Action Sports and the Mainstream – Group Y Panel Discussion
I’m pretty bummed no one from our side can make the upcoming Group Y discussion panel on action sports coming into the mainstream. Unfortunately, we all have prior engagements that evening and LA isn’t exactly close to the office. However, Liz and Mark from Group Y are on it and this should be a great event, so RSVP here if you’re interested.
A big part of what we do for action sports brands in terms of PR and marketing is help them break into the mainstream media. I was fortunate enough to come across an employment opportunity PR firm in NY that was working with Burton Snowboards just before the Nagano Olympics in 1998, giving me the opportunity to really be a part of snowboarding’s entry into mainstream acceptance (please don’t send hate mail – in the end, it’s a good thing ;-).
Of course, not everyone has the budget that Burton or Quiksilver do. And not every brand wants that exposure. PR when it comes to action sports does not mean selling out. It should mean selling up, either reaching your core consumers through new areas or in some cases, expanding your awareness to people that appreciate your brand, but don’t necessarily surf, unicycle, hacky-sack, etc.
For example, look at the MLB and baseball in general. How many people wear t-shirts and hats that don’t actually participate in baseball? Maybe they used to play or occasionally play softball, but I think the ration of fans to participants would be pretty massive.
Activities such as skateboarding and snowboarding have seen a paradigm change as of late. In the 80’s and 90’s, if you wore Airwalks or Vans and didn’t participate, you were a poser. Today, you’re a fan. Similar to how you don’t assume every guy in a pair of Nike’s plays basketball or runs, these days you don’t assume the guy in a Quik shirt surfs… maybe he’s just a fan of Kelly Slater. If you look at the financials behind the biggest brands in action sports, you’ll see that a lot of the $ comes from apparel, not the participatory hardgoods.
Is the mainstreaming of action sports a good thing? Depends on who you ask. There are some brands that have chosen to keep a lower profile, maintaining awareness only with their core consumer. These brands don’t get worried when Pac Sun stops selling their shoes or Hollister opens a new store in a key marketing because these consumers of these brands disregard what Hollister and the similar entities are doing. They know the authentic and relevant.
For others, it’s a fine line between awareness and selling out. We all want to make money, but can you be successful without being #1? Is being #1 sustainable? If you haven’t read our thoughts on it already, check out what Tiffany Montgomery put up on her piece related to Gotcha.
Clients of ours in the action sports world have been featured in media ranging from the NY Times to Hype Beast. Each has their place and each target is hand selected based on strategy… sometimes we don’t want to expose a brand to the NY Times’ readers just yet… or ever. Other times we have stories which everyone should know about.
There exist a wide array for mainstream brands to target these consumers too, but that’s a post for another time.