15 Sports Business Ideas in 2020

Having a passion for sports, or a unique skill set as an athlete, can serve as a springboard for starting a successful small business. You might not be a professional athlete with multi-million-dollar contracts and endorsements, but there are definitely ways you can make a living off of your love of sports.

Whether you’re looking for a part-time gig to earn money on the side or you’re interested in becoming your own boss, there are a lot of lucrative sports business ideas for you to choose from—you just need to think outside the (penalty) box.

1. Become a Fitness Instructor/Trainer

If you’re someone who’s known at your local gym for your physical prowess, becoming a fitness instructor/trainer could be the sports business idea you’ve been looking for. There’s a lot of growth potential in this business as clients can be obtained primarily via word-of-worth.

Plus, if you’re working with your clients at the gym you’re a member of or at their home, it will require minimal overhead since you won’t need to purchase any equipment.

You’ll need to obtain certification to pursue this sports business idea. Learn more in our dedicated guide on how to start a fitness business.

2. Sell Sports Memorabilia

There’s a lot of money in the sports memorabilia trade. A Honus Wagner baseball card sold for a whopping $3.12 million[1] in 2016. Now admittedly you likely won’t be getting that sort of financial windfall, but if you’re an avid collector of sports memorabilia, this might be the business idea for you.

It’s also a great opportunity to go to annual conventions and interact with other people who share the same interests and buy/sell/trade memorabilia. Furthermore you don’t need to open a physical location—everything can be done online or in-person at trade shows.

3. Become a Private Coach/Instructor

Individualized sports, like tennis and golf, involve a lot of individualized instruction. It’s easy to forget but even professional tennis players like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal have coaches. And professional golfers like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have swing coaches. The desire to improve and get criticism/tips is universal. If you are skilled at a specific sport, consider offering your services as a private coach/instructor for kids or adults.

4. Sell Sports Trophies and Awards

Every sports season ends the same way: with a winning team hoisting a trophy in celebration of their hard-fought victory. The winner of the Super Bowl gets to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy and the last team standing in the NHL gets to drink from the Stanley Cup. In a way, the trophies themselves have become iconic.

There can only be one winner—but that doesn’t mean there’s only one trophy. Youth leagues across the country have awards for everyone—from participation medals to trophies for the champs. Fortunately for you this means there’s a healthy customer base for your future business making and selling sports trophies.

5. Open a Miniature Golf Course

Miniature golf is a wholesome family-friendly activity and an excellent sports business idea. Mini golf facilities are often used for birthday parties and other gatherings. Could your town use a mini golf course (or maybe a second)?

If you’re looking for the backing of a nationwide miniature golf company to help get you started, one potential option is to become a Putt-Putt franchisee. Putt-Putt has three levels of franchises: Putt-Putt Golf only, Putt-Putt Golf and Games, and Putt-Putt Fun Center[2]. Initial franchise costs for the three levels are $20,000, $30,000, and $50,000, respectively[3]. Ongoing royalty fees are 6% on gross sales (5% is to the general fund and 1% to the marketing fund).

6. Open a Sports Bar

If you love sports and getting together with friends to have some beers and wings while you watch Monday Night Football, maybe running a sports bar is your dream sports business idea. Keep in mind that this business idea will require more capital expenditure, and previous experience within the restaurant industry is a big plus.

Read more in our guide on how to open a bar.

7. Start a Sports Blog

Sports blogging is a great creative outlet if you’re passionate about sports, but there’s also the potential to make money. If you have a strong voice and a unique perspective, over time you could develop a loyal following. Once you start getting a steady stream of traffic to your website, you have the potential to start earning ad revenue.

8. Run a Sports Camp

Conducted in the summer, when school is out of session, these (typically) week-long camps are a way for youth athletes to hone their skills and practice with additional instruction. If you’ve ever coached a youth league team, starting a sports camp could be an excellent option for you.

