The peak of action sports in the summer is considered by many to be the Summer X Games, taking place in L.A. from July 29 to Aug. 1. It's important to not overlook many of the grassroots tours and other events taking place that are critical to the success of the industry as a whole.
The continued survival and evolution of these smaller events makes these smaller events notable from a marketing standpoint, especially when many sponsors have cut back their support during recessionary times. Using these brands and events as a guide, below are the top three lessons that all marketers can learn from action sports.
1. Go to where the fans are
Social media is the lifeblood of the action sports industry. Whether it's Tony Hawk utilizing his 2.1 million plus followers on Twitter to promote his foundation or Birdhouse tours, or the Vans Warped Tour promoting each stop to its more than 130,000 followers on Facebook, action sports fans are some of the earliest adopters of social media. When television is a driver for sports fans and your sports are rarely on, your fans seek out other channels, i.e., Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or even a brand's own website/microsite.
2. Don't rely on the mainstream media for coverage
An increasing number of web users are gravitating toward both brands and websites offering custom, digital content. Digital content is not only an effective way to increase the engagement with fans but it's also cost effective. Best of all, by utilizing existing sports marketing relationships away from the field of play or by creating your own event, custom digital content is entirely ownable.
A good example of this is "Red Bull Project X," a snowboarding project the energy drink company created for Shaun White. Red Bull essentially built Shaun his own 550-foot superpipe in the heart of the Silverton, Colo., backcountry where he could prepare for the Olympics. While some of the footage did air on NBC, Red Bull extended the life of the project online, generating thousands of views for months to come and creating a lasting brand effect.
3. Take advantage of advancements in technology
The common thread of the above lessons is that action sports are driven by technology. The widespread availability and lower costs of HD flipcams, streaming live webcasts, video editing software, etc., allow action sports brands and sports to find new ways to get their voices heard through technology. The rise in the use of iPhones and iPod Touches (to the tune of 80 million) and applications is also creating a fertile new playground for action sports fans.
An example of this is the Zumiez Couch Tour. In its 10th year, the tour features skateboarding demonstrations as well as live music performances by bands. What's new to this year's tour is the free Zumiez Couch Tour app. The app allows users to watch each of the 12 stops live on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad through an expanded appcast and webcast that will be streamed live online. These virtual channels are a valuable event marketing tool to reach fans who cannot attend in person.
As we've seen throughout history, recessions often open the door to new opportunities. And while these examples only scratch the surface of what types of tools the action sports industry is utilizing, it is vital for marketers in all industries to stand up and take notice.