The sport of kites is booming in New York City.
Nowadays, more than a third of the city’s kiteshops have opened in recent years, according to New York-based bird expert Michael O’Brien.
The number of kite-fliers has grown from around 500 in 2012 to more than 6,000 now, and the number of paragliders has grown as well.
O’Connor and his colleagues are using their knowledge of kiting to help businesses develop and sell new products, and he’s seen a dramatic uptick in business since the launch of the sport’s “flagship product” last year.
The kite’s first major marketing push was last summer when New York’s Parks Department hosted the kite festival at the Javits Center, a sprawling public space in Lower Manhattan that serves as the site of the City’s annual summer kite season.
In addition to selling new products like kite kits, O’Connors kite experts helped craft an ad for the city, which ran in local publications like the Times, The Post, The Wall Street Journal, and New York magazine.
It featured the phrase “Get Your Kite Back” on the back of a kite and said, “It’s the fastest, easiest, and most fun way to get around New York,” while pointing to a map of the Big Apple.
The idea was to make people think of kited adventures as something that actually happened, and to remind people that, even if they can’t fly, they can still learn to fly a kiting device.
The ad was also accompanied by a graphic with the words “Keep your kite safe,” which was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of kitting out a kitesuit.
I’ve also seen kites being promoted in local media in recent weeks.
One New York radio station, the New York Public Radio station WNYC, recently featured a promotional video from the sport on its website.
It features footage from kite competitions, with the kiteswinger speaking in a voiceover and explaining the sport.
In the video, a kiter named Steve shows off his skills and explains that he likes the idea of “getting in the air, jumping and landing, and getting out of the air,” as well as the idea that the “best part” of kit-boarding is “being able to glide.”
He adds, “You know, kites are great for you if you want to get away from it all.”
New York kites were a key part of the kiting trend in the 1980s and ’90s, but they were also marketed in a way that would make it hard for them to catch on with people outside the sport, said Brian O’Sullivan, who has been working in the sport for 20 years.
He remembers a New York TV station called “Kite City” that ran ads in the local newspapers in the ’80s and early ’90’s that encouraged people to buy kites.
“The people that were buying kites weren’t necessarily people who were into it,” O’ Sullivan said.
“It was people that saw it as a way to do something for the environment.”
O’Neill is not the only one who sees kite kites as a potential marketing tool.
“Kites are awesome,” said Matt Bower, a self-proclaimed kite expert and former kite pilot who owns a kilt company called Fly Me Kite.
“You just go out and get a kit and go out there and be yourself, just as if you’re on a horse.”
“Kiwi’s a great way to have fun in a kitty, to be yourself and not be afraid to do things,” said Nick Higgens, who runs the kilt shop in his Manhattan apartment.
“There’s nothing better than being a Kiwi.”
Bower said the kits are also a good alternative for people who are new to the sport and don’t know how to properly handle a kitten, or who aren’t comfortable with kites but don’t want to pay much attention to the finer points of the craft.
He’s also not worried about any potential backlash from the kiter community.
“We’re not trying to be some big, big kite nut job,” he said.
Kiteboarding has also been a huge draw for the kiwi, who have become a major part of New York culture.
“They’re so popular, and they’re a beautiful animal,” Bower laughed.
“I don’t think anybody is going to stop selling kites.”