9. Open a Sporting Goods Store

Name brands like Modell’s and Dick’s are often the first things that come to mind when you think of sporting goods. Or if you’re into hunting or fishing, you probably thought about the last time you dropped by Bass Pro Shops. Opening a brick-and-mortar sports goods store in your town is a great sports business idea. With a little bit of luck (and a lot of hard work) your store could become the destination for area athletes to pick up whatever equipment they need. 

10. Sports Photography

If you love sports and are skilled with a camera, consider starting a freelance sports photography business. When most people think of sports photography the first thing that probably comes to mind are the images on ESPN and Sports Illustrated, or on the sports pages of their local newspaper. But if you’ve ever played in a youth league, or are the parent of a child who has, you probably immediately thought of Picture Day.

Yes, that day each season where everyone goes to practice wearing their full uniform, and a photographer comes in to take a team photo and photos of each individual—and sells photo packages to the parents. If you have a talent behind the lens, you could be that photographer.

11. Work as a Videographer

Highlight reels have become a critical piece of the recruiting process for high school athletes. It’s the easiest way to showcase their skills to collegiate programs—and hopefully get scholarship offers. Videographers often have different package pricing levels based on the length of the clip requested and amount of work required. If you’re familiar with editing software, this might be right up your alley. And the best part is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

12. Become a Referee/Official

Did you know that referees/officials in professional sports leagues have day jobs? Ed Hochuli, a well-known NFL official, was actually a lawyer[4]. He’s retired now, but the part-time gig as an NFL official was netting him between $4,000 to $10,000 per game[5].

Now, it’s unlikely you’ll get a side gig in the NFL, but you can consider becoming a part-time referee for a high school, collegiate, or even minor league sports team. If you played a sport in high school or college, and have a passion for it, learning the tricks of the referee/official trade could be the sports side hustle for you.

13. Become a Manufacturer of Sports Equipment

It’s a bat, balls, and gloves if you play baseball. Pads and a helmet if you play football. A racket if you play tennis. No matter what the sport, athletes need equipment. If you’re a skilled craftsman, starting a business that manufactures sports equipment could be a lucrative business idea. 

14. Sell Custom Sports Jerseys and Other Athletic Apparel 

High school and junior high school athletic programs use local suppliers for their jerseys and other branded apparel. So why not fill that need? If you’re looking to take it a step further and offer customized jerseys, all you need is to invest in a T-shirt printing press.

15. Open a Gym Franchise  

Every athlete needs a place to work out, so opening a gym is another sports business idea. If you want to start a gym, but are seeking the security of being part of a known brand, then a gym franchise could be just the thing. Gold’s Gym became the gold standard in the industry when it was the go-to workout location for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Today there are over 700 locations worldwide.

It’s important to note that the startup costs for this sports business idea are on the high side. Gold’s Gym requires franchisees to have a minimum net worth of $1 million, with at least $400,000[6] in liquid assets.

Learn more in our guide on how to start a gym franchise.

The Bottom Line

The decision to start your own business is a major one, regardless of the field you want to enter. You’ll want to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success and that means weighing where your interests lie, doing thorough research, and carefully considering the capital you’ll need upfront.

Hopefully this list of the 15 best sports business ideas has started you down the path of achieving your dreams of entrepreneurship. You have a marathon ahead of you, but working for yourself can also be the most rewarding work you’ll ever do. Good luck!

Article Sources:

  1. Beckett.com. “World Record $3.12 Million for T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card.” 
  2. PuttPutt.com. “Own a Franchise.”
  3. PuttPutt.com. “Own a Franchise.”
  4. FTW.USAToday.com. “6 NFL officials’ wildly different day jobs, from dairy farmer to high school principal.”
  5. CNBC.com. “Here’s how much NFL referees get paid.”
  6. Franchising.GoldsGym.com. “Become an Owner.”

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of JustBusiness and the editorial director at Fundera.

Sally joined Fundera in 2018 and has almost 15 years of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There, she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and ColoradoBiz magazines, as well as Yelp, SmallBizClub, and BizCrat.

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