From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
September: Rally 'Round The Rooms
POOLROOMS ARE the lifeblood of billiards. Always have been. Always will be.
And I'm not just talking about billiards as a business. Sure, the manufacturers and distributors of the equipment are certainly equally important. As are the retail stores that sell the bulk of that equipment to consumers and, in fact, to the poolrooms themselves.
And, of course, there are the players. There simply isn't an industry without the people who play the game.
But the source of vitality of the game, and, indeed the soul of the game, is the poolroom. When people visualize the game, it's in the poolroom. When authors and moviemakers portray the game and its characters, it's not in a retail store or basement recreation room it's in the poolroom. When the pro players recount their upbringing in the sport and tell their tall tales, they're always set in the poolroom.
Yet, somewhere along the way, the Billiard Congress of America, the umbrella industry group that is supposed to watch over each of the industry's integers, has instead drifted farther and farther away from the rooms.
How did that happen? In the early days of the annual BCA Expo, room owners made up a larger portion of the attendance than retailers. The BCA membership rolls used to include nearly 800 rooms. Over time, the association offered fewer and fewer benefits to room owners, and all but made them persona non grata at the Expo. Then the BCA sold its league system, which not only made the association irrelevant to players, but created yet another disconnect with the rooms in which those leagues operated.
Which brings us to today, and to a point at which the BCA realized it needed to give the rooms the tools they need to survive and even grow. Lord knows the room owners can use the help. Billiard rooms across the United States have felt the sting of the nation's economic downturn as much as any other business.
That's why the BCA's new marketing initiative, initially aimed squarely at billiard rooms, is such a welcome and needed shot in the arm for the entire industry. The initiative, spearheaded by the BCA's new marketing and activation arm, BankShot Entertainment, is built on a single premise to help grow the billiard business. How? It's not as difficult as one would think. Save members money, educate them on how to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently, and provide them with programs that will send customers to their doors. The BankShot model, patterned after a similar program that has been run with great success in the bowling business, begins with the poolrooms for logical reasons. They are the first point of contact with most of pool's "consumers." Additionally, poolrooms joined together under one banner offer the industry the greatest leverage for attracting non-endemic business partners. Why do you think that Coca-Cola, the largest soft-drink company on the planet, signed on as the "Official Soft Drink of Billiards"? Numbers are power. And a partner like Coke is also power.
As outlined in the BCA Expo recap (pg. 36), the BankShot program will initially offer poolrooms national account pricing on Coca-Cola products, as well as a credit card processing program, a rebate program through Sysco Foods and a Web development and hosting program. Utilizing these programs, the direct, bottom-line savings for an average billiard club are estimated at more than $3,000 annually.
And that's just savings. BSE will be developing national programs geared at driving more patrons through the doors of member poolrooms.
The billiard industry has had precious little to rally around in recent years, but the BCA's new directive may well be the spark that ignites a whole new era of industry prosperity.