Just 1 in 50 adults have taken part in scuba diving during 2022, according to Deep Blue Thinking’s recent research. With the diving industry recovering post pandemic, the news only 2% of adults scuba dived last year is, however, in line with other water-based outdoor pursuits. Kayaking, sailing and stand-up paddle boarding all achieved similar levels of penetration in 2022.
As the industry gathers in Birmingham at the start of March for one of the marquee events in the annual diving calendar, our research highlights key opportunities to set an agenda for future growth.
1. BRIDGING THE GENDER DIVIDE
In spite of women making up half the population, in the past year men still account for 2 out of 3 active divers. We know the male bias isn’t driven by a failure to attract women; tellingly, the same number of men and women have tried diving. It’s just that more women have not continued their participation.
The diving industry still has a great opportunity to build participation amongst women as, positively, 9% of females are actively planning to dive during 2023 and a further 18% claim they’ll definitely dive in the future, if not over the next 12 months.
Organisations, such as Girls That Scuba, are doing a fantastic job creating safe spaces and a vibrant community amongst female divers - but there’s clearly more to be done. Mums are more likely than dads to cite changes in family circumstances as a reason why they’ve not recently dived.
Indeed, maintaining engagement amongst those over 35 is a challenge both for men and women with those over 35 far less likely to have dived in the past year.
2. BUILDING PATHWAYS
It’s interesting that over half who have tried diving at least once have not progressed on to take formal qualifications. Unsurprisingly, PADI remains the most frequently mentioned certification body, with 18% of divers qualified through that route. Yet, those who have dived in the past year are almost twice as likely to have qualified through the British Sub Aqua Club compared to the diving population overall. (17% vs 8%).
However, there is not just a challenge in encouraging divers to achieve initial qualifications but also to continue their diving education. Indeed, less than 1 in 3 have progressed beyond their Open Water qualification.
Given that training is so central to building ongoing participation (3/4 of those who have dived in the past year are certified divers), it’s crucial for the health of the industry to build the funnel of qualified divers.
Is there sufficient awareness of the pathways (e.g. e-learning, referrals, etc.) that can help spread commitment, both in terms of time and money, of achieving certification?
3. BROADER INDUSTRY ENGAGEMENT
In other sports, brands like Rapha, the upmarket cycling clothes retailer, have successfully established their brand beyond the active cycling community. However, it’s notable that, on the whole, diving brands have built relatively little brand salience, even amongst recreational divers.
It's worth bearing in mind that relatively ‘mass market’ diving brands such as Mares and Cressi, have managed to build brand awareness of just under 20%. When it comes to more niche brands, the like of Apeks and Fourth Element achieve less than half again; c.10% of those of have ever dived.
Whilst it’s inevitable that equipment manufacturers will want to focus performance marketing towards high value segments, there is a clear opportunity for brand and industry bodies alike to help promote diving to prospective segments rather than ‘preaching to the converted’.
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