In the current PBA environment, bowling ball manufacturers pay players very minimal incentives to throw a bowling ball on television. Incentives to use specific products (balls, shoes, wrist supports and finger inserts) are not what they once were. In the 80’s and 90’s, during the major network television era, many players could throw whatever bowling ball they wanted during qualifying, but once the player made the telecast they would be given incentives to throw the latest and greatest from each of the manufacturers. Back then you would see players using a ball all week during qualifying, make the telecast, then drill 2 or 4 balls from the company paying the most incentive money to throw on the show. Ball company staffs were much smaller then. The ball companies relied on paying large incentives of money to the players making the telecast. Television exposure was key to helping sell a bowling ball. Working in a pro shop for a lot of those years, bowlers would come into the pro shop and ask what ball a specific bowler was throwing and then order that ball. In today’s bowling environment, the general public can know information instantly through social media. Each bowling ball company has at least one person dedicated to social media. Daily you will see numerous posts from the companies that you follow. These posts will feature the latest releases in product shot based photos, along with players from all around the world shooting honor scores and producing small ball videos.
It is my personal feeling that the current environment does not help the players looking to enter the professional environment.In the 80's and 90's, players had more incentive to make the telecast. Some of the incentive for using a specific bowling ball and/or bowling an honor score on the telecast was more than winning the actual tournament. I remember Mike Aulby throwing a Brunswick Rhino RE Brunswick Rhino RE Bowling Ball on the 1993 Wichita Open. To my knowledge, Mike Aulby was on Brunswick staff at the time, but the incentive to throw a 300 on television with this ball was $100,000. In reality, this is a great risk, for a bowling ball company because at the time, there weren’t too many 300 thrown on TV. If a 300 was thrown with a bowling ball, that would equal sales.
In today’s bowling environment, there are less bowlers but social media lets everyone know with a few hours of an hours of an honor score being bowled. Some even while it is happening.
Bowling will continue to change and evolve, just like every other sport. Today’s instant society with continue to shape how the sport is consumed, but society must also learn from the past. Not all things in the past need to be forgotten, but learned from, and adapted into today’s environment.