An opportunity to expand a rising reach is a driving factor behind the acquisition of the Professional Bowlers Association by Bowlero, the world’s largest operator of bowling centers.
Bowling is a recreational activity, but it’s also a sport—complete with a 60-year-old professional league that puts on televised tournaments and supports numerous players nationwide.
Now, a merger between the Professional Bowlers Association, a for-profit organizing body for the sport, and the largest operator of bowling alleys in the world could bring those two concepts in lockstep.
This week, Bowlero, which counts more than 300 centers to its name worldwide, announced it would acquire PBA, with the goal of tying the league’s bowling talent to the primary innovator in the world of bowling alleys.
“The purchase brings unprecedented innovation to the sport as it combines Bowlero’s industry expertise with the PBA’s global talent pool and fan base, which together will elevate the sport of bowling to new heights,” said a news release.
The combination of the two comes at a time when PBA is actually on the upswing. The league has an ongoing partnership with Fox Sports, which led to events airing on the Fox broadcast network and on its FS1 cable network. The amount of bowling coverage more than doubled, and viewership surged as a result, Front Office Sports reported. Fox Sports has pledged to continue the existing partnership.
Bowlero has big plans for PBA, with an eye on further expanding the league’s events and building additional league-related content to air within Bowlero’s facilities and through its existing offerings, including a Facebook Live series called Live on the Lanes.
“There is an engaged community of bowlers and viewers alike that we think can further tap into the PBA,” new PBA CEO Colie Edison, previously the chief customer officer for Bowlero, told the news outlet. “We’re talking to an already engaged audience of open play and retail bowlers, or even people hosting parties at our centers, and we think this is an opportunity to further expose our other brands through the tour.”
It’s another step in a busy recent history for the league from an ownership standpoint. While the PBA started as a nonprofit in 1958, the organization was converted into a for-profit in 2000 when a trio of former Microsoft employees purchased the organization in 2000, at a time the league was struggling.
Edison noted that another major goal for the league was to build out its branding footprint, which has traditionally focused on existing bowling brands. With the added potential of sponsoring Bowlero facilities—which bring in more than 28 million guests each year—Edison noted there was opportunity to bring in a larger diversity of brands.
“There is no reason why the PBA can’t have a sponsor in every major category,” she added.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the PBA is a for-profit organization.