubs and only take the lead in a few key areas

  • bridge teachers should be paid to be accredited not the other way around; yes, the ACBL can make sure teachers teach before being paid, but the ACBL should be begging members to become teachers and advocates and ambassadors of the game
  • continue the coop advertising program and other incentive programs
  • managing the cruise programs/recruitment and other partnerships
  • Horn Lake can lead a schools initiative: get leverage by partnering locally: get bridge in schools!

3) Distribute $10K to each district to figure out how best to get new members then LISTEN to the districts and SUPPORT. Make it a contest: winner gets some star players at their regional

4) My sense is that routine education programs TIED TO A CLUB work best.  We need more (enthusiastic) teachers. That's (one element of) how to convert prospects to ACBL members.

Locally, we've had great success using email in an organized way (mostly for tourney promotion but also recruitment). Email is fantastic in that it's very very low cost. Horn Lake has fought me on suggestions for better use of email unfortunately.  Email and other low-cost electronic marketing can be very effective in getting people into the clubs.


250K by 2025: it's doable!!


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