Sports are evolving—from the games we play, to the way we watch them and participate from the stands (or even couches). In the past few years, attention has shifted from the major league establishment to a new set of sports, one that has edged into the mainstream from the fringes. They’re weirder, fairly easy to understand and swiftly growing. Here are three niche sports that have garnered fan bases so big that brands would do well to pay attention.
Marble racing was one of several sports to experience a jolt of interest during covid #1 (March 2020-December 2020). When traditional sports organizations postponed their seasons, sports fans turned to the arbitrary, oddly transfixing competitions that saw inanimate objects twirl down intricate plastic tracks—the crashes, the colors, the intrigue! Some even bet the odds on “Marbula One” tournaments on YouTube. And though marble tourney chatter has died down of late, it’s worth keeping an eye on as New York legalizes sports betting and nostalgia for covid #1 pastimes rise. In the meantime, one can always go marble hunting. —Clara Malley
To the tennis, badminton, and ping-pong lovers out there, pickleball may be the sport for you. Pickleball is considered by Axios to be one of the most rapidly growing sports to be picked up during the pandemic. It is simple to learn, the equipment is low cost, and a match can be played within 15 minutes. Everyone from Jamie Foxx to Leonardo DiCaprio (including pro athletes) to families have eagerly embraced it; hence, it was able to expand professionally into having its own professional league, Major League Pickleball. With its ease, pace, and accessibility (and some celebrity involvement), this sport has become a passion for many, appealing to all generations. —Danielle Lee
Like regular golf, the objective is to get the polypropene disc into the “basket” in the least amount of throws. The cultural significance of a sport is often measured by TV screen time. But now, athletes are using their own influence and popularity to attract attention to their niche sport. Last year, professional disc golf player Paul Mcbeth signed an eight-figure endorsement deal–an income on par with athletes like Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., and Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. That price tag has definitely turned heads, earning disc golf national and international attention. Who’s going to be the first major sports brand to sign a professional disc golf player? –Elise Bang