Grand Slam of Curling Sold in Bid to Make Over Olympic Sport

Professional curling is getting a makeover.

A group of investors and prominent athletes have reached an agreement to buy the Grand Slam of Curling from Canadian media giant Sportsnet. The consortium, known as The Curling Group, is in the process of raising an eight-figure Series A to overhaul everything about the sport’s biggest annual events, including where they’re held, how they’re marketed and how they’re monetized.

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The Curling Group is co-founded by former PointsBet Canada executive Nic Sulsky and Rumble Gaming founder Mike Cotton. It also includes former NFL defensive end Jared Allen and curling gold medalist John Morris. Former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger, who owns a curling bar in Nashville, is a strategic advisor.

Sulsky said he became interested in the sport through PointsBet’s relationship with Curling Canada. He said the investment thesis became more obvious the more he learned about the sport—from its expansion in the U.S. and Asia, to the popularity of its women’s matches and the influx of institutional money currently flowing into niche sports.

“Here is an Olympic sport that blows up every four years, that’s watched by 30% of Canadians, that is undermarketed and underserved,” Sulsky said in an interview. “The picture kept getting clearer and clearer.”

As part of the agreement, Sportsnet will keep the Canadian linear media rights for an undisclosed number of years. The Curling Group is buying everything else—IP, events, other media rights. The two sides declined to provide financial specifics.

Sportsnet has owned and operated the Grand Slam of Curling since 2012. The events, which feature the best men’s and women’s teams from around the world, have more than $1.5 million ($2 million CAD) in prizes and have developed a raucous atmosphere. Fans treat the tournaments more like festivals than sporting events—with an aura akin to the World Darts Championships, or golf’s Waste Management Open.

Curling has 284 million fans globally, according to a 2022 Nielsen report. There are obvious pockets in Canada, the Northern U.S. and parts of Europe, but the sport is growing in parts of Asia as well. China won the continent’s first Olympic curling medal in 2010; and Asian nations performed well at both the 2018 PyeongChang Games (two medals) and the 2022 Beijing Games (one medal).

The Grand Slam of Curling currently holds five events per year, each in Canada. Under new ownership, the schedule will remain for next season, but more events could be added, Sulsky said. Beyond that, the big tentpole events could also be held in other places, such as the U.S., Europe or Asia. The 2026 Winter Olympics will be hosted in Italy.

The Curling Group is hoping to capitalize on curling’s viral Olympic popularity and recent changes in social media, broadcasting and live entertainment that have paved the way for new leagues in niche sports.

“Everything is on the table,” Sulsky said. “We’re going to be rebranding the entire sport. We’re going to be injecting new energy into events. We’re going to be producing a ton more content. We’re going to focus on the marketability of the actual curlers, and we’re going to invest in innovation.”

Sportsnet is part of Rogers Sports & Media, which is owned by Rogers Communications (NYSE: RCI). Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays and a large stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, parent of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC.

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