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The Allure Of Action Sports
by Bill Carter, Friday, April 24, 2009, 12:30 PM
Gen Y is drawn to action sports. According to America Sports Data (2007), in the U.S. alone there are 11.6 million skateboarders, 6.88 million snowboarders and 3 million BMX participants, and, of these numbers, the majority is between the ages of 18 and 30. The action sports allure comes not only from the fun, but also from the freedom. Whether it's skateboarding, riding a BMX, surfing or snowboarding, it comes down to you and the elements.

In action sports there are no rules, only technique. The way two people arrive at learning a trick can be completely different from each other, and each will develop their own style in the process; and in action sports style is everything.

This process of personal expression usually leads practitioners of action sports to explore other ways to express their individuality and creativity. Skaters and surfers often become musicians, painters, actors or artists of some type -- no other sport is so tied to a broader youth culture. In action sports, young people find a community that not only encourages but celebrates their natural creativity and individuality.

Action Sports in Mainstream Culture
It's difficult not to notice the immense popularity action sports has gained over the last 10 years. TV's bastion of youth culture, MTV, can credit some of its most popular shows to action sports. "The Life of Ryan," "Viva La Bam," "Jack Ass," "Rob and Big," "Rob's Fantasy Factory" and "Nitro Circus" all are shows based on action sports and the lifestyle.

Action sports events like the Dew Tour and X Games pack traditional sports venues and receive coveted broadcast coverage. Skaters like Jason Lee and Dave Chappelle have become famous actors, skateboard legend Mark Gonzales has become a famous artist, professional surfer Jack Johnson has become a renowned musician. TV networks like "Fuel TV" broadcast only action sports, XM radio station "The Faction" only plays "the music of action sports." Woodward has a camp catered to action sports and an increasing number of schools have surf PE, skateboard PE and snowboard week. For decades, its impact was slow and steady, but over the last decade, action sports has become woven into the fabric of youth culture.

Corporations Join the Fold
As endemic companies like DC, Billabong and Volcom become household names, it's little surprise that riding the coattails of this popularity are many corporations, including Nike, Gatorade, Converse, Adidas and Toyota, to name a few of that have created action sports programs.

The amount of money spent on traditional sports marketing far exceeds what is spent on action sports, yet action sports continue to replace traditional sports in popularity -- with participation numbers in action sports rising at the expense of traditional sports.

The power of the action sports market has yet to be completely realized. For non-endemic corporations, breaking into this market isn't as easy as it may seem. Skaters, surfers and snowboarders traditionally are leery of non-endemic brands.

Here are some tips for marketing to the action sports demographic:

  • Before the start of your project, speak with young people who are invested in action sports culture to educate yourself and your staff
  • Whether they are pro athletes, amateur athletes or other respected personalities in action sports, get well-respected "ambassadors" to help be the face and voice of your brand when trying to reach young people
  • Sponsor grassroots action sports events and competitions, not just the large, made-for-TV events
  • Advertise in endemic print and online outlets
  • Hire photographers who specialize in the respective action sport to photograph anything you are doing in the sports