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The best sports-related franchises of 2024

December 8th, 2023 By Emily Norwood

You may have noticed an increased interest in specialty sports programs, the breakout of “date night” sports like axe throwing, and the expansion of traditional family night concepts like roller skating, mini golf, and ice skating. As these sports and activities have continued to grow in popularity, this has led to an increase in sports-related franchises.

If that piques your interest, you may have wondered what makes a great sporting franchise. And as an investor, how do you pick the best sports-related franchises to invest in?

In this article, we cover:

  • What makes a great sports-related franchise
  • The benefits of sports-related franchises
  • The best sports-related franchises of 2024

Let’s get started!

What makes a great sports-related franchise?

As an investor (and/or potential new franchise owner), a logical question is how you know which franchises are the best fit for your personal and financial goals, and which might be riskier.

While most of the financial information you’ll need to understand a franchise will be in its franchise disclosure document (FDD), there are plenty of other factors for you to consider.

Efficient operations

A great sporting franchise needs to have efficient operations, both in the front of the house and in the back.

On the front end, this means:

  • A good customer experience with successful outcomes
  • Consistent ways to get more customers
  • A demonstrated ability to retain customers

And in the back of the house, it means: 

  • Good financial record-keeping and performance
  • A demonstrated ability to recruit, train, and retain key personnel, like coaches
  • Processes around key business operations and meeting regulatory requirements


The old adage “location matters” has stuck around for a reason – location really does matter. 

And location especially matters for sporting franchises because many rely on outdoor spaces and seasonality. An outdoor sporting franchise that’s just as successful in Southern California’s warm climate as in a colder climate you’ll find in a state like Idaho is a strong bet.

Of course, other factors like the number of locations, the geographical spread of those locations, and the mix of population density are all signals about the strengths of a particular franchise.

Strong revenue

Most franchisors will claim strong revenue, but it’s worth checking and double-checking. Yes, you can find everything you need to know about a franchise’s financials in the FDD, but how do you place one franchise’s revenue in context? How do you know if revenue is truly strong? The best way is to compare it with similar franchises. (You can also look at their FDDs.)

Experienced leadership

A great leadership team doesn’t necessarily mean prestigious MBAs and decades of C-suite experience. After all, many successful franchises began as someone’s first venture. Experience is essential, though, and it comes in different forms. How many other locations have these owners supported or helped stand up? What was their background or skill set before they decided to start a business?

Franchisee support

While every franchise has a vested interest in setting franchisees up for success, some have much more robust systems in place than others. One way to measure this is to look at how many new franchises close within three years of business. While there are always extenuating circumstances, in general, the lower the closure rate, the better. 

The benefits of sports-related franchises

Along with the clear benefits to the community, we like sports-related franchises as investment opportunities for a number of reasons.

Post-pandemic return to entertainment

The waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a mass return to sports and sporting events as social distancing restrictions were lifted.

And, while youth community sports levels in 2022 were about the same as they were in 2019, the explosive growth of pickleball and the steady growth of axe-throwing venues signals a trend that Americans are hungry for more sports and sports-related opportunities. 

Wide demographic potential

PwC reports that as of 2022, sports franchises have been going global. The NBA’s recent preparations to allow foreign investors underlie an emerging trend of sports globalization. For the sports-related franchisee and investor, this means we can expect to see a growing international interest in different sports.

Even forgetting about foreign expansion, the domestic market is massive, as sports-related franchises can (and do) appeal to all age groups. From kids’ recreational leagues and birthday parties to adult date nights and pickleball leagues, and even senior golf outings, this is one of the few sectors that appeals to all ages.

Emerging sector with growth potential

The development of new technology is aiding the creation, growth, and stability of many sports-related franchises. Some of those we touch on in this article have been leveraging new and emerging technology to create new experiences and carve out growth opportunities for themselves.

The best sports-related franchises of 2024


The indoor golf entertainment centers created by X-Golf are located in half of the U.S. states and in Canada. X-Golf wants to remove the high costs associated with enjoying golf, like equipment costs, weather, and time, and its rentable indoor golf simulators let anyone play or train at the level, pace, and conditions they want.

Fast facts

  • Locations: 70
  • Founded: 2005
  • Franchised: 2015
  • EBITDA: $178K
  • Start-up cost: $1.2M
  • Franchise fee: $20,000 – $30,000

Ninja Nation

The popularity of obstacle course arenas for kids and adults is growing, and Ninja Nation is leading the way. The company offers two kinds of franchises: a brick-and-mortar and a mobile location. Castle Pine, cofounder of Ninja Nation, is on a mission to create over 1 million heroes –  1 million kids and adults pushing their minds and bodies to limits they never thought possible.

Fast facts

  • Locations: 5
  • Founded: 2017
  • Franchised: 2019
  • EBITDA: $476K
  • Start-up cost: $1.3M
  • Franchise fee: $49,500

Monster Mini Golf

If you’re interested in entertainment centers for children and adults that feature indoor miniature golf, video games, and redemption games, look no further than Monster Mini Golf. The Providence, Rhode Island-founded sports franchise has more than 26 locations across the U.S. and Canada. The company’s business model relies on multiple packages to allow guests to tailor their experience to exactly what they prefer.

Fast facts

  • Locations: 26
  • Founded: 2004
  • Franchised: 2005
  • EBITDA: Undisclosed
  • Start-up cost: $847K
  • Franchise fee: $40,000


With roots in a Pacific Northwest soccer program, Skyhawks Sports Academy provides a safe, fun, and skill-based sports experience for kids between the ages of 4 and 12. Skyhawks offers safe, fun, and skill-focused camps, clinics, and leagues for over 10 sports like basketball, flag football, volleyball, and baseball in locations throughout North America. 

Fast facts

  • Locations: 120
  • Founded: 1979
  • Franchised: 2007
  • EBITDA: Undisclosed
  • Start-up cost: $74K
  • Franchise fee: $42,500

Premier Martial Arts

As part of the $4 billion martial arts industry, Premier Martial Arts offers karate and martial arts classes to both kids and adults. Much of the company’s recent growth took place during the COVID-19 pandemic; at a time when many other businesses were struggling to hit the previous year’s numbers, Premier Martial Arts remained profitable.

Fast facts

  • Locations: 175
  • Founded: 2004
  • Franchised: 2018
  • EBITDA: $75K
  • Start-up cost: $303K
  • Franchise fee: $49,500

i9 Sports

In communities throughout the United States, i9 Sports offers youth sports leagues, camps, and clinics for kids ages three and up. Its success as the nation’s largest multi-sport provider focused solely on high-quality, community-based kids’ sports leagues results in part from its low barrier to entry as a franchisor. Entrepreneur Magazine consistently lists i9 Sports on its Top Franchises for Less Than $100,000 list, including recently in 2023.

Fast facts

  • Locations: 219
  • Founded: 2002
  • Franchised: 2003
  • EBITDA: $129K
  • Start-up cost: $65K
  • Franchise fee: $24,900

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Explore More Profitable Franchise Opportunities

If you’re considering expanding your business horizons, read on to learn about the most profitable franchise opportunities in each industry. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned veteran in the franchise world, our curated selection will guide you toward making an informed decision. 

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