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Unconventional marketing strategies for the X Games crowd

Marketplace Staff Jul 29, 2010

Unconventional marketing strategies for the X Games crowd

Marketplace Staff Jul 29, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: The sports scene here in downtown Los Angeles the next couple of days is going to be all skateboards, BMX bikers and rally car racing. It is X Games time in the hot city. While athletes compete against each other, the companies that sponsor those athletes are competing too — for fans and their dollars. They’re not doing it in traditional ways, because action sports fans and athletes are distinctly non-traditional.

Tripp Mickle writes about action sports for the SportsBusiness Journal. Tripp, good to have you with us.

Tripp Mickle: Good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: Since we’re talking about marketing, it’s supposed to make sense to begin with the audience. Who is it that watches these action sports?

Mickle: It’s really 12 to 34-year-old males primarily. A lot of these people who gravitate towards these sports tend to set a trend that can run through all of U.S. culture to some degree.

Ryssdal: I’m not going to say it’s a paradigm, but marketers and companies have found new ways to advertise to these influencers, to this crowd.

Mickle: This really grew out of a challenge that they tend to be resistant to any kind of brand imagery. They don’t want to be smacked in the face with Gatorade talking about how great a drink it is in a traditional commercial format. It takes something a little more subtle and a little more creative. For years, videos have been big among people who are skateboarders or BMX riders. And brands basically took the idea of the video, borrowed it for themselves and inserted their own product in video kind of showcasing athletes that they had endorsement deals with.

Ryssdal: So give us an example.

Mickle: A great example would be what Gatorade has done with a BMX pro named Nigel Sylvester. They gave him and a producer about $15,000 — way less than you would ever have to spend on a typical commercial and said, “Hey, go shoot ‘a day in the life’ piece.” And the three-part series which was titled, “Go All Day” and kind of fit in with Gatorades “Go All Day” campaign.

Ryssdal: Alright, let’s roll that tape and then talk about it. Let me set it up. Nigel wakes up. He makes a date to go riding and then he goes downstairs where he comes across his dad.

“Go All Day”: The Morning Episode: Hold on, hold on. Nigel, stop leaving these half empty bottles in the fridge. It’s so annoying.

Ryssdal: Nigel hears that from his dad, and of course, goes straight to the fridge, gets the Gatorade bottles out. There’s the product placement for you there. And leaves the half bottle in the fridge. But the point being, Tripp Mickle, that what you get out of this is some BMX riding in the streets of New York, some fun stuff to watch and I guess it works.

Mickle: It got about 180,000 viewers on YouTube and really got some traction. And basically for all intents and purposes it’s the exact same thing Nigel Sylvester would have done with the same video producer five, 10 years ago. The only difference is, there’s some support from a corporate brand that is already supporting him with an endorsement deal.

Ryssdal: Alright, but here’s the payoff question though: Does advertising like this sell as many bottles of Gatorade or Oakley sunglasses as regular branding and advertising do?

Mickle: When you look at Gatorade, for example, I mean on a case by case basis, you would have to say this is beneficial for them, because they’ve just moved into this world of action sports. I mean, for other companies, it’s a great way to launch a brand, you know. If you can create something viral and get people to come to it and pass it around and spend time with it and create a cool factor and a cool buzz, I think your brand stands a strong chance of either getting off the ground or a new product stands a good chance of taking off.

Ryssdal: Tripp Mickle. He covers action sports for the SportsBusiness Journal. And you can see some of those Nigel Sylvester videos we were talking about on our website. It’s Marketplace.org. Tripp, thanks a lot.

Mickle: Thank you.

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