Gaming, baking, gardening, and crafting have all seen a huge surge of interest since the pandemic began—and their associations took advantage of the opportunity.
In the year since the pandemic sent most people into some form of long-term isolation, plenty of us have turned to a saving grace: hobbies.
They’re not just ways to pass the time once spent commuting or visiting friends and family. They’ve also been an important strategy for maintaining mental health and fending off stress during a strange time, according to the American Heart Association.
As the pandemic endures, associations for America’s rediscovered pastimes have taken advantage of the messaging opportunities that emerged. Here are just a few examples:
Home Baking Association. Near the start of the pandemic, it seemed that everyone was suddenly baking their own bread. The Home Baking Association leveraged the surging search traffic to its page “How to Bake a Loaf of Bread” to help would-be bakers get started. Additionally, the group’s director of programs, Sharon Davis, found herself busy with media requests and shared her knowledge in articles for Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, How Stuff Works, and The Stranger.
American Craft Council. “The state of American craft has never been stronger,” according to a recent headline in Smithsonian Magazine. The pandemic was a huge factor in that. The American Craft Council supported this interest with a content strategy that helps people new to crafting find a path in. The council put together two separate multipart virtual events through its American Craft Forum video series last spring. It plans to hold a third starting April 1.
Cat Fanciers’ Association. Cats rule the internet, and they’re keeping people sane at home. The Cat Fanciers’ Association has been taking advantage of that to build interest in virtual events that highlight new kinds of creative cat imagery. CFA hosted Virtual Cat Competitions, encouraging people to share fanciful photos or videos of their cats. “The cat fancy has never before been so accessible to so many people,” said Iris Zinck, chair of CFA’s Virtual Cat Competition Committee, in a news release. “This isn’t just a placeholder for regular shows, it’s something new that offers the online public a whole different way to share their love of cats!”
Entertainment Software Association. ESA is best known among gamers for its popular E3 event, which was canceled last year. (It’s going remote this year.) But gaming itself, a hobby generally enjoyed indoors in front of a television set, saw a lot of success in 2020, with two huge console releases—the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series line—last fall. Early in the pandemic, ESA supported a digital petition encouraging gamers to stay home, and it used its website Game Generation to highlight the ways that gamers were managing. As CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis told VentureBeat last fall, “We were one of the earliest industries to transition to work from home. We were able to pivot in ways that other industries weren’t able to do. The consoles came out. That’s part of what has really driven the enormous growth of the industry.”
National Gardening Association. With supply chains disrupted and shortages of consumer goods reported at grocery stores last spring, there was brief concern about possible food scarcity—which drummed up interest in gardening. But even as food supplies quickly stabilized, gardeners kept their hands in the dirt: People reported in May 2020 that the National Gardening Association was fielding half a million questions each week. Executive Director Dave Whitinger told the magazine that about one in four U.S. households grew their own vegetables in 2019. “I would not be surprised to learn that 50 percent did it this year,” he said. To tap into the interest, the group created a pandemic gardening landing page with details on how to get started, including where to find seeds.
USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association. This group was founded only last year, but it drew quick support. The association has already held several events, including a virtual COVID-19 fundraiser last fall. “There is supposed to be a dopamine hit every time you put puzzle pieces together. So assembling a puzzle is just a constant dose of happy chemicals,” said one of the group’s cofounders, Tammy McLeod, in a New York Times article from December.