First, what will attract teenagers to the game? As a teenager myself, if someone were to tell me that bridge is great for the mind and a very interesting game, I wouldn't have any desire to learn the game.
I would be interested in the great rivalry between USA and Italy, the huge money that professionals are making, big prize money tournaments like the Cavendish, and the great party atmosphere at night during tournaments. Though these things have nothing to do with the game itself, they are interesting and would make me want to become a part of the bridge scene. To do this, obviously I'd have to learn the game.
There was a great poker movie made in 1998, Rounders, starring Matt Damon. To watch this movie and enjoy it, you would literally need no knowledge of how to play poker. The movie was a hit, and many college kids started playing as a result. The natural reaction to being captivated by a movie about poker is to actually go out and learn how to play. Of the people who do that, some percentage will keep playing for the rest of their lives. The point is not to market the game, but to market the drama and atmosphere that surrounds the game.
Imagine a movie about a young bridge professional trying to make it in a highly competitive world. He falls into the trap of drugs and drinking during the wee hours of the night during regionals and nationals and hits rock bottom. At some point, he rises above all of this to greatness. At the climax he's playing his nemesis, the antagonist who has stolen clients from him and bad mouthed him throughout the movie. He pauses when the player leads away from an ace and he must guess the contract to win the match and the tournament. He finally guesses, and wins tens of thousands of dollars as well as the respect of everyone. It may sound silly, but you wouldn't need to know how to play bridge to watch this movie and many would enjoy it.
Some mainstream media effort could easily be made to create an influx of juniors to the ACBL. A movie, a documentary, articles in widely read magazines about the life of a young bridge player, a TV show with a main character that is a bridge player, even a reality TV show. Trying to put an actual bridge game on TV will never achieve great success, but making the bridge world and the atmosphere a part of some bigger picture could.
The ACBL, with it's site "Bridge Is Cool," has failed miserably at understanding what will appeal to a teenage audience.
We also must wonder, what existing markets can we tap into that include young people? There are certainly some people we can advertise the game itself to. It's obvious that the millions of teenagers that play spades, a trick taking game similar to bridge, are such an easy market to attract to bridge. They devote some time to playing card games, they already understand the basic rules of bridge, and they are willing to spend some time to learn a game. As I write this there are almost 7,000 people playing spades on Yahoo. Most are teenagers. Why are we not actively trying to get these people to play bridge? It makes absolutely no sense.
Other board games, card games, and strategy games have young players who would be quite interested in learning the king of all card games. We need to make a site that we can direct those people to, and somehow make the site available to them. That was probably the goal of Bridge Is Cool, but something more appealing to this type of person is needed. The more times that prize money and huge amounts of strategy are mentioned the better.
The other market is school kids, particularly those in advanced math classes. By junior high it's too late, there are so many other interests that bridge will not be a priority. I think the ACBL is already doing a great job in teaching bridge at elementary schools so I won't expound.
In order to save the game of bridge, those in power need to understand the new generation. As a member of said generation, I will tell you with confidence that Bridge Is Cool will not appeal to ANYONE. A new game plan needs to be drawn up before it's too late.
Labels: future of bridge