Transforming Curling with New Energy and Proven Strategies

2024 World Men's Curling champion skip Niklas Edin at event in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. (The Associated Press)

Niklas Edin of Sweden is the only skip in history to lead his team to seven World Curling Championships and three Olympic medals, including the 2024 world championship in April and Olympic gold in Beijing in 2022. But what is known of this elite athlete off the sheets of ice, and around the world?

The opportunity to revolutionize curling, a sport its traditionalist system has long held back, is at hand. A new venture backed by entertainment industry veterans and elite curlers aims to grow the sport by making cosmetic and structural changes. Rather than reinventing the wheel, however, this endeavour seeks to piggyback on the media blueprint that has successfully developed other niche sports over the past several years.

On April 9, Sportsnet announced that it had agreed with The Curling Group for the partnership to acquire the Grand Slam of Curling from the broadcaster – a deal that CEO Nic Sulsky had been pursuing since last summer, driven by a vision to rebrand a sport he believes requires a drastic strategic change in how it is presented and perceived internationally.

“When I talk about rebranding curling, I’m not just talking about rebranding the Grand Slam of Curling,” he said. “I’m talking about literally putting a new face, image, and energy into the sport.”

Sulsky outlined that his investment group is drafting its playbook from the best in the business by picking and choosing the best things that he’s seen in other sports. He compared his objectives to how golf has reshaped its image lately by turning events into enjoyable celebratory occasions.

“Golf has been able to dramatically change its image and increase its younger fan base by injecting the energy and lifestyle of what it is like to be a golfer into the sport,” he said. The Phoenix Open is famous for its party-like atmosphere. The event encourages fan participation and engagement, which is atypical for traditional golf tournaments that embody posh decorum. “[The event] has shone a light on how much fun it is to be a member of the golf community.

“What’s incredible about curling is that as soon as curling events end, it is an absolute party. So one of our number one goals is to bring the energy of what it is like to be a part of the curling community into the curling events themselves, because we have already seen how successful that has been for the sport of golf.”

With experience as the chief commercial officer of PointsBet Canada, Sulsky understands that content is king, considering betting companies rely heavily on brand loyalty, trust, and reputation when marketing their credibility as a gambling outfit. Given his aim to cater to younger consumer demographics, he underlined the importance of harnessing the rapidly evolving digital landscape that has fundamentally transformed the sports media industry and the diverse ways sports are consumed.

“We are planning on enhancing the current suite of content that the Grand Slam of Curling has. We will be giving curling fans more than they are used to getting and we will be delivering that content to international distribution partners all over the world.

“We’re raising a significant amount of money, and a majority of that money is going to go to content, and a lot of that content is going to be focused on producing and leveraging short-form content across the digital and social ecosystem. We know that younger sports fans aren’t only watching sports on streaming services at a higher level, they’re also watching sports differently,” Sulsky added.

He also mentioned that one of his long-term goals is to highlight the “content, character, and storylines” in curling that have been crucial to “driving some of these secondary sports into popularity” – alluding to the hype around Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive, which brought the personal stories of auto racing stars like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to new and massive audiences. By showcasing the unique stories and colourful personalities within the sport, the renown of Formula 1 soared to new global heights.

“We have an incredible array of elite, international, well-spoken, relatable, funny, and attractive athletes. We need to grow a curling celebrity ecosystem, and the best way to do that is to also allow them and to help them leverage short-form content across all of these digital ecosystems because then we can make curling cool, we can rebrand the sport, and we can help these incredible curlers become the stars that they deserve to be.”

With the 2026 Winter Olympics approaching, and Niklas Edin planning to defend his gold medal, Sulsky emphasized the value of knowing exactly when “lightning is going to strike the clock tower” – a Back to the Future reference defining how The Curling Group plans to build up to and capitalize on the moment in time when the sport’s popularity will ultimately peak.

“The great thing that curling has that none of these other sports have is that in February, 2026, we know that curling is going to explode all over the world. We know that during every Winter Olympics, curling becomes an absolute global sensation.

“So unlike all those other sports, we have a moment in time that we know we can build to, and if we do our job, we can harness the power of what that moment is.”

Many changes are coming to the sport, and Sulsky is confident that he can not only help give it a fresh identity but also ensure that curling fans from all over the world can actually watch it.

“There’s an opportunity here to literally revolutionize, from top to bottom, how an internationally Olympic-loved sport is viewed around the world.”

Follow: @aleksa_cosovic